Engaging Students with Difficult Questions – by Jared Berry

I live in a house filled with questions. Sometimes my home can feel like a relentless barrage of whats, whys, and hows. Have you noticed as kids grow, so do their questions? My four year old isn’t asking the same questions he did when he was two. This truth not only exists with our kids but also within our churches. As someone who works with college students, I’ve noticed they aren’t asking the same questions they asked in high school. The church’s willingness and ability to engage the right questions is paramount in our capacity to reach a generation of young people who are desperately searching for answers.

Everyone has different interests and personalities, but there’s a lot at stake. You need to read and study topics which may not interest you and understand and appreciate views with which you may not agree. Here are three areas deserving special attention from pastors and leaders when working with college students:

  1. Science. There is a strong belief that Christianity and science can’t coexist. As leaders we have to work against this myth. The truth is some of the greatest scientific minds were Christians who believed they were discovering more about God’s creation. Therefore, we must be willing and able to have intellectual conversations about topics like evolution and the age of the earth.
  1. Theology. We have a generation of college students who are approaching theology far different from the generations before them. Because of their access to technology and their lack of denominational allegiance, our students are far more aware of the theological diversity that exists. Some of their favorite preachers very likely have a theology that differs from yours. Simply dismissing or refusing to engage those who differ theologically is a major mistake. The message it sends to young people is you don’t know, or worse, you don’t care. We must be willing and able to engage the difficult areas like soteriology and eschatology. One suggestion: if you say you believe something, make sure you fully understand both held and opposing views. This will go a long way in the mind of a college student.
  1. Apologetics. In church we do a great job providing experiences for our youth. These moments are incredibly important, but sometimes not sufficient for students who are wrestling with their faith. Can you engage a student with reasons to believe God outside of experience or the Bible? Using apologetics in your sermons and teaching goes along way in communicating that you’ve thought through your faith and that they should also.

College students don’t need you to agree with them in these difficult areas. What they need is a safe place to wrestle with challenging topics. The onus is on us as leaders to steward the time we have and help the next generation navigate the turbulent seas of young adulthood.

 

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Jared has been a Youth Pastor since 2007 after graduating from Central Bible College. He currently serves as the College and Young Adult Pastor at Bethlehem AG in Long Island, NY. Besides hanging out with college students, he loves hosting his podcast called “Young Minds Big Questions.” He lives in Valley Stream, NY with his wife Jennifer, and their two kids, Judah and Charlotte.

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