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This month my Grandpa, Harvard J. Coon, passed away at the age of 90. As all death of a close family member is, it was hard. It wasn’t hard on my family and I because he was lost in sin, but rather because we would honestly just miss him. Miss his goofy stories, his jokes that really weren’t funny, but most of all I would miss the way he inspired me to love Jesus more. One of the ways he showed me this love for Jesus is in the way he made sure that I understood EVERYTHING that was going on during a church service. When I would visit my Grandparents, I was always sure I sat directly next to my Grandpa during the church service. Every time I did, he would explain to me (very loudly) why the church did what it did. When worship started, he would lean over and say “We are going to worship. We worship to praise God.” Or when the communion tray was passed, he would very loudly say, “The juice represents Jesus’ blood that spilled for us, the bread represents Jesus’ body broken for us.” I would always respond, “I know Grandpa.” Even though as a child (even as a teenager) this act of “explaining why” was super embarrassing to me, I never thought, “I wonder why”, and even if I did have questions, I knew I could ask “why?” My Grandpa encouraged a culture of questions and explanations. This idea of the culture that my Grandpa had established got me thinking about student ministry. I want you to ask yourself this question: How often does our student ministry do stuff, but never explains why we’re doing it?

Explain the Why
This last year I was really excited because we had several new students attending a large winter conference with our youth group. For the most part, these new students had never gone to church and if they had, it was very rarely. So as the weekend progressed, I noticed that one of these new students was looking rather annoyed during the worship time of the service. So, after the service and small group time I pulled him aside and asked him “Hey man, are you alright? You don’t seem to be enjoying yourself.” He responded, “Yeah, I’m fine and I’m having fun, but I just don’t get why we have to stand up and sing along with the people on stage. I’ve never been to a concert where I have to sing along.” This middle school student, was told to stand up, dance and sing along, but he was never told WHY. This gets me wondering how many times do we do something in church, but don’t explain our reasoning or purpose.

Over Explain
Sometimes we feel like a broken record, but as leaders we need to be sure to explain to our students the WHY. So explain WHY we worship, WHY we do small groups, WHY we take communion, WHY we pray, WHY we give, WHY we do everything. Provide a purpose and explanation.

Create a Safe Culture for Students to Ask “Why?”
Create a culture that promotes questions and discussion. When your students have a sincere question, take it seriously. Don’t brush it off because “they just weren’t listening.” Listen and do your best to explain and answer their questions. If you don’t know the answer, be honest with them and ask if you can get back to them. It’s better to be honest, then make something up on the spot.

So, this year, take the time to explain the “why” to your students. Don’t be afraid to over-explain to your students, repetition isn’t a bad thing. Create a culture in your student ministry that is safe for questions and discussion. We never want to put our students in a situation where they are confused and wondering “why?”

– Aaron J. Coon

Discussion Questions:
1. Does our student ministry practice “explaining the why” to our students? If yes, how? If no, why not?
2. Does our ministry promote a culture that accepts discussion and questions?

Anonymous Survey Question for Students:
1. Do you feel comfortable asking questions in your small group?

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