“It’s not doubt or hard questions that are toxic to faith. It’s silence.”
Recently, we’ve been hosting discussions with graduating seniors on some really tough questions of the faith – Can I trust the Bible? Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution? What does the Bible say about being gay? Is Jesus really the only way to God? – among others.
It’s been an incredibly rich time together and it made me think about a little more about doubt.
I’ve shared with you several times Fuller’s research where they look at what causes faith to stick in young people. (In case you aren’t familiar – they reason they studied “sticky faith” is to figure out why over 50% of students who grow up going to youth group, etc. leave the faith after high school.)
In a recent study they found out that many of the leaders of campus-based atheist groups named the church’s failure to engage difficult questions as a key reason they left the church.
Notice what they didn’t say – they didn’t say it was what the church said about these issues, but the fact that they didn’t address them at all.
What about you?
Does your family allow for the opportunity to ask difficult questions? When a difficult question comes up, do you quickly try to address it and move on or do you invite your child into further discussion?
If we look at the results above, I wonder if some of our high school students (and younger ones as well) are wishing they had a place to explore some tough questions they are wrestling with?
SURE, LET’S TALK MORE TOMORROW
Two years ago, I took over 60 middle schoolers to Colorado for a trip. During one of our nightly debrief sessions a students asked a questions about dinosaurs and evolution. I responded that didn’t fit our discussion for the night, but if anyone was interested in further exploring that question, I would address it during our “free time” tomorrow. I anticipated a few students would give up their precious free time – in Colorado – during the summer.
Almost half the trip showed up!
It was an incredible discussion and to be honest, I rarely talked – I just asked questions and they responded to each other and I chimed in occasionally.
DOUBT IS OK
Fuller’s research has also observed that “wrestling with doubt – even doubt in God can be a very healthy process.” I’ve also heard it said “doubt is fertile ground for growth”.
Take a moment and think about a time of serious doubt in your life. In most cases in my life, doubt has only given me the opportunity to dive deeper into what I believe about God and the world. In the cases where I haven’t experienced growth – I typically ignored the doubt.
What would it look like to open up a conversation with your teen about their questions and doubts? What it would it look like to let them know that any doubts or questions they have are welcome and you will make time to process it with them?
I can promise you this – they have doubts and questions. The question is where and with whom can they process them? So…
“As eight years of Sticky Faith research has shown, it’s not doubt or hard questions that are toxic to faith. It’s silence.”
Based on my experience with the high school graduates and their questions and doubt, I’m encouraging you to break the silence.
**We used a resource by Fuller and you may find this resource helpful for yourself in regards to this (no, they don’t pay me for this. I attended classes there and have followed their research from the beginning as I think it’s critically important info). Check it out here:
They’ve also released another volume, that I have yet to check out, but it can be found here: