Your Teens: Making Their Faith Their Own
By T. Suzanne Eller
Real Quote: I miss the time when I was a little girl and I just believed. Now it’s filled with explanations and doubt and trying to get rid of the doubt. For some reason, a long time ago, it stopped being simple. I just want it to be about me and God.
-- Amanda W., Age 17
Your teen might be asking tough questions, like: Why can’t I feel God? What do I really believe? Where is God when things fall apart? If they are asking these questions, they aren’t alone. Even the disciples—guys called to hard core ministry—wrestled with these uncertainties. They saw miracles happen right in front of them. They encountered religious people acting anything but godly. They were persecuted for their beliefs. The longer they spent time with Jesus the more they grasped real-life answers and also stumbled onto more questions. It’s no different today for a believing teen. What your teen hears from his pastor may be vastly different than what they hear from unbelieving friends. They live out their convictions in a world that doesn’t always understand them. In the midst of this complexity, they have to sort out what is truth and what is hype.
Many parents believe that going to church is enough, but can we ignore recent studies that show that college age students and twenty-somethings often leave their Christian faith behind once they leave the nest, in spite of strong levels of spiritual activity during their teen years? Church involvement alone doesn’t often translate into an active, vibrant relationship with God after you leave the nest.
Rather than just creating really great church kids, our prayer can be to encourage a life-long relationship with Christ that will stand on its own. While you cannot force a relationship with God (defeats the purpose of intimacy), you can help your teen by understanding four things that confuse the issue of faith for your son or daughter.
Over the next few weeks we’ll explore four faithbusters that get in the way of your teen making his faith his own.
Faithbuster #1 - Living by feelings
Living your faith life by feelings happens when God is only as great or as small as the last experience. A teen experiences God and they swoosh up. They make a mistake and plummet. They don’t worship God in service or in their daily life because they feel unworthy. When faith is all about feelings, it’s easy to nose dive. The real danger is that when a teen no longer “feels” God, they might be temped to turn to what feels good at the moment.
Let your teen know that God is bigger than our feelings. Ephesians 1:19 (New Living) says, “I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him.”
When a teen places her trust in feelings, she learns to believe in her emotions or circumstances rather than scriptural truth. Even when a teen is doing everything “right”, sometimes they’ll have to deal with feelings. Maybe a best friend moves away or the family goes through hard times. God’s love for the teen remains firm. He’s on the scene and he will walk with your teen through the tough times.
Maybe he messed up. Perhaps everybody knows that he made a mistake. If he allows opinion or shame to keep him from worshiping God, then he’s made God as small as his feelings. Help your teens grasp that they have the freedom to worship Christ because he’s the only one who can put a person back on track. He can be honest with God, find forgiveness, and search for answers that help him make a better choice next time. Living out their faith in this way helps them discover that real-life Christianity is more about God than about our feelings or emotions.
Next month we’ll talk about the next faithbuster -- Living on borrowed convictions.
MAKE IT REAL: Is your teen struggling to define his or her faith? Pray for them. Live out your faith in front of them – not with words, but with your own journey of intimacy with God as you spend time with him, as you let God shape your life. They hear so many confusing messages about what they should do, or should be, or what they aren’t doing. Whether you know it or not, they are listening to the unspoken sermons of your life.
Read Suzanne's past articles:
Parenting by the Faith Factor
Beyond the Dos and the Don'ts
What You Teach Me About God
T. Suzanne Eller is an author, speaker to teens, twentysomethings, and women. She's the founder of Real Teen Faith, and author of a new discipleship book for teens, Making It Real: Whose Faith Is It Anyway? You can reach Suzanne at http://daretobelieve.org or firstname.lastname@example.org
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