I received a message from a uni student one evening: “Hey, would you mind doing a Bible study with me sometime?” I could sense the urgency in their request, especially when they continued and said, “I’m just really struggling with the whole idea of… And I don’t feel like I have anyone to talk to about it.”
... many young people feel the church is too small a container in which to carry their doubts.
I’m not going to talk about what “it” was but rather the point that students don’t always have someone to talk to. Why would a young person feel they couldn’t talk? Could this be why so many young people disconnect from the church and faith? One issue deeply entwined in disconnection is ‘doubt’.
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, put it this way:
“I believe unexpressed doubt is one of the most powerful destroyers of faith. Our research reveals that many young people feel the church is too small a container in which to carry their doubts. Fully one-third of young Christians (36 per cent) agree that ‘I don’t feel that I can ask my most pressing life questions in church’. One in 10 (10 per cent) put it more bluntly: ‘I am not allowed to talk about my doubts in church’.”
Understandably there are a myriad of issues students are struggling with besides doubt that may result in disconnection from faith or church. Clearly the student who opened their inner struggle to me that evening couldn’t even talk to family or friends, let alone the church. My point is that students are seeking understanding on some big issues in life and need to be heard. It may be that open discussion with a uni chaplain could allow for questions on faith. So if you are out there studying and just need to talk, there is a uni chaplain in your conference ready to listen.
Tim Shelton is the university chaplain for the Greater Sydney Conference.