By Aaron Berry, Crosswalk.com
Doubt. It’s a common struggle in the Christian life.
And if there’s one group of people in your church who most likely struggles with doubt the most, its young people.
As they grow and mature, they stop asking what and start asking why. They stop taking things for granted and start examining things for themselves. Because of this, we as Christian parents, teachers, and pastors need to be serious in our effort to help our youth overcome the doubt they’re struggling with.
As someone who has been raised in church my whole life, I know what it’s like to have serious doubts that stay hidden.
And as I’ve grown and matured in my walk with Christ, I’ve experienced both helpful and harmful approaches to conquering doubt. As you desire to raise up the next generation to love Christ and honor his Word, consider these five suggestions:
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1. Don’t just teach them the Bible, teach them how to study the Bible.
Helping our youth memorize verses and remember all the important Bible stories isn’t enough help them overcome doubt. We need to teach them how to interpret and study the Word of God for themselves.
Young people will doubt the faith when everything they know about the Bible has been fed to them. Our instruction on personal Bible Study seldom extends beyond “make sure you read the Bible.”
Teach them Bible interpretation. Teach them how to consider the context of a passage.
Teach them the overarching themes of the Bible so that they can see how each verse fits in to the greater storyline.
Teach them how to apply a passage accurately and specifically.
Teach them how to read through tough books like Leviticus and Numbers.
The old adage rings true: “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for day; teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” If you want your teen to cling to the faith long after he leaves the house, you must teach him how to study the Bible so that he “may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17).
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2. Expose them to other worldviews.
As parents, we’re scared to death of exposing our kids to the vain and godless philosophies of the world. But if we don’t, we’ll lose them.
First, come to grips that it is impossible to shelter them. They’re hearing the philosophy of the world all around them, from the innocent Saturday morning cartoon, to their friends at school, to their favorite websites.
Second, realize that one of the most helpful things you can do for your kids is to train them how to contrast Christianity with opposing worldviews while they’re still in a context of loving home or church.
Don’t dumb down other worldviews, either. Don’t simplify evolution to something “only idiots believe.” Don’t caricature other religions based on their worst manifestation.
Our young people are not too young to start being trained in Christian apologetics. Give them honest information. Let them know that there are smart, educated people who think Christianity is a joke, and then help them wrestle through the objections.
Help them see how Christianity is the only worldview that makes sense of the world and how all other worldviews fall flat. Lead them to the point where they can honestly say with Peter in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
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3. Help them feel comfortable asking the big questions.
I don’t care how many verses your kid has memorized, how many times she's been to camp, or how involved he is at church, your kid is struggling with some big questions:
Does God really exist? How do I know the Bible is true? Is Christianity really the only way? Do I really believe that non-Christians will spend eternity in hell?
I guarantee you that there are young people in your church who are seriously wrestling with these questions.
The trouble is, your kid probably doesn’t feel comfortable admitting it, so he wrestles in silence. Don’t assume that your kid isn’t struggling just because he’s one of the “good kids.”
Create an environment in your church and home where young people feel comfortable asking the tough questions. Assure them that voicing their doubts will be met, not with surprise or confrontation, but with grace and love.
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4. Teach them the importance of the local church.
Christianity isn’t designed to work in isolation. God gives us the local church so that “we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph 4:14).
Often, in my experience, doubt is proportional to the level of church involvement. And if the young people in your church don’t grasp the importance of church, they’ll see no reason to stick around once the decision is up to them.
Without the daily exhortation of fellow believers, they will “be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). The key is, your local church needs to be place where the gospel is actively working, which leads me to my final, and perhaps most important point:
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5. Let them witness Gospel power.
Do the youth in your church and the children in your home see the gospel clearly at work? Have they witnessed first-hand the transformative power of the Gospel in a person’s soul, in a marriage, or in a local church?
If you want to help your young people overcome doubt, then give them no reason to doubt the power of the Gospel.
Are they seeing people saved? Are they seeing sins forsaken and lives changed? Are they seeing churches that are unified and multiplying? If a teen finds himself in a church where the gospel is just something talked about and not something that’s lived out; if he finds himself in a home where the gospel seems to have little impact on the parents’ marriage or family pursuits, why in the world would he cling on to such a gospel after he leaves?
I say to you, parents, teachers, and pastors, do not expect the gospel to be real to your young people if it isn’t real to you. If allegiance to Christ is simply taught and not caught, don’t be surprised when the younger generation tosses out Christianity completely.
Aaron Berry is a co-author for the Pursuing the Pursuer Blog. You can read more articles from Aaron and his colleagues by subscribing to their blog or following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Aaron currently resides in Allen Park, MI with his wife and two children, where he serves in his local church and recently completed an MDiv degree at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.
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