“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14
Parents of teens today have come to discover that our children have moved on from the big discussions of childhood:
Parent to kindergartner: “How was school today?”
Kindergartner: “Oh it was sooo much fun we colored with crayons and then played with the toys then we heard a story and learned a new letter we went outside and I swinged higher than any of the other boys, and then we came in for snack it was carrots and juice I like the carrots but the juice was yucky then we read another story and played a game…..
We became used to the longest one sentence answer to any question, but then we discover that time changes all things!
Parent to teen: “How was school today?”
Parent to teen: “Well what made it good?”
While we have a great deal of responsibility as parents, if there was a job description for the Christian parent, at the top of the list should be something to the effect:
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I need to strive to introduce, nurture and assist in the ongoing faith life of my child.
This challenge is not a “one and done” part of parenting, it is a continuing process that is laid out in love through the very early years, nurtured and developed in the teen years and still supported as they reach adulthood. God’s love for us is the model – it starts before birth and carries on throughout our lives.
For this process to start in a healthy way it begins very early. It begins with parents. It is incredibly difficult to pass on what we are not living in our own lives. Faith development is a lifelong process through the Spirit. It begins with you! We cannot share the importance of faith with our children if our we don’t value living out our own faith.
So, let’s assess ourselves through a series of questions (without beating ourselves up, or artificially building ourselves up):
At this moment, on a scale of 1 – 10, how much are you engaged in learning and seeking to live out your own faith?
“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” In the explanation of the 3rd article, we see that God wants to be part of our lives! As you did above in your assessment, to go further we must ask ourselves 2 more questions:
Why did you assess yourself with that score? And…
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, what do I see is holding me back from allowing God to be more a part of my life, and what can I do to change that?”
(If you really want an honest answer, and a great way to begin to talk to your child about faith, you may want to ask them to answer those three questions about you.)
So what does this all have to do with talking with our teen in matters of the faith?
In terms of our child’s faith development the words of the psalmist at the start of the article need to be our prayer each day as we take on the responsibility to listen, minister to, and assist our child in their faith development. Making God an integral part of our hearts and minds leads to the words of our mouths being a fruitful tool of the Spirit to grow in our children.
At this point in this article, I feel the need to pause and remind Dads (as one myself) that you are an important element to this process! Statistics show that a dad’s input into the spiritual development of his children is a tremendous tool of the Holy Spirit’s work in your child. Speaking as one dad to another:
- Pray with your child.
- Worship and, while there, participating in singing worship songs and hymns with your child.
- Find at least one element in the worship service to talk to your child about on the way home (don’t worry, there will be plenty.)
- Talk to your child about your own faith story.
- Be an active part of their faith life.
Think about our faith journey from birth to eternal life in heaven with God and make the comparison that this journey starts at floor level with our birth and goes through the ceiling and on and on with eternal life. In that comparison, our entire life here on earth might make up the wax that is covering the floor. I don’t know about you, but I spend an awful lot of time floundering about in the wax on comparatively unimportant elements of life, while taking for granted, or not paying attention to the AWESOME gift of life forever that has been given to me through faith in Jesus Christ. With so many outliers that confuse, distract, and challenge our children daily, isn’t it important for us to share the solid message of salvation with our children? After 43 years of youth ministry, and 30+ years of being a dad, the one message I want all those kids to know is that I will probably die before them, I know where I am going! “I just want you to BE THERE!”
The expression “you can’t kid a kid” has never been more apparent than with Gen Z students today. If we are fake, they will see through it. Therefore, as opportunity presents itself, open your own faith walk up to your teen and be real. Share both the ups and downs of your walk and how God has been present. Let them see that it is a process, not completed until God takes you home. Open-ended questions are a great way to begin:
- “I was thinking about what God has done for us as a family, and thinking about what we do for the church, do you think we should do more? Why do you say that?”
- “You know, I once hesitated or avoided doing something important out of fear? Here is what happened? Has anything like that ever happened to you? Why?
- “I really messed up today, but you know sometimes failure is better than success? What do you think? Do you agree? What do you think God has to do with my confidence in failure?”
- “Boy, I had to take a risk today. (Explain how you felt God’s help in your risk taking) Here is what I learned… What do you think about that?
- “Some people draw their morals from the opinions of friends or influencers. Where do you think you get your understanding of right and wrong?”
- “Do you think I am a confident person? Why do you say that? What about you, are you a confident person? Why do you say that? In what areas of your life are you confident?”
- “How does your belief in God affect your actions? Why do you say that?”
Do you notice the difference between the questions above and the ones at the start of this article. These are open ended that allow us to draw more out as we truly listen to the answers that our teens are sharing. From that, and through the meditation of our hearts, and the words of our mouth, God will use you in your vocation as parent to help guide faith in your children.
Utilizing this process allows us not only to help our children walk in faith always, it opens the door to allow them to assist us in ours as well. May our confidence be in Him as we share the reason for our belief and faith in God. May His peace go with you in this awesome mission of life.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9