Don’t just tolerate doubt. Celebrate it!
Greetings from The Bridge! If you don’t know what that means, The Bridge is our Preteen Ministry where we focus in on our 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students here at Harvest. I have been working with preteens for a long time now, and I absolutely love it! Did you know that research shows us that more than half of all Americans who accept Jesus as their savior do so before the age of 13? A lot of that happens in the Preteen years! Not only that, but the kids that make that decision young are statistically more likely to remain committed and steadfast in their faith than people who are converted later in life. We have the amazing opportunity to reach kids before they need to be rescued!
Preteens are at a unique stage in their development where they are moving from childhood to adolescence – they are “in between.” Their brains and bodies are changing at a remarkable rate, and they are feeling and thinking things that they have never felt or thought about before – all without knowing how to vocalize what is happening to them. Preteens are challenging and exciting, they are full of opportunity and potential, but it can also be frustrating to know what to do with a preteen and often they themselves can be frustrated with the changes they are experiencing.
Because of all of these things, it can be easy for preteens to fall into the cracks. It can be difficult to know how to “get through” to them, and they will often show little to no interest in what an adult has to say. This leaves parents and teachers feeling frustrated, but it is all completely normal in the developing brain of a preteen! You see, Preteens are transitioning out of childhood on a relational level and a cognitive level. They are starting to form their own identity outside of their family, and their friends and peers are becoming a huge part of their lives and a major influence on their behavior – which is why they are more interested in talking with their friends than with an adult. How preteens view the world is also shifting as they move out of having a black and white (concrete) understanding towards more abstract and personal understanding. This opens the door to questions and doubts about the world around them and how they fit into the grand scheme of things.
When you look at your preteen things may appear to be calm and quiet on the surface, but there is a lot happening behind the scenes as they begin to ask questions, have doubts, and wrestle with issues of morality and faith. Chances are they are thinking and wondering about things that you have no idea they are attempting to sort out. At first, that questioning and doubting can be shocking, especially when it comes to God and the Bible, but it is important to create an environment where it is safe for Preteens to express their honest doubt.
Honest doubt is not the same as having a spirit of unbelief. Doubts and questions should celebrated, not simply tolerated! They are a key indicator that your preteen is on their way to a living, breathing relationship with Jesus Christ. They are moving beyond simply “knowing about God” to “knowing God” personally! Make it clear to your preteen that there is a difference between doubt and unbelief. Let them know that it is okay to ask questions, and it is okay to have doubts; there is no sin in asking questions. If there is no room for doubt, there is no room for faith.
So be ready. The questions are coming (if they haven’t already). So make it clear to you preteen that it is okay to ask questions – in fact it is wonderful! Tell them that church, The Bridge, and your home are all a safe place for questioning. They get to bring their doubt with them. And don’t be afraid of not having all the answers, I can guarantee that you will not have all the answers to all their questions. There are some things that we just trust. On this side of eternity, we don’t have all the answers, some things are unknown to us – and that’s okay. Celebrate doubt, and be prepared to receive them in love, for:
“Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13: 12-13.