Recently, I found myself in a Bible study in which the leader asked, “What is God telling you to do as a result of this passage?”
I had a moment of absolute panic in which I thought, “Nothing. Right this second, I honestly don’t hear God saying anything to me.”
That thought was quickly replaced with, “You can’t say that. You’re the youth pastor. What would people think if you said ‘Nothing’?”
In the end, my fear of being judged kept me from being authentic. Rather than admit I heard nothing from God, I lied.
Let me say that again.
I’m a youth pastor and I lied at a Bible study.
In that moment, it felt safer to me to make up an answer than to appear as though God wasn’t speaking to me.
If that’s true for me, how much more true is that for the students in our ministries?
When we ask questions like, “How is God speaking to you through this passage?” or “What is God calling you to do right now?” how often are we forcing teens to lie? To make something up in order to save face?
My guess is ALL THE TIME.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I believe Scripture is living and active. I also believe that God speaks to us today and that oftentimes, he does so through Scripture.
What I don’t believe is that God necessarily speaks on command.
As a result, when we ask questions like, “How is God speaking to you through this passage?” I fear we’re inadvertently teaching kids to lie.
The good news is there’s an alternative.
Instead of asking kids, “How is God speaking to you through this passage?” or “What is God calling you to do right now?” ask questions like,
1. What questions do you have about this story?
2. If you were Character X in this story, how do you think you’d feel?
3. Who in this story do you most relate to and why?
The first question invites students to readily admit their questions and doubts. In doing so, it communicates that they never need to lie in order to save face; That instead, their questions and doubts are always welcome. The second invites students to enter into the story as a participant.
The third question also invites students to enter into the story, this time by relating and uniquely applying it to their lives. Because Scripture is filled with stories of confused people, this kind of question gives students the freedom to admit their own faith struggles.
Rather than force them to lie, questions like the ones above invite kids to honestly engage with scripture.
Ultimately, doesn’t honest scriptural engagement foster a faith that’s far more secure than one built on a lie?