The following is based on the latest youth2change.com blog
from Br. Lucio Boccaci LC.
Are you trying to make a
difference in the life of teenagers? Have you realized your
efforts to mentor are sometimes not working, or at least,
they seem to not be working?
As mentors, we need
to better discern what teens really need and want to
know before we offer them answers. I am going to
discuss a process that helped me better connect with them
by helping them to ask better questions. And the possible
applications are many, including using the process for youth camps
and retreats, during youth group sessions, during religious education or
in a classroom setting, and it may even help parents.
do you find out what teens really want to know?
I used a method from the ECyD book to
unearth what they were thinking. (read about it here).
camp I was running at the time had a different
daily theme -- true friendship, pure love, being a man,
friendship with Christ, my vocation – so I created a
survey based on the theme for each day. Types of
- What questions do you have about life?
- What questions do
you have about making friends?
- What questions do you have about
girls and dating?
- What questions do you have about God?
- What questions
do you have about praying?
- What questions do you have about
As you may have noticed, the questions asked for
more questions. My goal was to teach teens to formulate
their concerns, needs, experiences in the form of questions.
of the daily themes I developed a questionnaire with five
to six questions, and each day I scheduled 10-15 minutes
for the teens to fill them out. They had the
option of answering all the questions, or leaving them blank.
(I asked them to try their sincere best to answer
each one.) They could also write in as many questions
as they wanted. They choose whether or not they wanted
to add their name.
One of the chaperones compiled the questions
into a Power Point slide, without reference to the authors.
Using this method, I was able to compile A LOT
of questions -- more than I could possibly answer every
Once the questions were compiled, that evening or the next
day, I would go over the questionnaires, and I would
offer the teens as many answers as possible. I spent
about 20-30 minutes going through them (and I was never
able to answer all of them.)
I used the following
- I noted how many questions I had received.
- I pointed out
common trends, or peculiarly interesting questions.
- I mentioned more superficial questions
and those that touched on deeper subjects.
- For some of the
deeper questions, I provided related questions for them to think
- For some of the superficial questions, I reworded them into
- I was careful not to ridicule a question or
the person who asked it.
- Some questions provoked more questions from
the audience, and some even provoked answers.
- Some questions I would
answer, and some questions I asked the audience to answer,
and sometimes I revealed the difficulties in answering a question.
all the questions were compiled and reviewed, I used the
results to create spontaneous, informative, and even humorous talks to
answer my teens’ questions.
Any youth minister can do the
After reflecting on my experience, I made these observations:
- There is
a striking difference between teens who are more given to
reflection and those who are more superficial. This awareness helped
me help them better understand this aspect of themselves.
- It is
helpful to the teens to have 10-15 minutes of silent
personal time to reflect and write out their questions.
- Only a
small portion of the teens provided excellent questions throughout the
whole questionnaire. Most gave 1-3 excellent questions, while the rest
were more superficial. As a whole, they provided plenty of
great questions to discuss.
- Appearances can be deceiving, and even the
teens who you think have it “all figured out” have
a lot of questions on some subjects.
- While some questions are
more abstract, such as those related to morality or beliefs,
others can be more personal and really touch the teen´s
heart. For example, one of the teens asked, “Why do
my friends love me more than my parents love me?”
I have to be extremely careful answering these types of
- Many wanted to know what others asked. Some teens
were interested in answering others’ questions.
- The questions often helped me
develop themes for later. After the camp, I could take
several groupings of questions, and develop them into more substantial
talks for future retreats or camps.
- The process, even if I
did not have any stories or examples to share, helped
keep them interested.
- Some questions totally surprised the chaperones accompanying us
at the camp. They had no clue their children would
ask such questions. By the fourth and last day of
camp, they were writing down their own questions!