The authors of Can I Ask That? address the questions that adolescents often pose as they explore a deeper faith in God. Fuller Youth Institute, publisher of this curriculum, has been talking to teens about their faith for almost a decade. They have concluded that “it’s not doubt or hard questions that are toxic to faith. It’s silence.”
Their research through the Sticky Faith Curriculum initiative has found that adolescents “are tired of vague, superficial, or nonexistent answers to their tough questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity. Just when they’re capable of diving into the deep end of their faith, all too often the church keeps them splashing around in shallow waters.”
The institute discovered that young people weren’t leaving churches because of stances those churches took with such issues as the reliability of the biblical text, sexuality, or evolution and creation. “They left because the churches failed to address them at all,” or in vague and superficial ways.
Jim Candy, Brad M. Griffin and Kara Powell, authors of Can I Ask That? have used this research to create a tool to help youth ministers and leaders start conversations around the hard questions. In going deeper, they believe young people will encounter God in new ways.
The eight issues explored in this book follow a specific format. A story is used to introduce the issue, followed by initial questions to help youth express their views. This is followed by background material with different viewpoints, relevant scripture passages, and additional questions. The final section has fictional conversations to illustrate the complexity of the issue and opinions surrounding it.
The curriculum does a good job of defining terms and suggesting that leaders and participants look for additional information within their own denomination, church, or other organization. Tips are also provided to help leaders avoid problems and misunderstandings.
From my perspective the weakest part of the materials for each of the eight questions is the background information. In the question about sexuality, for example, only one resource is cited, which substantiates only one viewpoint.
The expert (from a quick Google search) is an ordained Baptist minister, conference speaker and adjunct professor of New Nestament/Biblical Studies at Tyndale Seminary. I would have liked to have read other viewpoints, and at a minimum, I expected a well-rounded bibliography for each issue. None is provided.
Leaders who use this curriculum will have to carefully assess the background information provided and then do their own research into the topic.
The curriculum has both a leader guide (for about $11.50) and a student book (about $6). Both can be purchased through Amazon or other outlets.
Dorothy Linthicum (@dslinthicum) is an instructor at Virginia Theological Seminary and program coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching.