Raw Questions, Relevant Answers, a newly-launched 3ABN program hosted by young adults Dee Casper, Michelle Doucoumes, and Mark Paden, is an experiment in engaging with the real struggles young people face, rather than acting as though they don’t exist.
In short, the youth-oriented program follows a Q&A format, with all questions submitted anonymously via the program’s website. The hosts answer 2-3 related questions in short episodes (roughly 15 minutes each). Seven have been released so far, with 19 more episodes to be released over the coming months.
The program is designed to provide something that most young Adventists growing up in the church today don’t have—a safe place to ask tough questions about the struggles and heart issues that so often cripple their faith. (A 2011 Barna study estimates that 59% of young people who grow up in Christian churches leave after they turn 18.)
The hosts are young adults themselves, from a variety of careers and backgrounds, which adds to the diversity of the answers presented:
- Dee Casper, a speaker and Bible teacher currently serving as the Brand Evangelist for ARTv, is an adult convert to the church who found in Adventism the solution to the myriad questions and struggles in his life.
- Michelle Doucoumes, assistant professor of business at Southern Adventist University, is a pastor’s kid who struggled to find her way as a teenager and young adult, but found answers as she shared her faith with others in various ministry contexts.
- Mark Paden, a freelance filmmaker based in Michigan, grew up in the church, but ended up leaving as a teenager after becoming disenchanted with the Adventism he had experienced growing up. He later found his way back to the church while in academy, and went on to work with a number of evangelistic ministries.
An Unexpected Response
The inspiration for the program’s format began back in 2015. Dee was serving as the Bible teacher at Heritage Academy, and began organizing a number of question-and-answer (Q&A) sessions with the students. After positive student feedback from the first few Q&A’s, he organized another Q&A session, but with one tweak—all the questions could be submitted anonymously.
That Sabbath, he had planned to speak twice on Sabbath and co-host another question-and-answer (Q&A) session with Mark in the morning. However, when he and Mark opened the question box they had set out in the dorms, they were taken aback by both the quantity and the depth of the questions—questions addressing deep struggles with addiction, depression, a fear of rejection by God, and more.
Recognizing that it would be impossible for them to finish even half of the questions during the allotted 1-hour Q&A time, Dee and Mark cancelled the planned programming for that Sabbath, and spent over 4 hours answering every single question that had been submitted earlier that week.
The response to those Q&A sessions was overwhelmingly positive, and as a result, Mark and Dee began doing more of them—both at Heritage and at other academies around the United States. They began to realize that there was a huge unmet need within Adventism for safe places where young people could ask tough questions about the struggles and heart issues that were often crippling their faith.
Recognizing an Opportunity
In an interview, Dee noted that the world often speaks far louder and with more clarity than the church regarding the real issues facing young Adventists. As a result, many young adults conclude that their church simply can’t answer their questions or aid in their struggles.
However, that’s simply not the case. “You don’t have to change the core beliefs of Adventism to solve people’s problems,” he argues. The answers are there, but if we aren’t willing to talk about them, or to apply them to the real struggles young people are facing, those young people will seek out the world’s answers, for lack of soul-satisfying alternatives.
With Raw Questions, Relevant Answers, Dee and his co-hosts are seeking to meet this need by replicating their in-person Q&A sessions on a larger scale. In an interview, Mark noted that while most young people see their individual struggles as unique, those same struggles are widely shared among their peers.
This fact led Mark, Dee, and Michelle (who joined the team later on) to realize that by creating an easily-shareable series of videos that addressed these issues, they could eventually reach thousands, if not millions, of young adults across the world—far more than they could reach through in-person events. Thus, Raw Questions, Relevant Answers was born.
The 3ABN program launched in July of this year, and though it’s still only seven episodes in, the feedback has been very positive. The first episode has been viewed over 1,200 times on Youtube (with 3,500+ views on Facebook), and most of their early episodes have been shared over 100 times on Facebook. The hosts are expecting more feedback as the program becomes more widely known.
3ABN has filmed 2 seasons (13 episodes each) to date, covering topics such as handling hypocrisy in the church, dealing with addiction, finding God’s will, sexuality, and navigating church issues. By way of example, here’s a sample question and answer from episode 3 of season 1 (entitled “Bad Religion”):
For young people who have questions they would like answered on the program, they can submit them anonymously through this Google form. You are only required to provide your age, state/province, and gender. A link to the form is also provided on the program’s website and Facebook page.
If you’re interested in watching Raw Questions, Relevant Answers, there are four places to do it: