good question about middle schoolers and doubting

‘sean’ commented on my post about middle schoolers and doubts with this great question:

Is doubting your faith or your parents faith system necessary for spiritual growth? I ask because I have a few people, after reading your article, tell me that they have never gone through this. One is my senior pastor. They took offense to the notion that they must have a stunted or childish faith. Personally, I went through this, and I’m a stronger believer for it, but I can see my pastor’s point. Is he lying to himself? I don’t know. You got anything?

here’s my response:

good question, sean.

a couple responses:

1. yes, i think it’s essential. and i think it’s more likely that your pastor and other adults just don’t remember that they went through that process. it may not have been dramatic (which could be part of why they don’t remember it — combined with the fact that MOST of us don’t have many memories of the young teen years).

2. part of the rub could also be a definition of “doubting”. i’m really talking about a re-evaluated faith system — a decision (or more likely, a series of decisions) to take responsibility for a faith that had previously been inherited. maybe, in the case of your pastor and other adults (the minority, i would venture) it would be better to think of this process in ‘ownership’ terms, or ‘identity’ terms, rather than doubting. but the point remains: young to mid-teens need to go through a process of evaluating their faith (this is often not a process they are fully conscious of) and re-staking the ground of their own faith system.

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8 thoughts on “good question about middle schoolers and doubting”

  1. Hey MarkO,
    Just wanted to say thanks for passing these articles along. These are really helpful!! Looking forward to Charlotte!

  2. “i’m really talking about a re-evaluated faith system — a decision (or more likely, a series of decisions) to take responsibility for a faith that had previously been inherited”

    I think this is where you are totally right on Marko. Nearly all students who grew up in the church talk about this in some way…i’ve mostly heard it expressed as “making my faith my own.” or something like that

  3. This is expressed in James Fowler’s theories of faith development as people move from synthetic/conventional faith to individuative/reflective faith. It happens in all sorts of faiths, not just christianity.

  4. yes, james — in fact, i would add, it happens with or without a formalized faith system. EVERY pre-teen or young teen has a set of beliefs, whether they realize it or not, and whether their family has intentionally fostered that, or aligned themselves with any structured or unstructured faith system, or not. completely secularized non-church, non-temple, non-whatever attending young teens still go through this \’belief\’ re-alignment — which is part of why i tend to talk about this process as a great opportunity for those of us working with young teens in a spiritual context.

  5. you’re right in saying that young teens must and will go through a series of doubts or alignments to have a fuller relationship with Christ or deepen their faith system. Is it really doubts they are casting or is it asking the “why” behind the “what” of faith? Are we as a church teaching so much what (facts, pat answers) that we are failing our teens to wrestle with questions? Could this be a reason that teens leave the church in upper high school and college? they have looked at our faith system and found it wanting. not because we didn’t have the answers but we lacked passion.

  6. very cool marko – I’ve never thought to apply fowler’s stuff to non-formalized faith systems…now I am going to have to think about that…thanks –

    (a little context too – I’m the high school guy paired with the middle school guy who had his picture with you on the stage in anaheim…you made his day – lol)

  7. Thanks for getting responding to this. I know you must be busy with all the convetion stuff in charlotte this weekend. I think looking at it as a “re-evaluated faithe system” helps a lot. My sr. pastor still is not 100% convinced yet, but I am. (BTW) I was at the cincy convention. It was great as always. Wish you would’ve did a little break dancing for us, but maybe next time. I’ve been to five conventions since 2000. You guys really know what is on our (youthworkers) hearts. Thanks! Hey if your in the Grand Rapids area anytime for any Zondervan meetings, let me know, I’ll buy lunch.

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