“Can God create a rock so heavy that He can’t move it?”
If you’ve ever had a student ask you this question or a question like it, you might have dismissed it. It’s a bit of a silly question, and I’m betting it was probably a silly student who asked it.
But, if you were to linger on the questions for a bit, you might have had a harder time than you thought to formulate an answer that makes sense.
Paradoxical questions are worth thinking about, but could you answer some serious, difficult questions? “If God created everything, who created God?” “How was the Bible made?” “Does God know everything we’re going to do?” Do any of these sound familiar?
Those questions aren’t just for senior pastors. There are some significant implications for you as a youth pastor in wrestling with them.
WHY YOU NEED TO TRY AND ANSWER TOUGH QUESTIONS
IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR FAITH.
Odds are, you know WHAT you believe. But do you know WHY you believe it? I know it’s not always easy or pleasant, but wrestling with why you believe what you believe will significantly enrich your faith.
You’ll also find your relationship with God to be more vibrant when you start to see and believe that He’s not afraid of your questions and won’t send you away because you ask them.
Our God is a God who draws near to His people, even in their confusion or doubt.
If you want to make it very far in ministry of any kind, you need an active, growing faith of your own. Over time, you’ll find that the muscles of our faith tend to atrophy if we don’t ever wrestle with tough questions.
STUDENTS ARE GOING TO ASK THEM
If you haven’t had a student ask you a really tough question yet, I promise you it’s coming! These questions are sometimes theoretical and unemotional.
“How was Jesus God AND man?” “How was the Bible made?”
But they can also be deeply personal to students.
“If God is good AND all-powerful, why does He allow school shootings,” “Why would a loving God send anyone to Hell?”
Students may only be aware of the question they’re asking but, there’s something else happening at the same time. They’re allowing you to earn their trust and respect.
When a student asks you a difficult question, and you have an answer for them, even if it’s only a partial answer, they learn that you have asked yourself these questions before. That means you can relate to them!
They’re also going to feel like they can trust you. You just showed them you’re not scared of their questions, and you’re a safe person for them to ask.
If they asked you their question in front of all the other students, you’ve just become more relatable and trustworthy to everyone, not just the student asking the question.
That’s a win!
BUT DON’T ANSWER ALL OF THEM
It is such a beautiful thing that God has communicated so many things about Himself to His people. And, you should give a lot of time and energy to knowing what God has said and exploring how you can grow in it, both personally and in your ministry.
But, you are doing your students a disservice if the God you expose them to is small enough for them to understand completely.
Your students need a God that is bigger than they can imagine. Let their minds be blown, at least from time to time, by how incomprehensible God is.
Your students will never accurately understand God if they are never challenged to embrace mystery. It’s an essential part of our relationship with Him.
As a youth pastor, you should want to foster a safe environment where students can wrestle with tough questions. But, you should also try to respond in ways that help build a sense of wonder. It’s in that tension where you’ll start to see faith come alive in your ministry.
Skylar Jones serves as Youth and Family Minister at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in DeLand, FL. He has worked in many different capacities since he began serving the church nearly 20 years ago. Skylar is married and has a son. He met his wife at Berry College, in Rome, GA, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. He enjoys sports, music, long walks on the beach, and anything made by Reese’s. Click the social links below to engage with Skylar.