Have you ever had one of those teachers that didn’t like for students to ask questions? Maybe they didn’t want to slow down their lecture or they didn’t have the humility to gasp that someone might not understand what they’re teaching. Regardless, when a hand went up, they weren’t too keen on acknowledging it. Sometimes, these teachers would even say upfront, “Don’t ask questions!”
It’s a frustrating feeling when we have questions, but no one will answer them. Increasingly, we are finding out that this is how teenagers feel about their experience at church.[i] They have their hands raised, but we aren’t calling on them to see what they are curious about. We might not be the teacher who doesn’t want to slow down, but we aren’t looking up from our notes much either. We’re not saying, “Don’t ask questions” but we’re not pausing to listen very well.
There are many reasons for this. Truthfully, some of it is because there are a lot of things that students need to learn that they don’t realize. One example of this is just basic, foundational knowledge about Jesus and His teaching. It might not always be fun or interesting to them to learn the foundations of the faith, but it’s necessary. A lot of churches place most of their eggs in this basket when it comes to teaching their students. It’s an essential element of what students need to know, but it’s not everything.
Sometimes, the reason we are not addressing their questions just boils down to the reality that we are afraid of some of the topics they are wanting addressed. For example, teenagers are very curious about the biblical teaching on human sexuality. Is the biblical teaching on same sex attraction still valid? What does the bible say about transgenderism? It’s not easy to navigate the sexual politics of our culture with love and humility, but while also clearly expressing the truth of God’s Word. This is why we sometimes don’t acknowledge their raised hands on topics like this.
Here’s the encouraging reality. God has answers to all of their questions. And He is a Teacher who not only doesn’t mind questions but encourages them. He loves for us to talk to and engage with Him. He has given us His Word and the opportunity to speak directly with Him through prayer in order to seek answers to our questions. His Word encourages us to do this daily (Psalm 1:2). Call it a quiet time or a daily devotional or whatever you want, but God wants us to spend time with Him and His Word every day.
For students, one of the most vital habits that shape their spiritual development is spending time with God in His Word.[ii] Having a knowledge of the Bible and a comfort with studying it on their own can help students navigate the treacherous waters of the adolescent years as well as any other skill. It also builds a solid foundation of trust and understanding with God that persists long after they’ve left the student ministry of the local church.
Daily time with God is also a great chance for students to ask questions. There are probably questions they have that they would be embarrassed to ask with other people around. We want students to feel the freedom to ask these questions and to seek answers from God and His Word. In order to do this, we must come alongside them and show them where to find the answers for themselves. One of the best ways to come alongside students in this is to provide them with devotional studies that help answer their questions in their private time with God and that lead them to deep personal reflection on God and His truth.
This is why we’ve created a new series of devotionals for students called Lifeway Students Devotions.
In this first series of devotional books, we are pairing a fruit of the Spirit with some of the topic’s students are longing for the church to address. Topics to be covered in the coming months are peace and anxiety , joy and depression, love and race (releasing April 1), as well as love and God’s design for human sexuality (releasing March 1). We desire to express to students that we hear their questions and want to show them the best place to find answers.
In a daily devotion setting students have the freedom to ask God difficult questions. There are no limits or boundaries. The goal of this series is to help them know where in His Word to look to find the answers they seek as well as fuel their spiritual lives through time spent in God’s Word. These devotion books desire to acknowledge the raised hand of teenagers in our churches, give them a firm grasp on God’s answers to these difficult questions, and how to think about them in their own hearts. Developing biblical literacy and the ability to help disciple other students in their journey with Christ is also a desire for getting students rooted in a daily devotion time with God.
In those private times we want to afford students the opportunity to raise their hand to God and say, “Help me understand this.” Then we long for God’s word to reveal His truth that will transform their hearts and help ignite a passion for His Word that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Kyle Wiltshire serves as a Content Specialist on the Lifeway Students Team. He lives in Hendersonville, TN, with his wife, Joni, and three kids, Noah, Micah, and Lilly. When he’s not editing or writing, he enjoys golf and trying to paint like Bob Ross.