Teach One Reach One Ministries provides lots of free resources on the best questions to ask your students. What we probably haven’t shared nearly enough is our thoughts on the questions your students may ask you.
Some people are terrified of teaching Bible classes for teens and even kids, because they are afraid they won’t be able to handle student questions. Others may do things to almost discourage students from asking questions, or basically ignore them when asked.
It may not seem like it’s important to handle student questions well. Unfortunately, we are losing many young people for that very reason. They may not actually say that’s why they are leaving God and the Church, but if you read between the lines this is what they are communicating.
“I’m rejecting what I was taught about _______.” The problem is that what really happened was they had unanswered questions. I have yet to read a rejection statement that could not have been addressed in loving, godly, scriptural ways much earlier.
When we don’t allow, or I would argue encourage, student questions, they remain unanswered. The student then takes the little information they have, any misunderstandings they have picked up over the years, plus any false information they have gotten from the secular world and developed conclusions which are often extremely misinformed. At times, those conclusions become such a part of their “truth” they are difficult to correct.
There’s an old saying that it’s not doubts that cause people to reject God, but unanswered doubts. It’s much easier to address those doubts when they are fresh and not firmly rooted in their hearts and minds.
I challenge every Bible class volunteer to encourage student questions in every class. I regularly provide a notecard and pen to each student when they enter class. I encourage them to write any questions they have about God, the Bible, Church or the lesson on the card. At the end of class, I collect the cards and tell the students I will discuss them in the next class. This gives me time to do any research I may need to do. I also take that time to carefully word my answer so I don’t accidentally say something that may ingrain their doubts.
It sounds scary, I know. If your students have never been given this opportunity by anyone, there will be a lot of questions those first few weeks. Some of them will break your heart, because you can see how spiritually deep your students think. It will tear you up knowing that your students are struggling with these questions with little or no help from godly adults. Seeing the understanding and relief on their faces when you address them is worth the extra time and effort it may take on your part.
Yes, there will be some questions you may need to get help from a minister or other strong Christian to answer well. At times, you will just have to say we aren’t capable of truly understanding the answer, or that God has decided we don’t need to understand the answer. The vast majority of the time though, they are deep but answerable questions.
After a few weeks, you may start getting a few of what may seem like silly questions. That’s okay, too. Your students need to know they can ask you anything (or nothing at all). It’s hard to know if the student with the question is testing you in some way or just has a very creative mind. I have yet to ever have a student I believe was being disrespectful with their questions.
Giving your students opportunities to ask their hard questions, can be a great faith strengthener for them. It’s an important part of building a strong spiritual foundation many young people are never given. It’s worth your extra time and effort.