Dealing with Doubt in Youth Ministry

For the past few years, I’ve been youth pastoring out in Southern California. When I was living out there, I had a group of guys that I got together with on a weekly basis, and we’d discuss anything and everything having to do with life, struggles, relationships, and ministry…

With just about all of us having moved away from Southern California and into different ministries, I look back on our discussions and I’ve come to discover, we had the same doubts, questions, concerns and struggles as our students…

  • If God is a loving God then why is there suffering?

  • Was the world really created in 7 days?

  • The Trinity. Can you explain it?

To even taking it a step further and wondering:

  • Where’s the power of the Spirit in all of this?

  • If we’re not seeing the power of the spirit described in scripture, what does that say about us? About my walk? My faith?

  • What exactly does it look like to follow jesus here in the suburbs?

  • Do I, do we have this book right? If so are we living it out?

There’s a few of us who struggled and battled with these questions so much so they completely walked away from ministry.

The question today is, “What do we do when we have, and struggle, with the same questions and doubts as youth pastors? What do we do when we no longer buy the answers that we’ve given to these questions?”

If we can all be honest, doubt happens… To all of us. Students, parents, pastors or not… It’s a part of our walk. It’s a part of life.

Through out my short lived career in ministry, there are two types of situations that we can and probably will come across as we go through life:

  1. Questions that cause us to struggle with our faith

  2. Questions in which we just don’t know the answer to

I’ve experienced both.

And during those seasons of doubt. I at times suppressed them, and completely blew them off. Other times I accepted a generic answer and moved on. But as hard as it was, the most effective and healthy thing I chose to do with them was confront them.

Confront them head on.

  • I bought a moleskin (best 20 bucks I’ve spent in the last year) and journaled.
  • I prayed, taking my doubts and questions directly to God. Sometimes just listening, other times frustratingly rambling.
  • And of course, being the type-A kinda guy that I am, I researched, I read, and of course (as a youth pastor) youtubed. But most importantly…

I fought. 

I remember my freshman year in college, one of the guys who helped point me to Christ, in his over dramatic fashion told me that if this book is false, if Christ isn’t Christ then he wouldn’t know what to do, he would be at a loss. His life was built on knowing the validity of scriptures, and that Christ is Lord. I didn’t understand or fully get him at the time, but I do now.

Ten years later, all of us who have been involved in ministry have shaped our lives around Christ and this book… Satan wants nothing more then to derail us from that… through doubt, questions, and the suppressing or blatant ignoring of our doubts and questions. Our lives, ministries, purpose, meaning, and identity rest on Christ and His words.

Knowing and realizing that is why I choose to fight.

And yes there were times, many times, with questions I came out with no answer.

But when I look at my questions, doubts, and concerns, and even the most common questions that my students have asked me, I see that most of them have one thing in common… they were questioning God:

His character. His intentions. His existence.

A.W. Tozer says in his book “The Knowledge of the Holy”:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

For me knowing God is infinite, eternal, and  and omnipresent is intimidating, but coming to know over the last few months that this God who is not only self existent, but in control of everything, is also sovereign, never changing, and unconditionally loving, sets me at peace with my unanswered questions and doubts, and gives me the strength and ability to fight the good fight and go confront my questions, that yes many of my students struggle with also…

What about you guys, how have you dealt with your doubts and questions?

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