INSIDE: It is not enough to rely on the church or a youth group to ensure your teen is growing spiritually. Learn and use this great technique for starting conversations that will strengthen a teen’s faith so they are READY to defend it when they leave home.
Have you ever asked any of these questions or one similar to them?
“What do I need to do to strengthen the relationships 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?”
“How do I help my daughter/son answer the questions they have about Christianity and help them grow spiritually?”
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 college years! (source) This is a scary statistic 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 that 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 skepticism, it is easier to reject what their parents/pastors taught them than 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! Recognizing that it is not enough to only teach our teens the WHAT and WHY of Christianity is fundamental to their spiritual growth. But even more importantly, we must 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.
First, 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 on 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 internalize these values for themselves. THAT is what will strengthen a teen’s faith and encourage them to keep growing spiritually even after they are gone. But HOW do we do it?!
Second, we must stop teaching our teens and start training them.
Consider a young athlete preparing for his first baseball game. Teaching him the rules of the sport, 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 in the ball field.
Spiritual wisdom comes when we train our teens to question it. (I know that sounds bad, but stay with me!!)
With our small children, “Because I said so,” is a perfectly legitimate response 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 philosophical or evidential support beyond the teaching of the Bible. This may seem like a rabbit trail, but leading your teen through a logical 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 question is the true key to spiritual growth because it will determine how they behave when they are no longer living in our home.
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.
Third, keep an “Opportunity Mindset“
The idea here is to seize the opportunity to encourage spiritual growth when it presents itself!
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 necessary to ensure the creature’s 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. (philosophical evidence) My son is always looking for more answers so we have also researched the scientific evidence that supports Creation. There is lots of it! (Answers in Genesis is an 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 affect the way they take care of themselves and treat those around them.
Sometimes this entire exchange happens in a mere 60 sec and sometimes it spins off into a much longer, deeper conversation about other biblical truths. Even if my younger kids are not participating in the conversation, they are listening and learning at their level as well. And the bonus is that, without any formal lesson, I am teaching all of them how to grow spiritually by training them to question what they hear and compare it to God’s Word.
Finally, why does our teen’s spiritual wisdom matter?
Our teens are entering into a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile towards the Bible and less tolerant of Christian views. We must prepare them 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.
One last thing, if you are not growing spiritually, it will be really hard to encourage your teen to do it! What does your relationship with God look like? If someone were to ask your teenager about the strength of your faith? What would he or she say? It’s not just about going to church on Sunday. Can they see it in the way you are living out your life? If not, own it and then do something about it! Need help, check out this post to learn 3 ways to make time for God when you have no time.