Teaching Students to Be Still

I hear my youth complain about it more than anything else in their lives. Usually, their complaints sound like this:

“I’m so busy, all the time!”

“Free time? What’s that?”

“I just wish I could actually relax instead of running around so much.”

Sometimes, it sounds like this:

“Ugh, I’m soooooooo swamped and overwhelmed.”

Occasionally, I just hear the expressive moans and groans as my students recount how jam-packed their schedules are, and how they have little time to relax.

It’s no secret to those of us who interact with students that our kids feel the squeeze of demanding schedules and tiring commitments. Whether you’re a parent, coach, teacher, or youth leader, you know the frustration of trying to schedule an event into the life of today’s kids. I’ve had parents complain to me that they haven’t been able to take a family vacation in years because of the challenging schedules of their children.

Once upon a time, youth leaders used to be able to host a lock-in and have teenagers pack the building in delight. Now, a lot of us don’t even attempt all-night events because our students can’t find the time to stay in one place for more than a few hours.

No longer do we live in the era where kids come home from school and play outside with their neighborhood friends for hours. This generation is constantly pressed for time, rushing from one activity to another, eating dinner on the run, doing homework in the back of the car as they’re shuttled from one location to the next.

In those rare moments where today’s students find themselves with down time, they feel the pressure of staying active on social media, answering the bombardment of texts and messages from their friends, and keeping up-to-date with the world racing around them.

One of the most critical habits we can impress upon our inundated, overwhelmed students is the habit of spending quiet time with God in prayer and meditation of His Word.

It’s only in the quiet comfort of God’s Words to us that we find true peace, reassurance, and lasting joy. And trust me, our kids are spiritually starving for these things.

In sharp contrast to their busy lives, many students take solace in Bible passages that promise the calm strength and peace that only God can provide. I’ve heard several students recount that Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God,” is their favorite Bible verse.

How can we teach this habit of being still before the Lord to our students?

As adults, we can model it honestly for them and share candidly what it looks like in our lives. And yes, that means we need to find that time daily to have quiet time with God—which isn’t always so easy!

I’ve shared with my students how I frequently use a small hourglass to force myself to stay focused on reading my Bible and praying for an allotted amount of time. When I share about how I, too, struggle to find time to spend alone with my Creator, my students relate and appreciate my authenticity.

When I work with students, we start in baby steps. In middle school religion this year, I started out by asking my students to spend time every day in reflecting on just one verse. We’ve gradually worked up to week-long challenges, where they are asked to experiment in finding a dedicated time each day to read their Bible outside of class.

We’re in the midst of a weeklong Bible reading challenge right now, and it’s incredible to see how excited my students are to share what they’re reading about and how they’re engaging in the Word. It’s clearly made a difference in their daily life.

By starting small and working together on easy-to-attain goals, students have a better chance at developing life-long habits of immersing themselves in the Bible.

I often advocate using a Bible app to help my teens stay immersed in God’s Word, and my students and I chat about free devotionals available online. Many great books, articles, and resources exist to help give advice and meaning. One particularly attractive concept to teenagers is a prayer journal, where students can jot down prayer requests, answered prayers, anxious feelings, and thanksgiving.

Be creative about sharing ideas about many ways to reflect on God’s Word, including listening to Bible verses, reading out loud, or making Scripture into songs to sing in the shower.

Talk actively and frequently about various places that students can “be still,” including on quiet walks in nature, in the bathroom, in their car, or right before bed. I love to kayak, and I often enjoy valuable time with God while skimming across the smooth water. Some of my friends pray daily on the way to and from work, while still others pray while they walk their dogs in the evening.

Though our practice of taking time to “be still” may be counterculture, it’s significant in the lives of our students (and us, too!). Together, we must still ourselves and focus so that we can soak in the words of Psalm 62:5-6, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.”

About the author

Cassie Moore is an author, speaker, and Director of Next Gen Ministries at St. Mark Lutheran Church & School in Houston, Texas. She’s author of “Authentic Youth Ministry: Straight Talk about Working with Kids, Teens & In-Betweens”, contributor for “Connected for Life: Essential Guide to Youth Ministry”, and an upcoming historical fiction series. She grew up in Illinois & Minnesota, has a degree from Concordia University in Irvine, California, has worked on national & district youth gatherings, and enjoys speaking nationally. She loves observing culture, travel, & talking to strangers. She and her husband, Pastor Tyler, have two dogs. Connect with her at cassieahmoore.com.
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