How To Help Your Teenage Friends Face Their Biggest Questions

Brad M. Griffin, Kara Powell November 16, 2022

Life is all about questions.

And wow, are there so many questions.

Your teenage friends are starting to wrestle with more and more questions—and bigger and bigger ones. It’s easy to get overwhelmed—and many teenagers feel a lot of pressure to have everything figured out.

Maybe they even think the point of life is actually to find all the answers (spoiler alert: most adults never fully do!)

Maybe you have students who have all the questions. All the time. And you don’t always know how to help. We feel your struggle.

Embracing the Questions

We’re youth-leaders-turned-researchers who’ve spent a lot of time with a lot of teenagers listening to their stories and asking them questions. Our most recent research with the Fuller Youth Institute team led to the book 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, and a brand-new student devotional companion, 3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future (pre-order now, releasing December 6, 2022).

Based on our research with over two thousand teenagers, we’ve learned a lot about this generation. We heard from young people that among the dozens of questions tumbling through any teenager’s mind at any time, the following often float to the top:

Who am I? The question of identity.

Where do I fit? The question of belonging.

What difference can I make? The question of purpose.

We believe embracing these questions is critical to discipleship.

Because the answers aren’t the whole point. Questions take us on a journey, and the act of exploring, wondering, seeking, even wrestling our way toward answers changes us—sometimes as much as the answers themselves.

Here’s good news for our students: questions aren’t new to God. Jesus was asked nearly 200 questions, and he asked over 300. If he was comfortable with questions then, he’s comfortable with questions now.

So maybe we can lower the heat for our students who feel so much pressure to figure it all out. Easier said than done, right?

Helping Teenagers Come Alive

Twentieth-century writer and theologian Howard Thurman once told a young person, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What does it mean to come alive? Is that a trick question?

Thurman was speaking to the dilemma of purpose: What should I do? How can I make a difference? How will my life matter in the world? This kind of wondering can turn into worrying. It can make a teenager’s brain hurt.

But instead of agonizing over figuring out the “one thing” they were meant to do or that the world most needs them to do, Thurman offers a freeing alternative: be fully alive.

What makes your students feel fully alive? As caring leaders, we can ask (and point out when we notice): 

  • When do you feel most truly yourself?
  • What brings you joy?
  • When do you have the most energy?
  • When do you sense God’s presence the most?

Jesus said that he came into the world so we may “have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 NRSV). Life to the full. Life not just later in heaven, but here and now on earth. Flourishing. Being whole.

Our students need to know that coming alive is always what God has wanted. And when they feel fully alive, they are being who the world needs them to be—questions and all.

A New Resource to Share with Your Teenage Friends

For all the teenagers grappling with life’s big questions, we’ve created a new devotional filled with fresh faith insights and practical ideas to try.

Backed by Scripture and informed by years of conversations with diverse teens, this 60-day devotional does more than help teenagers figure out what to do with their lives; it will help them understand what their life means to the world.

It’s perfect for students to use on their own, with a leader, or in small groups!

Check out a sample and find out more: (pre-order now, releasing December 6, 2022).

*Adapted with permission from Kara Powell, Kristel Acevedo, and Brad M. Griffin, 3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future: A 60-Day Exploration of Who You Were Made to Be (Baker Books, December 2022).

Join the Conversation

Sign up for our monthly email newsletter that keeps you updated with the most helpful and relevant content.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.