Photo by Kelsey Elinor.
Today’s guest blog is by Shane Stacey. Shane has been involved in student ministry for 19 years. He currently serves as the EFCA's national director of ReachStudents. He lives with his wife and three children in Minneapolis, MN.
I serve in a student ministry that just did a series on doubt. We loved it. Here are a few things we learned that might be helpful as you consider leading your own.
Flipping the normal lecture/lab format
Our student ministry normally starts with a large group teaching then breaks into smaller discussion groups. For this series, we flipped it and started with discussion groups that allowed students to express their own opinions and thoughts on a particular issue, then came back together for a large group time.
Students loved it.
In fact, it seemed that they engaged more deeply in the larger group teaching because they had already articulated their own questions to their friends.
This series stirred up A LOT of robust dialogue. It was like shaking a bottle of soda and finally pulling off the cap. Deep questions, confusing emotions, and conflicting thoughts quickly surfaced, and it became clear that many students had already been wrestling with these issues on their own.
Students also learned how to express disagreement with one another in a way that showed respect and dignity.
Kitchen table conversations
Several parents contacted the student ministries pastor to let them know that their son or daughter was coming home fired up and asking questions they had never voiced before. Some families found themselves staying up late around the kitchen table for hours talking about the questions. Most of the parents were thrilled to hear their son/daughter wrestling so hard with such foundational faith issues.
One dad mentioned that it woke him up to the reality that his son was no longer a child. He said, “I realized that I’ve not shifted my parenting. My son has his own thoughts about his faith and I need to adjust how I come alongside him in this season.”
Exposing their worldview
This series did a great job of exposing what students really believe. And it revealed just how much they are being influenced by culture. It also helped expose how many students actually know what they believe and, more importantly, why they believe it. Our series on doubt has helped us better understand what we need to focus more on in the coming year, and affirm where the gospel is taking root and growing.
Do your homework
We used the Can I Ask That? book as a framework. It gave us a great foundation, and I decided to do some additional reading on each subject before the sessions. Honestly, it was great for me. It exposed me to new ideas and new ways of thinking about each particular issue, which allowed me to dialogue along with the students.
Prepare your adult team
You’ll also want to do your homework so you can best prepare your team. Several of our adults had not thought through these issues very deeply themselves, or had not done so in a very long time. As a result, the depth of the students’ questions caught them off-guard. To help equip each parent, we supplemented them with additional resources on each topic.
Don’t short change the dialogue
A few of our adults were tempted to switch into “teaching mode.” They didn’t grasp that helping students articulate and express their own thinking is the critical step to learning. Be careful not to jump right into teaching. Dialogue first.
Two weeks per question
If we were to do it again, we’d spend two weeks on each question. The first week would focus on dialogue, and in the second week we’d spend more time addressing specific questions/thoughts that came up from a biblical perspective. I discovered that I needed to frame the question, let students express their current position, consider various ways to approach each question, and then see what the scriptures had to say about the issue. It’s a lot to try to do in one night. Two is better.
Understand the point
We continued to remind ourselves that the point of the series was not to answer every question definitively. We wanted to help students realize it was OK to ask tough questions. And, when they do, we’ll do our best to wrestle with them deeply. However, we can’t say everything there is to say about every question. These are topics we will all continue to wrestle with throughout our lives.
If you’ve used Can I Ask That? What have you learned?
This post is copyrighted by the Evangelical Free Church of America and re-posted with their permission.