Nor will it be their faith when they’re 21 or 48 or 83. Faith is a force that will continue to develop and mature over the course of a lifetime, and sometimes it needs to change in order to continue to invigorate and sustain people as they enter different stages of their own development.
Show them how
So how– now in their teens– can you show the kids in your life how to experience and navigate a relationship with God? Here are some thoughts I have… feel free to adapt them for your own use.
- Explain “relationship” with God as an internal conversation that includes questions, doubts, heart longings/prayers. God is big enough to handle it all.
- Ask them questions… and really listen to their answers.
- Do NOT pretend you have it all together and do NOT pretend you know everything. They will know you are lying.
- Open up to share appropriately (less is more) when you’re going through something that life throws at you and how you experience God in that situation.
- Confirm that a relationship with God is a good idea, even when you don’t know all the answers. Open dialogue is good.
- Invite them to come along with you when you’re doing community service… or just doing something nice for others. Making a meal for someone who just had a baby is a tangible way of showing the love of God. Make that connection.
- Don’t major on the minors. When kids get sidetracked on minor points of doctrine and belief, try to call their attention back to the main points and general principles.
“But I’m not a religious person.”
if you don’t think of yourself as having spiritual awareness, ask trusted family friends whose spiritual life you respect to stand in for you. Meanwhile, communicate positive intent toward God and faith, much like divorced couples who have learned it is best for the children to speak positively of the other parent, though they personally feel quite differently.
The evidence confirms the value of faith to young people.
Studies of religiousness/spirituality have found a positive correlation with an adolescent sense of well-being, positive life attitudes, altruism, resiliency, school success, health and positive identity, as well as a negative correlation with alcohol and drug use, delinquency, depression, excessive risk-taking and early sexual activity.
Their questions are deeper than we think.
“A number of years ago I overheard my then teenage son discussing with his friends the origin of AIDS. Not how AIDS developed…. rather they were arguing why — a deep spiritual question. Was this disease a simple development of nature? A cosmic punishment? Or even a divine opportunity for compassion?
The conversation surprised me,” said Dr. Ken Doka. “I was confounded by the intensity of the debate. I should not have been. We often fail to acknowledge the intense spirituality that underlies adolescence. It’s a spiritual time of development, complete with idealism and questions of identity and meaning.
Tweetable: The faith adolescents have now cannot be the faith they had when they were 4 or 8 or 10. Here’s why. Click to Tweet