Thom Schultz has recently touched on this act of love on his blog.
“People today, especially younger generations, want to be part of the conversation. They live in an interactive world. They view the typical church sermon time as an elongated, one-way lecture. Though they desire the subject matter, the delivery mode is passive and non-participatory,” writes Thom. “In the book, we advocate something we call Fearless Conversation. It’s one of the ‘four acts of love’ that we believe can make a church irresistible. When it comes to matters of faith, people crave a real conversation, not just another lecture from a professional Christian.”
Younger generations want to be part of the conversation. Your kids in your ministry want to talk. And not just about games or friends…they want to talk about God. So the question is, how often do we let them?
Some ministry leaders or volunteers are afraid to let kids talk. They feel as if it gives the power to the kids. That they won’t be able to control the conversation’s trajectory. Others feel as if their kids will ask a question about God that they’re not sure how to answer. And still others feel that if they aren’t talking, the kids aren’t learning.
Let me encourage you to let kids talk. Ask them thought-provoking questions that will cause them to take a moment to think about their answers rather than blurting out pieces of memorized trivia. Let kids share with others about how God works in their lives. And don’t be afraid of getting a question that you don’t know the answer to. This can be a time of humility for you to show kids that it’s okay not to have all the answers.
We’ve heard a lot of really good questions asked by kids throughout the years. Here’s a sampling of some, as well as some great ways to respond to them.
“Why does prayer sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t?
Prayer isn’t like a Christian rabbit’s foot: rub it and get your wish. Prayer is communication with God who sees the big picture in our lives. Sometimes we don’t get the answer we want because God knows it wouldn’t be good for us. Other times, people who aren’t following Jesus do things that affect us. God won’t make them do right things. Everyone has the free will to make bad choices, even if we pray that they won’t. But we know Jesus is always with us when we walk through difficult, hard, or hurtful places.
“Bad things have been happening in my life, and I feel like God is punishing me. Why does God punish people?”
Here are two statements that simply aren’t true: Things are going good for me because I’m good; and Things are going bad for me because I’m bad. Sometimes we’re doing all the right things and still get slammed by life. Other times, people do wrong things and seem to get rewarded for it (like that friend who cheated and aced a test you struggled to pass). But cheaters don’t really win, and God hasn’t punished you because you have or haven’t tried hard enough. Life is tough and unfair sometimes, but those tough times can give you the ability to persevere until things smooth out once again.
Where is God? Who made God?
With young ones, ages 4 to 5, give the shortest, correct answer possible. Then ask if the answer was helpful or if they want to know more. Avoid the temptation to explain all the facets of the issue the child has raised. When it’s simply not possible to give a simple answer, point out that God is so great there is much about him that no one really understands. Then state one or two essential truths about God that we do know for sure.
How can God listen to everyone at the same time?
We can’t hear everyone at once, but God can. God can listen to all of us at the same time. We can’t explain how God hears so much at once, but we know it’s true because the Bible tells us it’s true in 1 John 5:14.
“Is it okay to doubt some things in the Bible? What about doubting God?”
When children have opportunities to bring their deepest questions to God, their faith will most likely grow and become more personal. Don’t be afraid to encourage children to explore their faith, because God is strong enough to handle all of our greatest doubts and fears.