At the weekend I attended a Q & A session with the youth group at St Mary's of the Arden Church in Studley. The aim was to allow them to ask any question they had and I would try to provide some answers for them. I probably learned more than they did and my respect for youth leaders increased exponentially. It was a very enjoyable and worthwhile session.
One of the big things I learned was that conversations never stay on one track. I'd had a list of questions from them beforehand and it very quickly became apparent that this wasn't a session where we'd just work through them. The discussions went off on some great tangents (mostly involving food which is always good) and more questions came out of them. From that, I learned that back and forth is critical in making them feel included and the session more enjoyable. They were pretty much driving where the session went and I (along with the youth leader) was just prodding them back onto topic every now and again. What you don't do is fire stats and numbers at them as their eyes just glaze over. That's something I'm going to need to work on for future sessions.
Analogies work really well. When looking at evolution and creation, I took some inspiration from Professor John Lennox except instead of using the Ford car, I used the Red Bull racing F1 car. It was a very pleasing feeling to see their eyes widen as things clicked into place and they understood it. I felt I had accomplished my task at that moment. I also learned that sometimes you just got to go with a fun answer. The first question was "Does Jesus like KFC?" I could have gone on about capitalism etc. but instead I said "Yeah he does. If he was to do communion today, he'd probably order in a couple of bargain buckets" Probably not the most theologically correct answer but everyone laughed and it broke the ice a bit so it was worth it. Another lesson chalked up.
But the session showed that teenagers have questions and it is beneficial for all involved to simply sit down with them and go through them. No question is silly, especially not if it's causing them issues. All that's needed is a little time, a knack for making the point easy to understand, the ability to go with the flow and actually answering the question. As one poster on a forum put it to me;
Thank you for doing the Q&A. Those kids need clear headed Christian answers, and, of course, being able to coherently explain to others what we believe is a true test of our faith, Very few young people - particularly those who have serious doubts - are going to be helped or convinced by a stock answer of "because the scriptures say so."
I very much looking forward to going back for another session and I thank the youth group for their questions and comments.
The questions that were put to me (but not necessarily answered) are below:
[*]Why are we Christians if Jesus was a Jew
[*] Where do different denominations come from?
[*]Why did God send Jesus "meek and mild"
[*]Who goes to heaven and how?
[*]Why do you believe?
[*]Who was there before God?
[*]Why is there suffering?
[*]When will the world end?
[*]What does eternity look like?
[*]Does Heaven and Hell exist?
[*]How do we have different religions?
[*]Why do we have communion?
[*]What is the proof for the resurrection?
[*]Why can't dogs see colour?
[*]How was God around before anything?
[*]Do evolution and creation have anything in common?
[*]How did we find out about God?
[*]How do we know the Bible stories are true?
[*] How can we be sure God listens to us?
[*]Where do the dinosaurs come in?
[*]Does Jesus like KFC?
[*]How was God there before everything else?
[*]Is there any proof that God exists?
[*]How old is God?
[*]How does God know everything about you before you're even born?
[*] How different is life now compared to when Jesus was living?