Are You Giving Them All The Answers?

When I was a junior in high school I had to read The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner.  At that time of my life I didn’t enjoy reading anything more than a magazine, so to read something written in stream of consciousness was torture.  The only way I could get through class was by reading the cliff notes version which was not highly looked upon by the teacher; however, it worked.  I was able to share in class and it was working until the day I shared too much.  I didn’t realize that cliff notes gave you insight to information that isn’t quite there and it was discovered that my answers were not my own, but from another source.  I had learned answers to questions that I didn’t really understand.
No matter how you deliver curriculum, theology, scripture and truth you have to wonder whether or not you are really preparing teens for the real world.  Yes, you might have all the information in front of you and they might have all the information in front of them; however, how is it changing them?  While what we teach, and preach is important, it will lose it’s weight if we don’t know how to deliver it.  It isn’t always about giving them the answers, it’s also about:

  • Getting Them To Think: What is it you want them to know?  Christianity is rich with so much information, wisdom, and tradition; however, if there was only one thing you wanted them to walk away knowing, what would that be?  Once that is decided, clarify it, repeat it and give examples of what it looks like in their paradigm.  Getting them to think, in planting a seed in their mind that can grow and expand and lead to more ideas.  Getting them to think is giving them creative authority on how to go out and live their life.
  • Evoking Their Emotion: Why do you want them to know what you want them to know?  If you throw out information (even wisdom) without a reason as to why it’s important, they’ll take it as it is and probably do nothing with it.  If you want your teens to care you need to give them a reason to care.  While you want to avoid manipulation, don’t be afraid to share why it’s important to you.  The best way to do this is through story telling, because everyone wants to be a part of a story.
  • Giving Them Direction: Now that they know what it is, and why it’s important you need to show them how to apply it in their lives.  Some of the teens will feel compelled, ready to set the world on fire, while others will be reluctant because they fear failure.  You’ll want to focus those who are excited and encourage the ones who are apprehensive and this is done with clear direction.  Give them a few steps, or describe opportunities where they can apply what they know in their everyday lives.

It’s tempting to just spout out information week in and week out when we meet with our students.  It’s tempting to just get up and preach or hand out a worksheet because it’s easier.  The focus needs to be on creating conversations, growing ideas and giving them permission to fail.  Next time you plan a message, and activity don’t worry about giving the answers but ask yourself:

 “How am I getting them to the Truth?”  

How do you guide your teens to discover the answers?