INSIDE: A great technique for starting converstations that will strengthen a teen’s faith so they are READY to defend it when they leave home.
“What do I need to know to help my daughter/son answer the questions they have about Christianity?”
“What do I need to do to strengthen the relationhips I have with my kids so I can continue to speak into their lives?”
“I’ve taken my kids to church their entire lives. How do I get them to care more about God?”
Have you ever asked any of these questions or one similar to them? Even if you have taken your child to church every Sunday for 18 years and diligently taught them the Truth of the Bible at home, there is a chance it won’t make a difference. A whopping 50%-70% of young Christians walk away from the church by the time they are in their collage years! (source) This is a scary statisic when your own teen is just a few years (or less) from leaving home and will take on a world that hates the Bible.
The question is
WHY are young people abandoning their faith?
Further research indicated the #1 reason is because they don’t know how to answer tough questions about their faith. Having so many unanswered questions themselves, when they are met with worldy intellectual skeptism, it is easier to reject what their parents/pastors taught them then to stand on their own weak convictions.
Can we do anything to change this? Can we strengthen a teen’s faith enough that they don’t walk away from it? YES! It starts by recognizing that is not enough to only teach our teens the WHAT and WHY of Christianity, but more importantly TRAIN them to defend it in a culture that will treat them like they are crazy for having a biblical worldview. We must prepare them so when they leave our homes they are confident in their faith.
I’m going to share one of the extremely effective strategies suggested to anyone trying to reach today’s teens. This method comes from the book So The Next Generation Will Know (my full book review is COMING SOON).
What exactly is a “worldview” and why does it matter?
In a nutshell, our worldview is the filter through which we understand the things happening around us. We ALL have worldviews that are based either the culture, our personal experiences or the Bible.
How do you determine exactly what your worldview (and your teen’s worldview) is?
By answering these 3 basic questions:
- How did we get here?
- Why is everything so messed up?
- How can we fix it?
The way we answer these questions influences ALL the decisions we make. Our worldview matters because it determines the difference between what we think is right and wrong, how we live out our day to day lives as well as where we will end up for all eternity! We cannot presume that just because we, as parents, have a Biblical worldview, that our children will as well. It is not enough to just raise them with biblical principles, we must help them interlize these values for themselves. THAT is what will strengthen a teen’s faith. But HOW do we do it?!
We must STOP teaching our teens and START training them so they don’t abandon their faith!
Consider a young athlete preparing for his first game. Teaching him the rules of baseball, how to swing his bat & how to throw the ball is important. However, it does him no good unless he has also been practicing what he was taught day after day, strengthening his muscles and fine tuning how to hit and throw. The training is what will make him successful on the ball field.
HOW we strengthen a teen’s faith is by TRAINING them to question it.
(I know that sounds bad, but stay with me!!)
2 WHYs for every WHAT
With our small children, “Because I said so,” is a perfectly legitimate reponse to many of their WHYs. But when it comes to our teens, the response, “Because the Bible says so” isn’t going to stand firm when someone challenges their beliefs. While it is important that we teach our teens biblical doctrine, that is only the first step. Don’t stop there! There are 2 more extremely important questions to answer:
- Question # 1: WHAT do we believe? Any theological/doctrinal statement from the Bible
- Question #2: WHY is the claim we just made true? Take the time to actually provide an explanation using either philisophical or evidential support beyond the teaching of the Bible. This may seem like a rabbit trail, but leading your teen through a logicial argument to the conclusion of the TRUTH is the best way to help them internalize it.
- Question #3: WHY should this matter to them? Does this truth impact their lives? How does it change the way they view themselves or the world around them? How does this truth guide or protect them?
This concept of 2 WHYs for every WHAT can also be thought of as the acronym TAB – Theology Apologetics Behavior. You don’t need to sit down and conduct a formal bible study or devotional time to apply this strategy in the training of your kids. Be intentional while you are watching tv, listening to the radio, talking about current events and listening to them talk about what is going on in their lives. (If your teen isn’t “talking” to you, you need to focus on building your relationship. Listen to them first so they will then listen to you!)
Keep an Opportunity Mindset
The idea here is to seize the opportunity when it presents itself! If you don’t feel like you have many opportunities, here is a great way to make one: ASK YOUR TEENS OPINION ABOUT SOMETHING THEY CARE ABOUT. Find a trending youtube video, celebrity tweet, fashion magazine artcle, anything your kid may actually watch or read. Give it to them and say, “I came across this video/article/post and was wondering what you thought about it.” Then leave it alone! (Maybe even walk away all together.) Later, come back to the topic to get their opinion, asking them questions and listening to make sure you truly understand what they are saying and making them feel understood. You just created an opportunity. (Again, if your teen isn’t used to opening with you, this may take time. BE PERSISTANT. They are worth it!)
In our house, our teens get stuck watching a LOT of little kid shows because they have younger siblings ages 3-7. One of our favorite shows is Wild Kratts because it is entertaining AND teaches so much about animals. Here is how I turn this typical Saturday morning cartoon into an opportunity.
- WHAT is the difference between Evolution and Creation? THEOLOGY: This show is constantly pointing out the “creature powers” that are so specific and so neccessary to ensure the creatures survival. What are the 2 possible ways these creatures acquired these characteristics?
- WHY can we believe Creation is true?
APOLOGETICS: I ask my kids to consider the likelihood that those things would have happened by accident, a cosmic mistake that just happened to be wildly beneficial to the survival of that animal. Then I ask them to compare it to the likelihood that they were created that way on purpose by an all-powerful being. (philisophical evidence) My son is always looking for more anwers so we have also researched the scientific evidence that supports Creation. There is lots of it! (Answers in Genesis is a excellent resource)
- WHY should believing God created everything matter to them?
BEHAVIOR: Because it means He created THEM! Everything about them, from their physical attributes to their personality and talents, was given to them on purpose! When our kids view themselves this way, they learn that their worth is based on a loving God that cares about them and not on an indifferent culture that does not. This, in turn, will effect the way they take care of themselves and treat those around them.
Sometimes this entire exchange happens in a mere 60 sec and sometimes is spins off into a much longer, deeper conversation about other biblical truths. Even if my younger kids are not participating in the coversation, they are listening and learning at their level as well.
In a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile towards the Bible and less tolerant of Christian views, we must prepare our teens for what is waiting for them on college campuses and in the workplace. We cannot send them out with knowledge alone! We must train them on HOW to stand their ground and BE THE INFLUENCE instead of being influenced.
PRAY for God’s help in this spiritual battle for your teen’s soul.