What You Teach Me About God
By T. Suzanne Eller
Lately I’ve been talking with teens about their faith and what they have to say is eye-opening. Do you worry about outside influences? The truth is that you are the most powerful teacher in their life.
Question: What have your parents taught you about God?
Lately she doesn’t seem to care about God anymore, so I don’t turn to her. I wish she would stick to what she has taught me and be my spiritual leader. -- Lara M., age 17
They teach me how to trust God and live for him on a daily basis. They aren’t fake. -- Erin E., Age 19
Most of what parents teach their teens about God will never come from a Bible, but rather will be modeled by their actions and responses to life situations. Scary thought, isn’t it? Our teens are watching us for cues on how to live their faith. It’s humbling to any parent to know that she shapes her children’s views of God. It’s a huge responsibility. It’s a privilege. It’s one of the responsibilities that many parents overlook.
We cannot fail to grasp the significance of the role that God gave us as parents. We are trusted to nurture, love, guide, and mold our children’s lives. When our job is through, our teens are released to pursue their destinies as children of God.
This is the good news. God has a plan for your teen’s life and has marked him or her with destiny. What is your part in that plan? What do you teach your teens about God?
Amy shared her story with me. Her mother was battling cancer, and her mom’s courage and faith in the face of overwhelming odds taught her daughter powerful lessons. She showed Amy how to be strong in adversity. She taught Amy how to have joy that comes only from God. Though her mother shared her faith verbally with her daughter, it was her life and how she dealt with the obstacles of life that modeled real faith. I was reading one of my favorite passages one day and it reminded me of Amy and her mom.
Paul the apostle said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Phil. 4:9).
That’s a bold statement, and some might consider it egotistical. After all, aren’t we supposed to blend into the background as we point the way to Christ? Aren’t we flawed human beings?
Do we have any business putting ourselves on the line as an example? And yet it is exactly what this generation is asking for. Please show me the way. Live your life in such a way that I can follow you and find God. Show me how to make it through the tough times, show me how to trust God. For the teen who already knows God, your life shows her how to take the next step. Sermons mean nothing unless backed by an authentic example of faith. I have ministered to hundreds of teens who have turned away from the church and are hostile to the Christian faith because their families modeled tradition, rules, or legalism—anything other than a genuine relationship with God.
For the teen who doesn’t know God or for the teen who hears hundreds of conflicting messages about spirituality, a life lived in truth and intimacy with God will show them how to find their way home when they long for something real.
Our children will see us make mistakes. They will be privy to the times when we are frustrated or sad or angry, but how we respond in those times will speak volumes. Actions are the true sermons. Actions stick in our teens’ hearts and minds. When we determine to set ourselves as examples before our children, we invite them to see a work in progress. We allow them to watch God minister through flawed vessels.
Can I get real with you? My hopes are that my children might see God in me and continue to be drawn to him, and yet I know that I am far from perfect. But perhaps my children will see a flawed human being whose heart’s desire is to love and serve God. They hear the apologies when I mess up. They are the recipients of the truth when I confess that I have no clue what to do but will figure it out with God.
The truth is that most teens hammer out their own view of God by watching their parents and/or the adults in their life. Today is a good day to realize the magnitude of our roles in our children’s spiritual development and take a minute and examine what type of examples we have been in the past—and what example we will be tomorrow.
Make It Real
Rather than look at your teen’s life today, take a minute and examine your own life. If you never spoke another word about God, what would your actions and life say about God to your teen? What message does she hear from you regarding faith?
Read Suzanne's past articles:
Does Your Teen Feel Accepted at Home?
Are You Really Listening?
'But I’m Almost 18!'
My Teen Won’t Talk to Me
Suzanne Eller is a veteran youthworker, youth culture columnist,
conference speaker, and author of Real
Issues, Real Teens – What Every Parent Needs to Know (Life Journey, 2004). You can reach Suzanne at email@example.com or http://realteenfaith.com.
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