At the recent ‘Godly Mayhem’ conference organised by the Progressive Christianity Network and SCM, one of the student participants raised the question of whether students are too young to cope with doubt, and whether embracing doubt and uncertainty is something we can only do when we are older and have a bit more life experience.
I often meet people who claim that students are looking for certainty, for definite answers to their questions, for a faith in which there is little room for doubt. They use this as an explanation for why so many students are part of more evangelical churches and student groups.
For the record, I think the reason that evangelical churches seem to attract so many students is that they put in more resources than the ‘mainstream’ churches. They employ student workers, run minibuses from university campuses to churches, support Christian Unions, engage in mission and provide three course Sunday lunches. Other churches have a lot of catching up to do!
Young people in particular have grown up in a world where there are no easy answers, and they don’t expect there to be any. Their faith and beliefs are often challenged.
I think everyone experiences doubt to some degree, but I don’t think students are looking for certainty. It’s certainly not true of the students I’ve met in SCM. I think they are looking for security. They are looking for friendship, community and acceptance, and they find this in all sorts of churches and student groups, and indeed in many places outside of the church.
SCM tries to provide the security that allows people to ask questions, to doubt, to encounter difference but not be threatened by it, to help people grow and deepen their faith together as a community. We shouldn’t be focused on trying to provide answers to everyone’s questions, but on providing a space where those questions can be asked and worked through as a community.
We’re committed to helping students to grow in their faith, and supporting them to face the challenges that this brings.