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During my first year as a teacher, I had the joy of working with seventh and eighth graders. One of the things I most enjoyed about teaching this age was their wonderful curiosity. I’ve taught students from middle school all the way through graduate school, and I still find that middle school students ask some of the most interesting questions.
It didn’t take long for me to discover that student questions were incredibly powerful and insightful. By listening to student questions and how students framed their questions, I got a glimpse into their lives and thinking. By inviting students to ask questions, we were able to create a classroom culture where we could openly ask tough questions and then turn to God’s Word to explore what He might have to say about them.
For that reason, early in my teaching career, I decided to create what I called the dinosaur box. We named it after the fact that so many students loved to ask questions about where dinosaurs came from and where they went. It was a shoe box with a slit in the top, and I simply sat it in the corner of the room, inviting students to write questions on a blank sheet of paper and drop it in the box whenever they felt like it.
Students could put an anonymous question in the box whenever they wanted, and we would occasionally set aside a day to draw a few questions out of the box and discuss them. I also kept a list of the questions. I studied them carefully over the years and gathered Bible passages, examples, and illustrations that I could use to help students discover answers to them. So many of my lessons, devotions, and chapel messages over the years were prompted by a question from that box.
When I was preparing for a recent presentation to a group of Lutheran teachers, I searched through some of my old lessons and files, and I came across a list of questions that I’d documented from the dinosaur box. I’ve included some of them below. As you can see, these are not all easy questions. Yet, even looking at them almost two decades after students put them in that box, I’m still struck by the honesty and curiosity evident in them.
- If God is all-powerful and loving, why is there evil in the world?
- Why does God let bad things happen?
- Why did God let _____________ happen to me?
- Why did God let this happen to my mom?
- If God is all-powerful, can He create a rock so big that even He can’t move it?
- Why are some people saved and others not? Or is this true?
- Does God send some people to hell? If so, why?
- What about all of those people in the world who never get a chance to hear about Jesus?
- What do I do to help ______________ believe in Jesus?
- Are all religions the same? Are there other ways or religions that lead to heaven?
- If God created the world, why does He seem to be hiding from us?
- If God loves me so much, why doesn’t He tell me what He wants me to do . . . His plan for me?
- Is there one “right” Christian denomination? What is up with all the different kinds of Christianity?
- How do you know the difference between God’s will, the devil’s will, and my own?
- If God has a plan for our lives, why do we still have a choice? Do we? Free will?
- Why do we have to go to church? Do we?
- Why are Christians so unloving, judgy, hypocritical?
- How do you know that God is real?
- What happens when people die?
- Where is my grandpa?
- How can heaven be forever? Will it be boring?
- Will my dog, cat, iguana, fish, hamster, turtle be in heaven?
- How old is God?
- How did the world come to be?
- If God is with me always, how could He just stand there and watch what was done to me?
- Why did God make things in this world that can hurt us?
- Is Jesus a Packers fan? Is Jesus a Bears fan? Is Jesus a Bulls fan? Is Jesus a White Sox fan?
- Why does God let some people be so poor?
- How can Jesus see me if I’m in my house?
- How does God decide when our time on earth is done?
- Why can’t I hear God if He answers my prayers?
- How many times do I have to go to church?
- Why did my little sister die?
- Why can’t I see God?
- Why won’t God heal my depression?
- What happens when the world ends? How will I know where to go?
- Does Jesus come back to us every Christmas in a manger?
- Why does the pastor always talk so long in church?
- My friend says she doesn’t care about what the Bible says. Should I stop being her friend?
- Does God get mad at me when I hit my brother? Is He mad at people who are murderers?
- Why is it bad to swear? Aren’t they just like any other word?
- If God knows someone who has a very strong faith is struggling in their life, why doesn’t He step in and change things?
- How do you know if you are on the path God wants for you?
- Why would God let a Christian child who lives in poverty suffer so badly?
- Do people become angels when they die?
- Why does God care so much about the differences between religions? As long as they teach love, isn’t that good enough?
Again, these are not easy questions. Some are more philosophical. Others are deeply personal. All of them represent real questions pondered by the students in one or more of my classes over the years. Also, each question represents a wonderful opportunity to explore God’s Word with students.
What questions are students pondering in your classes? How can you discover those questions and use them as a starting point for some rich discussions and opportunities to study God’s Word together?
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