A friend of mine says that opinions are like bellybuttons: everyone has one. We have them about EVERYTHING from frivolous things like the best flavor of Jolly Ranchers (cherry of course) to very serious “issues” like politics. As Believers in Christ we have particular thoughts on which translation of the Bible is “best,” when the rapture will happen, as well as every other “grey” area of Christianity where the interpretation is subject to human observation. The news these days is filled with stories of disease, war, pain and death. Truly when you break it down, Solomon was right.There just isn’t anything new under the sun.
I wonder if we are cautious enough in sharing all thoughts that come into our heads with the youth we serve. I am not talking about questions they ask or a topic that arises from a small group study. Instead, there are times when leaders feel like they need to drop thoughts on the group like the time my daughter came home petrified that America was going to get blown up by nuclear weapons because, “The UN won’t take terrorists down.”
Before you decide to share your thoughts on a topic keep some things in mind:
Why Are You Sharing?
What does this idea have to do with anything? Is it just so you can share a thought with a student? We can have opinion discussions with other adults. If a question is asked, or it’s where a discussion takes its course, obviously we can give “our thoughts” on a topic. Yet, remember there are times when a tween or teen may not fully comprehend the breadth of a subject and have no way to separate out the truth versus the opinion in a conversation. There are times we don’t NEED to share.
Opinions to Keep To Yourself:
My nephew started following politics when he was 15. Yet, the average 6th or 7th grader is telling you what they have heard at home and around other adults. Youth programming is not the place to discuss politics, the president, or if we as a country are “reacting properly to a situation,” if no one asks. Think through what you are sharing and if it truly ought to be shared at youth group.
One of the small groups I lead is all 6th graders. One girl told me recently that an adult had told her to “get her heart right with the Lord,” because if “ISIS takes over the country you may have to stand up for your faith.” It is this adult’s OPINION that terrorists can attack again. Scare tactics do not help students “get ready.” Help students see FACTS and not be forced to share your opinion. If the goal is to get students praying and caring for other parts of the world, be aware of HOW you share stories. Bring what’s happening without attaching your spin on the topic.Then actually pray.
Here is the damage that sharing said opinions can cause, if we are not really careful:
Recently, I have heard a lot of leaders share how they believe “Jesus is coming back soon,” (without it coming up in conversation). Let’s remember John and the other disciples were sure of the same thing. Are you approaching a topic in a way that is helpful or just leaves a student riled up? The Bible says we are supposed to live every day like it’s the day Jesus is coming. If we just throw our thoughts out there, it can cause students not to grow closer to the Lord but to merely panic. Remember, the words of 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Wrongful Thinking :
Students often take what we say as truth. I had a student once who ceased believing in Creation because a teacher told them it was “stupid,” and they made a great argument. So much of our thinking is based on our own life experience and the way we view certain topics. All too often students take our thoughts and mix them up, add something in that wasn’t even what we said at all, and treat it as FACT.
As a parent of teens and tweens, there are times when my own children have come home telling me an idea they heard that they now think is true. Thankfully, they ask questions and want to know what we think. They are learning to take it all in, put it up against what’s “real” and decide for themselves. However, on more than one occasion my husband and I have had to undo anxiety over the next “crisis” that will “take our government down.”
Instead of sharing our opinions, how about we teach students to look through the Word of God, see what it says and believe that when we belong to the Lord, God always has our back not matter “how bad” it all gets? Let’s really teach them to care about the world and get on our knees to discuss it with the only one who can really do anything about “evil” anyway.
What are your thoughts?