Teen Bible classes generally include quite a bit of discussion. Discussion is great because it helps teens explore ideas in the Bible and how to apply them to their lives – often in a counter cultural way. Unfortunately, in some cases these discussions, which were meant to be educational, dissolve into conflict. Sometimes the conflict becomes so severe, that one or more of the people involved experience spiritual wounds and scarring from it.
The problem often stems from Bible class teachers and students who don’t really understand the historical use of spiritual conversations in learning about scripture. In the time of Jesus, people took learning about the scriptures they had very seriously. There are stories of people going to a quiet area at a feast to have a conversation about scripture. People left their lives behind to follow master teachers of scripture or rabbis in an effort to learn even more.
When young people questioned a rabbi’s/teacher’s interpretation of scripture, it was embraced. Those teaching knew that part of accepting God’s truths involves sorting through them and accepting them as personal beliefs. This often requires comparing God’s wisdom to the various bits of man’s knowledge the young person may have heard or read.
The one requirement was that the questions were to be asked with a reverent versus a contentious spirit. What does that look like in our world today? Your Bible students should understand that their questions are welcome, if they are truly asked in the spirit of learning what God wants and seeking to better understand scripture. There should be an underlying respect for God, even if they don’t quite understand Him yet. There should also be an underlying respect for the Bible class teacher and fellow students.
Questions should not be weaponized – used as an attempt to embarrass or trick someone. Comments posing theories should not be used merely to start an argument or use up class time. A contentious spirit is not open to learning or changing previously held personal beliefs with no basis in scripture. A reverent spirit may disagree with a teacher’s interpretation of scripture after listening respectfully, but the reasons given for continuing to disagree should be respectful and focus on scripture and obedience to God rather than merely winning an argument.
Encourage your Bible students to ask hard questions and explore things they don’t understand or aren’t sure they believe yet. Just teach them how to do it with a reverent and not a contentious attitude. The resulting class discussions may help everyone grow more spiritually.