This was a question we received in advance of our September 3rd Webinar. Unfortunately, time ran out and we were unable to answer this really important question that is on the minds and hearts of many parents and teachers.
Before diving into some specific suggestions, it’s helpful to begin by grounding the discussion with these thoughts by Paul David Tripp,
It is time for us to reject the wholesale cynicism of our culture regarding adolescence. Rather than years of undirected and unproductive struggle, these are years of unprecedented opportunity. They are the golden age of parenting, when you begin to reap all the seeds you have sown in their lives, when you can help your teenager to internalize truth, preparing him or her for a productive, God-honoring life as an adult. These are the years of penetrating questions, the years of wonderful discussions never before possible. These are the years of failure and struggle that put the teen's true heart on the table. These are the years of daily ministry and of great opportunity. (Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, ©2001, page 19)
The following are some “opportunities” in guiding teens toward a deeper relationship with God.
- Prioritize biblical instruction and spiritual formation over other endeavors.
A vibrant, growing relationship with God is not going to come about if everything else in life is given a greater priority – whether that be friends, academics, sports, hobbies, etc. Too often, Christian discipleship gets regulated to a mere 1-2 hours per week. We need to aggressively reverse this dynamic by giving the utmost attention and care to their biblical instruction and spiritual formation. (See “Prioritize Family Discipleship in the Year Ahead” and/or “Prioritizing Our Parenting Priorities”)
- Stress and model both the doctrinal and relational nature of the Christian faith.
Christianity is not simply a set of essential beliefs (doctrine) to know and embrace, but also a life to be lived in whole-hearted relationship with God and others. Keep that balance in mind and model it in your own life.
Our homes are the laboratory of life for our children. They will believe that Christian faith is the genuine article if we know God—not just know about God. As children grow to young adulthood in our churches, they are searching desperately for a faith that has the warmth and vitality of close relationship with the living God, and the sure footing of sound doctrine that will stand the storms of life. Relationship with God is the passionate assurance that the Sovereign God of the Bible can be known by his people in all the experiences of life. Our relationship with God will beckon our children to draw near to him as their source of comfort and rest.
(Tedd and Margy Tripp, Instructing a Child’s Heart, ©2008, page 29.)
- Develop and encourage a regular habit of Bible reading, study, and memorization.
Just as we would expect our teens to do their assigned academic homework – whether they feel like it or not – even more so, they should be “assigned” Bible reading/study materials. Even a simple, daily Bible reading plan could be used. Doing this together with dad or mom can make the experience even more fruitful. Here is a helpful seminar to help you in doing this: “Leading Students to Feast on God’s Word”. And consider using a Bible memory tool such as our Fighter Verses.
- Connect teens to the wider church body
Make participation in the weekly corporate worship service a high priority, and look for ways to weave them into the life of the church. For example, involve them in various ministries with other adults (i.e. running the soundboard, helping in the nursery, cleaning the church, playing an instrument on the worship team.)
- Welcome the hard questions and encourage them to share their struggles
Navigating the world with all its difficult and pressing questions can prove challenging for our youth. If we don’t provide them biblical answers for their questions, they will seek answers elsewhere. Our homes and churches must be a place where they can safely ask the hard questions and be guided to discover the absolute, unchanging truths of Scripture. (See “Be Ready to Answer Your Kids Questions About the Bible”, “Deep Talks for Strong Faith”, “Why They Need a Robust Training of the Mind”) Additionally, it’s important to create an atmosphere in which teens are encouraged to voice genuine doubts and struggles they are having in reference to their walk with the Lord – even their unbelief, if that is the case. (See “Help for Turbulent Teens” and “Hope for Prodigal Children”)
- Impress upon them the importance of prayer
Probably one of the most underutilized disciplines in the Christian life is prayer. Prayer is the very means by which God’s children come into His presence and speak to Him, growing in our relationship with Him. It is a necessary and precious gift that God has given to us in Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Teens need to be taught the essence and meaning of prayer and how it is to be woven throughout their lives. Consider using a resource such as the “Lord, Teach Us To Pray: Family Devotional Guide.”
- Bring other godly mentors into their lives
During their teen years, my children were greatly impacted by other godly mentors. Sometimes these mentors exhibited spiritual strengths that we as parents were weak in. They provided a wider array of Christian experience for my children to observe and admire. In a world of peer pressure, they provided faithful and loving encouragement. Godly mentors are indispensable! (See “Connecting Your Children to Godly Mentors”)
- Bless them and unceasingly pray with and for them
Every single night, before my children went to bed, my husband would take each child aside and pronounce a blessing upon him or her and then lead in a time of prayer. They heard their father’s example night after night, calling upon the heavenly Father in times of joy, sadness, struggles, pain, and more. They heard their father’s longing for them to become, above all else, a man and a woman who would love and follow Jesus. This nightly ritual continued until they left our home as adults. It served as great legacy for father and child. (See also “Seven Things to Pray for Your Children”, “Big, Bold, Biblical Prayers for the Next Generation”)
Along with the recommendations already mentioned, Truth78 has a variety of training, resources, and blog articles aimed at discipling youth. Here are some helpful links:
Truth78 Devotional Resources: