As your teen is discovering who they are as a person, and growing as an individual, they will naturally begin to have a personal, individual faith. This means that the easy, Children’s Church, answers are probably no longer good enough. With concerns over teens “leaving the church” or “abandoning the faith” once they graduate high school being greater than ever, what you do as a parent now could make all of the difference in the years to come. Below are the 3 biggest challenges to leading and guiding your teen as they begin to own their spiritual journey.
1) You feel inadequate- If we did a survey (and many have been done) of Christian parents asking them if they felt knowledgeable or equipped to lead their children spiritually, the majority of them would say "no." Many Christian parents believe that they can’t answer the hard questions that teenagers may ask about Christianity or the Bible because they don’t know themselves. It is okay to not know and to let your teen know that you don’t know. The two worst things you can do are: 1) to answer firmly with a wrong or unintentionally misleading answer and 2) to rely completely on someone else to answer it for them. So instead, go to Scripture together. Or go to a pastor or trusted spiritual leader together. Both of you will discover the answer and you will have invested priceless time into your teen’s spiritual growth. Your actions will communicate that their spiritual growth and faith is important to you
2) You feel like a hypocrite- What you say you believe and what you want your teens to believe doesn’t match up with your life. As the authority figure that “suppresses” your teen’s individuality, everything you say and do is scrutinized. And “do as I say do and not as I do” is no longer acceptable (not that it ever really was a good idea). So how will you win the right to speak into your teen’s spiritual life? By examining in Scripture what God says about the Christian’s struggles against sin and the flesh. Your teen may hold you to a higher standard with a smaller margin of error than Scripture actually does. Humbly and graciously remind them that God is working in you and through you to make you holy…but you aren’t there yet. This doesn’t mean that you are content in your current shortcomings. But your imperfections aren’t what make you a hypocrite. Failure to acknowledge your shortcomings and striving to grow in holiness does.
3) You are settled on your beliefs, why can’t they just accept them too?- This may be the most dangerous of the challenges presented. This communicates to your teen that once they become adults their spiritual journey ends; that they have grown and discovered all that they will about their faith once they turn 18 or graduate college. Additionally, it models an unwillingness to engage in the hard questions that make us uncomfortable and makes their concerns seem minuscule or invalid. Instead, invite them to journey with you. They aren’t going to typically invite you into theirs so ask them to come along with you. Show them the journey that led you to your beliefs. This will help them to know that their spiritual growth is important to you and that you understand and value their questions.
Remember this: faith is a journey and a no point in this life will any of us have fully arrived. The Bible never models this for us nor does it expect and demand this of us. Some of us are further along in the journey, and that experience has brought more maturity, but we all are still growing. Be intentional to journey with your teen despite your own insecurities or the challenges you might face. Allow them space on the path to explore what’s around them. But commit to being a faithful, invested companion with them as they get to where they are headed.