The Questions of Young People:  A Great Opportunity

Kara Powell

Both in my family and my volunteer youth ministry work at my church, I’ve been seeing the power of asking young people good questions. 

Because of our Sticky Faith research, I decided to invite 4 other moms, all of whom have fifth grade sons like I do, to a spring “moms and sons” Bible study.  Not only do I want to have opportunities to talk with Nathan about deeper faith topics, I want him to know that he can talk to other moms about them, and I want these other boys (all of whom are close friends of my son) to know that they can talk about me. 

At our first meeting, we told the boys they could come up with the name for the group.  They named it BAM for “Boys And Moms”.  Does that sound like fifth grade boys, or what? 

In preparation for our first meeting, I asked Nathan what questions he had about a number of topics, like prayer (to which he said, “Why is it that pastors seem to hear from God more than ‘regular people’?”) and Scripture (his question:  “Why are there four different stories about Jesus in the Bible?  Wouldn’t one have been enough?”).  

Confession here:  I never asked him what questions he had about these particular topics before.  Even though our Sticky Faith research points to the power of giving young people a space and a place to ask questions, I had failed to be specific with Nathan to find out what he was wondering about a variety of topics (i.e., the Holy Spirit, baptism, hearing from God).  

When I asked, Nathan had plenty to say.  Plenty of good questions in fact. 

I’m also seeing this dynamic with my fifth grade small group.  A few days ago, while we were studying at the resurrection, one of the girls said she wondered if everything in the Bible was true.  Before our research, I might not have stopped the conversation to respond to her question.  But because of what we’ve learned about the power of expressing doubts in building Sticky Faith, I did. 

That opened a whole can of questions from the girls like:  How do we know that Christianity is true because other religions think what they believe is true also?  What if parts of the Bible aren’t accurate, or are just mythical stories?  

Between these girls and what I’ve seen with my son, I’m learning to do the following: 

1.    Ask, “What questions do you have about X?” 

2.    Listen to the questions they offer and then probe some more.

3.    Look for open doors to go deeper in exploring young people’s doubts and faith struggles.

4.    If you’re a parent, nurture opportunities for young child to ask hard questions of other adults, in addition to you.

What else have you done to try to create space for young people to ask tough questions?


Published Jun 11, 2012
Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. As a youth ministry veteran of over 20 years, she serves as an Advisor to Youth Specialties. Named by Christianity Today as one of "50 Women You Should Know", Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Sticky Faith, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

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