By Ashlyn Jackson, Crosswalk.com
Let’s face it, being a teenager is a supreme challenge. It was hard 50 years ago, it’s hard today and I wouldn’t doubt that the same will be true in the following decades as well.
However, being a Christian teenager is arguably an even greater challenge.
This world is not conducive to our faith as believers in Christ, and with every passing year it only grows worse. As a parent, one of the biggest steps to helping your teenager is to gain a full grasp of this concept.
It is so easy for us as adults to disregard the difficulties that our young believers face every day. As time passes we become blind to those past struggles.
I cannot tell you how many times I have personally reflected on a situation from my teenage years that once seemed to control my world, and now seems irrelevant in God’s plan for my life.
While we as adults have passed this phase of life, they are still very much involved in it.Those trivial matters are meaningful and impactful in their day to day routines and we should not ignore this. With this whirlwind of emotions, teens can easily form a mountain from a simple grain of sand. Rationality is thrown out and this is where parental guidance becomes a key factor in their decision making.
Whether they want to admit it, this is a time where they desperately need your emotional and spiritual support.Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/lolostock
Why Do Teenagers Begin to Question Their Faith?
Psychology today states that parents find their teens renouncing their religion during the mid adolescence phase, usually 13-15. This is most commonly due to differentiation, or their will to want to be an individual apart from their family group.
A study from Lifeway Research indicated that 66% of young adults between the ages of 18-22 stopped attending church. 34% of this poll indicated it was due to moving to college, while other admitted not feeling a connection to their church home.
This problem is not just teenagers, obviously. This isn’t a youth thing, it’s a believer thing. It’s a part of our growth as Christians. Just as we face the challenges of many other kinds this is another challenge we will be called to overcome.
While there is never one true cause, a number of reasons could have led to this phase in your teen’s life. It’s also worth mentioning that not all of these instances come from a bad place.
As a young believer, I didn’t hit this point until my early twenties. Being raised in a Christian home with Christian values it never occurred to me until I was out on my own that I might have deeper questions. As I widened my net of friends and started studies in various subjects I began to ask more questions.
This natural onset was all my own but there are the not-so-innocent ways of developing this questioning mindset. This is where the world forces it onto you.
1. Peer pressure from non-believers. The world loves to find a problem before a solution. Many non-believers and worldly people find our lives, as Christians, to be an insult. We threaten them due to the way we choose to live. Our faith and morals are a direct conflict for their worldly behavior and lack of character in some areas.
2. Social influence. Social media can often promote a lifestyle that goes against biblical teaching. Your teens are in constant influence on social platforms that throws non-christian behavior right in their faces. The longing to fit in at this time of life calls in a temptation.
3. Another cause, that I personally experienced, was that of scientific influence. All the different subjects of study in college and high school lent to the questions of “Why and How?”
What can you as a parent do to assist your teen during this emotional roller coaster?
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1. Be Their Influence, or Someone Else Will Be
Parents, one of your biggest responsibilities to your child is allowing an open line of communication. Teenage years are full of questions, changes and discomfort. If you are not promoting open and honest communication with your teen they will find another outlet.
This may include turning to friends who may be non-believers. Like the blind leading the blind, teenagers giving other teenagers advice can yield disastrous results. Non-Christian teenagers leading Christian teenagers can yield disastrous spiritual results.
These weak and vulnerable moments, such as questions about their faith, can easily become the enemy’s playground. Be involved during this time, be attentive and open with your teens. Reassure them that having questions promotes growth.
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2. Approach Them with Love and Support
Listen more than you speak and don’t be afraid to give them your best answer. Even if it’s not the perfect answer.
God in all his perfect wisdom knew this about his children, we are question askers.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? Psalm 13:1
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. Psalm 119:9
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18
He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:30
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5-6
Remind your child that it is in God's character to receive our questions with mercy and love, and that he is faithful to always answer us in the way we personally need.
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3. Encourage Research and Exploration
There are a multitude of benefits to having questions and searching for answers. No one ever got to know anyone better by not learning more about them. Here are the great things about searching for answers:
- Strengthens their beliefs through the exposure of God’s ways.
Personal experience will always take precedence over hear say. Having exposure allows your teen to develop a strength in their faith that has been reinforced by their own inquisitions and curiosity.
- Encourages a new level of intimacy with Christ through his word.
Just as in any relationship. The more time you spend, the more you learn their ways and personal traits, the more understanding you have. A better understanding means a more holistic view of God.
- Builds on the foundation of core values you have taught through their personal research.
Having a foundation in Christ is wonderful but as parents of young believer you want them to possess a growing faith. One that is on fire for God builds over time.
- Helps them to develop their own identity through their faith.
A big challenge children from Christian homes face is not being allowed to develop their own Christian identity. It’s much easier to just remain under their parents umbrella of faith driven values. Living solely under the “Because my parents did it—“ clause.
It’s much harder to walk on your own and develop a path completely dependent on reasoning, curiosity and research (John 4:42).
Other ways you can walk with your teen as they explore include going through books/podcasts/bible studies along with them, get them connected to a strong youth group, and be their trusted mentor and teacher they need.
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4. Take Comfort from the Book of Job
As we all remember, Job, was described as a servant who was all but perfect (Job 1:8).
He trusted the lord, was well educated and followed God in all that he did.
Still, God chose to allow hard times to be brought upon him, as he does for all of his children. When all the dust settled, and Job had virtually nothing, he began to question God’s plan.
And we can see in God’s lengthy response through Job Chapter 38-39 that we are only a small fraction of God’s works.
We are unable to even begin to comprehend the vastness of God’s wisdom. Our minds simply cannot partake in that level of thought.
Like a college professor answering his 3-year old’s question, he gives us only what we can understand. The rest is left to faith in knowing he has the perfect plan, even when it’s not our plan.
All that we need in this life is written out specifically in his word to be used as a tool of guidance in navigating this world.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4
To summarize, all growing Christians will come across certain questions about God and parts of their faith. It’s a natural part of growth.
Don’t try to stomp out this process, instead use it as a way to encourage and strengthen communication between you and your teen.
Understand the importance of this time and pray for guidance as you navigate with your teen through it. You will find that they come out with their own view of Christ and a relationship with him that’s built on personal experiences and their own spiritual discovery.
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