I have been in youth ministry for over 10 years as a leader, 4 of which I served as a youth pastor. In part, I say this because I don’t have a teenager, (although my 5 year old daughter does seem to be turning 16 next year) and I want you to know that I write this not from a position of living but rather observing.
In my observation I have noticed a strange phenomenon that seems to be rampant in the minds of Christians, specifically Christian parents of teenagers. Maybe it’s the influence of our culture or maybe it is our own insecurities, but for some reason many of us have come to this conclusion: because our relationship with Christ is deeply personal that it must also be deeply private.
Now I say our relationship with Christ is deeply personal, (after all we must all make the decision for ourselves whether Jesus is God or not), and that is 100% Biblically correct. As much as we might like to control our children, or family members, or friends and force them to believe in God; each person must make that decision in a personal and intimate way.
As we come to understand this truth that a relationship with God is personal, there is something that gets attached to this way of thinking. We believe that because something is personal, it is also meant to be kept private.
This is where our thinking strays from what God says in the Bible.
Now I make this distinction because too often I talk with teenagers and parents and realize that they have never asked each other the question, “Why do you follow Christ or not?” This seems like an obvious question because each of us has made this decision, one way or the other, in our lives and we assume that other have come to the same conclusion.
Some of us have a more altruistic reason for not sharing our faith with our children: because we want them to own their own faith and not be swayed by our personal journey with Christ. However, that would be like handing your 16 year old son/daughter the keys to the family Suburban saying, “I don’t want my driving experience to influence your journey to a driver's license.” Your child smiles at you as you continue, “So take the keys and I’m sure you will figure it out.”
NO, that’s ridiculous! As passengers teaching our teens to drive, we offer as much advice as humanly possible as they take us on the most terrifying car ride of our lives. We share with them our failures and our successes for driving. The great thing is that each parent’s journey is personal to them, but as parents to our teens, we don’t keep it private because we want our teens to have the best chance avoiding crashing into a telephone pole.
Why then, do we allow our teens to walk through their spiritual journey without sharing ours?
Having conversations with parents, I believe a big factor in this is that we don’t want to be vulnerable with our teens. So we sub-contract the discipleship of our teens to the church.
Before proceeding, let me be clear: youth group is a place to be in community and be discipled. But if the only time teens hear about the successes and failures of walking with Christ is one hour a week at church, they WILL be deficient in their faith.
When was the last time your family had a conversation about what God is doing in each of their lives? When did we last share our GROWth journal with each other at the dinner table?
How will teens learn how to own their faith if we never share with them how we own our faith?
Don’t allow the personal nature of a relationship with God become a private act that doesn’t get seen (except on Sundays). Start small, make it a point this week to share one thing that God has spoken to you in the last month with your teen, allow them to see your relationship with God.