Help Teenagers Avoid a Faith Crisis
By Caleb Breakey
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe.” — Simon Sinek, TED Talks video
One of the best ways for young people to grow in faith is to share their faith. But what does that look like? Is it by joining a missions team, providing blankets for a homeless shelter and saying they’re Christians? Partly.
Students are missing the bigger picture—and it’s setting them up for a faith crisis. Parents must counter this problem by showing teens the Why, How and What of faith.
This concept escaped me for most of my life. Sharing my faith meant handing out tracks, saying a few Christian words, getting the occasional finger, and praying silently. As a result I found myself in a serious faith crisis at 17.
Years later, I watched Simon Sinek’s excellent TED Talks video “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” and the faith connection clicked.
Mr. Sinek says the idea of What, How and Why explains why some people are able to inspire. And since “inspire” means to fill someone with influence, the two Ws and H are crucial to influencing others and ourselves with Jesus Christ.
But it’s not that simple.
Our culture has mangled the way we share our faith. We’ve clung to the What and How but mostly forgotten the Why.
“I am a Christian (What) and I live to love my God and my neighbor in everything I do (How). Do you know Jesus?”
Now, consider this:
“Because of the love and relationship and freedom I see in Jesus (Why), I live to love God and my neighbor (How). Oh, and these things I do? They happen to be called ‘Christian’ (What).”
See the difference? Starting with WHAT and HOW feels mechanical. But starting with WHY brings us to the heart. The soul.
This is so key for not only sharing our faith, but defining it. Little else supersedes the passionate knowing of Why we follow Jesus Christ—for this leads to radical How and true What.
Help teens avoid a faith crisis by talking with them about these three points:
WHAT We Are Doesn’t Influence Others -- Or Ourselves
Telling someone we’re a “Christian” is not sharing our faith. It’s merely naming the box we live in—uninteresting to others and likely to lock us into Stereotype Prison.
FACEBOOK / TWEET THIS: Leaning on WHAT we are primes us for a faith crisis because we put too much stock in a word.
HOW We Do Things Does Not Influence Others -- Or Ourselves
Telling someone about the Christian stuff we do, such as missions, is not sharing our faith. It’s merely stating how we do things inside our box. It might lead to the common ground of people helping people—but common ground doesn’t influence.
FACEBOOK / TWEET THIS: Leaning on HOW we do things breaks barriers with people but ultimately ends in a faith crisis because our purpose blends with the world’s.
WHY We Do What We Do DOES Influence Others -- And Ourselves
Sharing what drew us to our box is the key we must understand. It’s about the excitement of Jesus. Describing how we saw love. A relationship. Perfection and power. Freedom. And unlike any other box in the world—we saw no cost.
FACEBOOK / TWEET THIS: Leaning on WHY we do what we do thwarts faith crisis because our eyes are always on the Son.
Why, How and What Through a Different Lens
As supported by Sinek’s TED talk, the 2 Ws and H apply to more than sharing our faith.
Pretend you’re King Saul for a moment and you’ve got this mammoth problem called Goliath.
A shepherd boy says to you, “I kill lions, bears, and giants” (What).
He’s nuts, you think. How could a harp-playing runt take out a nearly 10-feet tall warrior? It’s ludicrous. But because your options are limited, you humor the kid and ask him how he kills giants. After all, he might own some secret sauce.
David replies, “By sticks and stones” (How).
A parchment could drop. You order your guards to take the squirt out of your tent and boot his butt back to the land of sheep.
David’s What and How do nothing for you.
This time, David comes to you and says he will defeat Goliath so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel (Why). That’s a strong statement. You’re interested.
You ask him how he plans to win and he responds “by sticks and stones.” At first this appalls you, but then David adds: “(So) that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear” (How).
Hmm … still crazy. But the kid’s got good reason for doing it that way.
You ask him for his track record and he tells you that he’s a killer of lions and bears (What).
Okay, you decide. You’ll give the kid a shot.
David’s Why, followed by How, followed by What triggers something in your gut that says, “Yes, this is right. This is true.”
A Need to Know WHY
Teaching teens to share their faith by What and How is recipe for a faith crisis. When they’re out of the home and their faith finally rests on their shoulders—the world, flesh and devil will bombard them with why, why, why.
“Because I’m a Christian” isn’t the answer.
“Because I want to love God and my neighbor” is a start but lacks substance.
Young people need to know Why or they’ll most likely fall prey to 1) a serious faith crisis; or 2) ineffectiveness that exchanges planting and watering (1 Corinthians 3:7) for tossing and sprinkling.
Please, parents: show them the Why, How, and What of faith.
“If you don’t know why you do what you do—and people respond to why you do what you do—then how will you ever get people to … be loyal and want to be a part of what it is that you do?” — Simon Sinek, TED Talks video
Send Caleb your feedback on this article.
Watch for Caleb's new Youth Insider blog on CBN.com.
More Church and Ministry on Spiritual Life
Send your e-mail prayer requests
Or call CBN's Prayer Center at 800-759-0700
More Spiritual Life
Caleb is always busy operating www.CalebBreakey.com -- a site designed to encourage and equip the often ignored, yet immensely talented field of young writers. A former award-winning journalist, Caleb has studied writing at the feet of Left Behind author Jerry B. Jenkins and wordsmiths Ted Dekker and Brock and Bodie Thoene. He teaches at popular gatherings such as the Blue Ridge, Oregon, Colorado, and CLASS Christian writers conferences.
© 2011 Caleb Breakey. Used with permission.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.