For Youth Workers Post


Kara Oliver

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for April 7–13, 2014.


“As our first child began talking, my husband and I made a commitment: We would do our best to answer every question she had. Keeping the commitment was easy when she was two and three years old. At four, she asked a stream of questions: Why? Why? Why? And we continued to do our best. At times, answering her questions was exhausting, and we joked about the wisdom of our decision. But we never turned back. We kept answering, more and more often turning to a book or to the Internet to find the answer, but always welcoming the questions and giving them our attention. Now our daughter is fourteen. More often than not, the answers to her questions are not facts or objective absolutes. Her questions require prayer, soul-searching, and vulnerability. Sometimes we have to be honest and say that we don’t have an answer. I’m grateful for the naïve commitment we made as young parents because it has created a safe space for her to ask, struggle, and wonder with us.” —Kara



Kara Oliver2 ITH 287170_10150766671795305_1530530_o“Keep asking good questions, and don’t settle for half-baked answers” was the inscription in my confirmation Bible. I don’t think I will fully realize the power of that affirmation and its effect on my life. Confirmation opened up a world of questions, and I’ve followed the questions through a Religious Studies major in college and a Master of Divinity. I fell in love with youth ministry, finding kindred spirits who continued asking the questions with me. Today I write and preach as I pursue ordination, formed and called by the deepest question: Why?



Before the session, write on a sheet of newsprint the list of Bible characters and scripture passages as described in “Exploring the Word.” Write on another sheet of newsprint The Serenity Prayer (see “Sharing in Prayer”). Also, take time to become familiar with the 5-Why method of analysis (see “Plugged In”).



  • Did you know that getting to the root cause of an issue generally takes five whys? Explore “An Introduction to 5-Why” by Karn G. Bulsuk, which describes the process.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Read at Brainy Quote more quotations by Nietzsche and more quotations about asking and answering why.
  • When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Anchor, 2007) is a spiritual classic. When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, Kushner was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, he wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being.



To start the session, ask a volunteer to come forward. First, ask the volunteer, “Why did you come to this session today?” After he or she answers, continue asking why? four more times according to the “5-Why” method of analysis.

Afterward, explain the 5-why method to the group. Then invite everyone to choose a partner. Ask one person in each pair to ask his or her partner a question and to follow up with five whys. Then invite the partners to switch roles. If needed, offer some sample questions, such as these:
       •  What do you want to be when you grow up?
       •  What are you going to do for spring break or summer vacation?
       •  What is your favorite TV show?
       •  Who is your favorite character in the Bible?
       •  Do you like school?

Bring the group together and invite people to discuss their reactions to the process:
       Do you think the 5 whys helped you get at the root answer? Why? Why not?
       Did some of your own answers surprise you?
       How many whys were easy to answer? When did the whys become difficult to answer?



Scripture: Various Passages (see list below)

Display the newsprint on which you have written the following list:
       Characters in the Bible Who Might Have Asked Why?
          •  Hagar, Genesis 16:1–14
          •  Abraham and Isaac, Genesis 22:1–14
          •  Moses, Exodus 3:4–12
          •  Esther, Esther 4:12–17
          •  Mary, Luke 1:26–38
          •  Jesus, Matthew 27:45–50
          •  Paul, Acts 9:10–20
Explain that each of the scripture passages tells the story of a woman or man in the midst of a life-changing circumstance. Some feel abandoned, tested, blessed, confused, or afraid.

Depending on the size of your group, invite the youth to work as individuals or in small groups. Ask members of each group to choose one of the characters, to read the scripture passage, and then either to write about or to discuss these questions:
       Did the character question God?
       What question did he or she ask?
       Did God answer the question?
       How did the person choose to act? Did he or she need answers to act?
       What questions would you have asked in the same circumstance?
       Would you have asked why?
       How would you have responded in the same situation?
       What do you learn from the biblical character about living in relationship with God?

Bring people together to talk about what they learned from the passages they studied. Record their insights on a sheet of newsprint.



If you have journals, distribute them out now. If not, provide each person with paper and a pen.

Ask each person to write about one of the big questions in his or her life:
       •  What is the question? (Does the question begin with Why . . .? What if . . .? When . . .?)
       •  Can you follow your question with 5 whys?
What are your answers?
Which of the biblical characters helps you in your situation? What do you learn from his or her wisdom or actions?

Post The Serenity Prayer so that everyone can see it. Bring group members together in a circle. Ask each person to say a one-sentence prayer about the question he or she is struggling with and the wisdom he or she has found during the session.

Close the prayer time by inviting group members to pray together The Serenity Prayer:
       “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
       The courage to change the things I can,
       And wisdom to know the difference.”



Sometimes our questions and not our answers move us forward in life into new adventures and new opportunities.

Ask group members to list the questions they have had in life—for example: Which middle school or high school should I go to? Which sport should I play? Should I date? Whom should I date? What instrument would I enjoy playing? Why did my parents get a divorce? Why did my best friend do or say that? When did I become so happy? unhappy?

Once they have a list of questions, invite them to draw a map of their lives with these questions as forks in the road.

Then suggest that they reflect on each question: Whom did you ask for help? What books or resources did you turn to in order to find answers? Did you pray? Ask the youth to write their responses on their map and to draw the path they decided to take at each fork in the road.

Bring the group together for discussion:
       If you hadn’t asked the question, what would you have missed out on?
       Has your ability to find answers improved?
       Whom can you ask to help you search for answers?
       Are you excited or scared about the next fork in the road?

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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