As a youth pastor, the idea of teenagers having doubts and struggles in their faith can be frightening and discouraging. Sometimes it has even made me question my effectiveness as a pastor, even after 20 years of doing this.
Having teenagers of my own as a parent, their personal struggles cut even deeper into my questions about my effectiveness as a Christian parent.
However, being part of the first Sticky Faith Cohort made me more aware of and intentional about learning to embrace teenagers’ doubts and struggles. I started speaking more about it in my teaching. I started encouraging students in the midst of their struggles, in person or on social media. And my wife (a marriage and family counselor) would remind me that when a person struggles and doubts, it is often because they are fighting for a belief they hold.
I was affirmed of this move toward being present with students in the midst of their doubts when a student posted the below last Thanksgiving.
I’m thankful for pastor Danny because he always stresses the importance of struggle in our lives. That struggle is how you learn and how God pulls you back in. That even doubt is okay, and can be how my relationship with God gets stronger. I didn't believe him for a while. But I had a lot of struggles this past year that made me think about what he preached. Because he stressed this point so much, it stuck with me. I’ve found that struggles not only make my relationship stronger with God but also with others. This is what I’m most thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!
I love her line "it stuck with me." It makes me realize that embracing the doubts of teenagers is part of Sticky Faith in their unfinished stories.
Ultimately, I am affirmed that God can use doubt in a powerful way in the lives of our students. I know and believe this because it is God's promise in my life, too. As the apostle Paul reminds us, "[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)
That’s a lot to be thankful for.