Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders Doubting Is Important: How to Nurture Positive Doubts in Teens

Doubting Is Important: How to Nurture Positive Doubts in Teens


Doubting is a critical-thinking skill for youth to develop. Discover key insights about nurturing healthy, positive doubts among your teenagers.

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Captain Kirk meets “God.” When the “god” demands the Enterprise, Kirk stands up to him. ”What kind of god are you if you need a ship?” he roars.

A voice thunders. “Do you doubt me?” Immediately Kirk is hurled backward by the force of a lightning bolt. “THIS is how I respond to those who doubt!” the “god” continues. Each time Kirk “doubts,” the figure attacks him. Finally, of course, Kirk escapes and lives to make another movie.

Maybe your students haven’t seen Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Chances are, though, if they’ve grown up in the church, they have a similar perspective on doubting. Many of us believe (or perhaps fear) that if we question some fundamentals of the faith, we’re somehow flawed as Christians.

I suspect most of us have sat through sermons or Bible studies where we really wanted to challenge what was being said but had visions of lightning bolts or thunderous voices. After all, church is a place for true believers. Church is a place for answers. No room exists in church for people who’d question.

Really? I hope not. It seems to me that the people of God have always included the doubtful. In fact, a quick glance through my “who’s who” of the Bible shows that our faith is built on the foundation of thoughtful, prayerful doubters.

Think about Sarah’s reaction to the news she’d be a parent. She laughed! What about Moses and the burning bush? Peter slipping on the waves? Thomas demanding proof of the Resurrection? Gideon? Abraham? David? The list could go on and on, and we haven’t even scratched the surface.

Defining Doubt

Webster’s defines doubt as “to be uncertain about, to question.” When we doubt something, we examine its truthfulness; we weigh it. We evaluate it. And we consider how much of ourselves we wish to invest in it. Most of us embrace doubt on a daily basis.
When the used-car salesman tells us, “She runs good and she’s real clean,” very few of us take the claim at face value, fork over the money and drive off. Likewise, when the doctor recommends surgery, we’re encouraged to get a second opinion. And who among us has ever stepped fearlessly into a car with a new driver…with only the assurances of a 10th-grade driver’s ed teacher who tells us, “Little Shelly is perfectly trustworthy behind the wheel”?
Doubt is, at times, a lifesaver for us. Why then, do we sometimes behave as though it’s a contradiction of our faith?
One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is teaching them how to deal positively with the doubts that are, as theologian Paul Tillich taught, not so much the opposite of faith as an element of faith. Frederick Buechner puts it this way: “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”