How Do We Help Youth Doubt Their Doubts?

Could it be for those of us who work with youth in progressive churches that we need to nudge our students–particularly our high school students–toward the acceptance of things they cannot see more than we presently do?

Youth in the kinds of churches I serve are quite comfortable expressing doubt about some of Jesus’ claims and teachings. That’s good and healthy, and I don’t want to change it. One of the most valuable things we do in youth ministry is create a safe, welcoming space for teenagers to say of the faith, “I don’t understand” or even “I don’t like it.” Let’s keep doing that.

When a 12th grader said of Jesus’ warnings to repent in Luke 13, “I don’t agree” I said, “Good” without even thinking. I can work with that.

But if part of our task as stewards of adolescent faith formation is to carefully push teenagers beyond the conventions of the faith they have grown up with so that they own it for themselves, then a 100% celebration of every utterance of doubt and skepticism doesn’t go far enough. In progressive congregations, doubt is conventional; the faithful are encouraged to regard faith claims with a critical eye. It’s a convention I love, but it’s a convention. I think we have to help youth recognize doubt as a feature of the faith tradition they’re in and to critically grapple with it for themselves–to doubt doubt.

Might we need to start insisting that our older adolescents recognize their expressions of doubt as things that, ironically, have been uncritically adopted?

How do we help youth doubt their doubts?

 

 

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