I recently came across an article in Morf Magazine which talked about allowing teens to learn problem-solving the hard way. But first, let me put this scenario into your mind – you are leading a discussion group of teenagers. So far, things have been going pretty well. You started off light with a brief stab at the Twilight series which led to a conversation about the new Avengers film, which naturally led to a debate over whether or not Tony Stark would make a good president. But all of that fun and joking has quieted down, and now it’s time for the meat and potatoes of your discussion. And this is no KFC meat and potatoes. No, this is steakhouse-level meat and potatoes, because tonight you’re discussing sex! Suddenly, what was a jocular and talkative group of teens five minutes ago is now a docile and timid collection of blank stares and silence. Like a zoo keeper at the baby foxes cage, you throw out something that you think they should be able to handle – “So guys and gals, somebody tell me – when is it okay to have sex?” …. Silence. “What?” you think. This is an easy one! Any kid who’s spent more than 12 parsecs in a church can tell you that the answer is “when you are married.” But these kids aren’t just going to throw out a churchy answer. That’s a good thing, you guess. But somebody should say something! It’s now at that point where this pause in the conversation is getting dangerously close to an awkward silence. You try to make eye contact with one of the students only to realize how intensely they are all looking at anything except you. Now no one has said anything for what seems like an hour. What if they don’t know the answer? What if they’re quiet because they think anytime is a good time to have sex? What if every one of them is sexually active? They are raging piles of hormones, after all. Well, someone needs to say something! “Marriage!” you blurt out. “Marriage is when sex is okay.” You’ve done it! You saved these students from any misconceptions and doubts they may have had. Or have you? Maybe all you’ve done is robbed them of truly owning that answer.
If you’ve ever done any amount of youth ministry, you’ve probably come across a situation similar to this. In fact, just the other day I was asking students difficult, thought-provoking questions when one of them said, “So what’s the answer, Rocky? Just tell us!” That, unfortunately, is all-too common. For as often as teens are portrayed as being rebellious to authority, when it comes to dealing with tough issues in life they seem pretty quick to take on a “just tell me what I should do” attitude. One line from the Morf article that I thought was particularly pointed was this – “Our children do not learn how to ask (people or God) for what they need or how to overcome challenges with creativity, sacrifice and discipline. Instead, they become conditioned to simply announce their problem and wait for someone to fix it.” I’ve noticed a tendency among my adult leaders to answer the questions I ask student when it seems like the kids are taking too long to answer. Of course, they are well-meaning by doing so, but I wonder if maybe we should be willing to suffer through the awkward silences.
Would it be so bad to not give an answer? What if we asked our students meaningful questions, and then didn’t give them a direct answer? Would it be so bad to give kids a thought-provoking question, and then letting them walk out of our doors on a Wednesday night without a fully fleshed out answer? Do we have enough faith in our students that they can find the right answers and come to the right conclusions without us handing it to them? Do we have enough faith in the Holy Spirit to allow him to convict and guide them to the truth? What do you guys think?
Click here to read the whole article from Morf Magazine.