3 Ways to Help Your Teen Develop a Lasting Faith
By: Pastor Joel Thompson
Your teenager is facing a myriad of pressures and insecurities you and I never had to combat. Twitter wars. Cyber bullying. Edited images of seemingly perfect bodies. Edited vlogs of seemingly perfect lives. Pressure to have perfect grades and make varsity and snag scholarships. Not to mention the expectation to read the Bible, pray every day and participate in church activities. Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high among teens, and a lot of those teens come from faith-based households.
So, how can we help them?
In 1 Kings 19, Yahweh tells Elijah to stand on a mountain and wait for His presence to pass by.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
It is common for Christian parents to hold their teens to a high standard: to get good grades, to not have sex, to not get drunk, to find Christian friends. But with every six out of ten Millennials leaving the church, those of us in relationship with teens need to get serious about teaching them these three things:
- To hear the voice of God
- To obey the voice of God
- To wait for God to move
These spiritual disciplines will follow your teen for the rest of their life. When you are at home and they are in a college dorm, they might not call you and clue you in on all the details. But if they have the Holy Spirit, if they know He is real from personal experience and not just apologetic data, they will know Who to turn to.
When a professor is proclaiming atheism, your teen will have such a deep knowing of Christ, they might pray for that professor instead of questioning the Bible. When their housemates are partying and sleeping around, your teen will know not only how to withstand, but how to influence their peers toward a relationship with Christ. Because, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
So, how do we lead our teens to hear, obey, and wait?
- Lead by example—Show them evidence of God in your life. Talk to them about your failures, your current struggles and sins. Talk to them about how God has led you out of Egypt and into life abundant. Demonstrate God’s power by praying for others, by doing random acts of kindness for strangers, by living a life of joy and forgiveness instead of fear and anxiety. Don’t gossip. Be a peacemaker in your home. Love on your spouse. Find beauty in the everyday and show your teen that you trust God to provide for your family.
- Pray and listen—Get on your knees every single day. Pray for your teen, for their relationships, for their heart-wounds, and for their motivations. Believe that God can work in their life. Ask God to show you how to listen and admonish with grace. Then listen for Him to speak. Linger in silence and wait for God’s presence and voice. He will show you the best way to guide your teen into relationship with Him.
- Be patient—In a world of fast food and fast fashion, waiting is a lost art; but it is imperative to the Christian life. Demonstrate steadfastness and faithfulness by being patient with your teen. Let them be a work in progress. Talk to them about God’s faithfulness and how trials are a blessing, because they remind us of the glory that lies ahead. Teach them how to pray and not give up. Teach them how to find joy in the midst of loneliness and despair. Do not let fear of them failing get the best of you. Lean into your fear and give it to the Lord, who loves your teen more than you do.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
When your teen learns to hear, obey, and wait, they will know His voice. And no one will snatch them out of His hand.