Teenagers present a special challenge in a Christian home. The teen years are a time of many changes and much uncertainty. Raising a teenager is not easy and raising a Christian teenager is even more difficult. Adolescents face many obstacles in their route to leading a strong Christian lifestyle. Everyday, they are subject to extreme peer pressure and a materialistic society which sometimes looks down upon faith of any kind. Six out of ten teens involved in a church will probably not continue their spiritual commitment into early adulthood, according to a study by the Barna Group. The American study, conducted from 2001 to 2006, shows that despite previously high levels of religious practice, many individuals in their twenties lose interest in religious activities and often carry that indifference into middle age. Some experts observe that following confirmation, there is little to keep teenagers returning to mass and growing in faith after that. Nonetheless, young people are generally receptive to matters of faith because of a certain willingness to explore their personality, try new things and establish an identity. How do you strengthen a teenager’s bond with Jesus? Here are five ways to reach that goal.
The greatest influence on a youngster’s faith occurs when families participate in devotions together, when parents talk about their faith to their children and all members participate in service projects. Accordingly, the message for parents is simple: your teenagers will make better choices if they have a strong religious base at home; they will talk with you more frequently about religion and be more likely to attend a religious college if you make faith the focus of your life. Make faith a part of regular discussions. Ask how God is working in their school and personal lives. Tell them how you see God working around you. The more you discuss faith the more natural it will become. Parents must try very hard to encourage their teens in their faith. Allow and welcome your adolescents ‘questions. The greatest way to encourage your teens during these times is to let them know you have questions as well. This will prove how you have worked through your feelings of doubt. After hearing their questions, help them find the answers. Don’t just tell them. Your teens do not want to be told what to believe. With your help, let them find the answers. This process will make all of you mature in faith.
Forcing teenagers to go to church is not a good idea, because they will associate church with authority, not with love, which is what church really is. Emphasize the presence of Jesus at Mass. Young people need to understand that the first and most compelling reason we attend Mass is because Jesus is present in the Eucharist. We cannot find this anywhere else; it is a reality that is unequaled. Something holy and special is happening, and even young children seem to have an awareness of the sacred in a place of worship. To ignite their interest, discuss the Mass readings and the homily. Try to set aside a special time with your teens to review Sunday’s readings in advance. This will create a more meaningful understanding when they hear it again during the Mass. Be sure to express your interest in their views. In addition, talk about the priest’s homily. Did they understand the points the priest was making? Ask them: “What’s the one thing from Mass that our family should carry with us throughout the week?”
In examining factors that promote faith growth and maturity, Christian education is a vital factor. We must recognize that the task belongs to all of us. Bible school teachers, elders, preachers, and parents must work together to ensure success. Teenagers can get a good Christian education through teachers who have mature faith and who know educational theories and methods. They can also receive it from a pastor who is committed to education, devotes time to Christian education and knows educational theory and practice. At youth Sunday school classes, dedicated leaders use various resources to help teens understand and practice a Christian lifestyle. When children are trained at home, brought to Bible classes faithfully, and given an example in Christian living and worship, amazing results will follow.
Technology is the language teenagers understand and enjoy, where they form communities, where they connect. Here are three websites among a huge selection of online communities dedicated to Christian youth.
DisciplesNow.com is a web-based ministry for youth focused on the traditions, life, and mission of the Catholic faith community. As an informational resource, Disciples Now provides opportunities to learn, to discuss, and to celebrate the challenges of discipleship in the context of daily life.
PlanetWisdom.com – http://www.planetwisdom.com
The site provides a safe and challenging environment for Christian teens. It includes chats, discussion boards, Bible studies, movie reviews, free e-mail and web site and polls.
Anointed Youth – http://anointedyouth.org
It is designed for young people who wish to learn more about Jesus Christ. It includes a bulletin board and a newsletter.
Studies show that parents have the biggest influence in their children’s lives. But other adults can also play a significant role in their development. Indeed, perhaps the best way to help children mature is to provide them with “many advisors”. Write down the names of at least three Christian adults who you see as having a positive relationship with your teenager. Then ask your teen to write down three Christian adults she respects and would like to have play a bigger role in her life. If your teenager does not like the idea of being “set up” with mentors, let her suggest other adults with the agreement that you have the right to refuse anyone who doesn’t seem fit for the job. Stay in touch with your teen’s mentors. These people should be permanent parts of birthdays, major events such as graduations, recitals and holidays. Developing these relationships in your teen’s life might seem like an unusual step to take, but the guidance that healthy Christian adults can provide in the life of your child is worth every minute of effort. They will help your teenager’s faith to grow, especially if a leader walks what he preaches. Mentors and teenagers will talk, pray, read the Bible and good Christian books. A mentor’s relationship skills, spiritual example, and character make the biggest positive impact in a teenager’s life.
Contemporary Christian Music
Music is a powerful medium for communicating the message of Jesus Christ and teenagers are great music lovers. Christian music industry is currently represented by artists such as Amy Grant, Avalon, Chris Tomlin, Jars of Clay, Jeremy Camp, MercyMe, Michael W. Smith, Petra, Steven Curtis Chapman, Third Day, and a host of others. The industry is shown in Billboard Magazine‘s “Top Christian Albums” and “Hot Christian Songs” charts as well as the iTunes Music Store‘s “Christian & Gospel” genre.
Alpha Canada (www.alphacanada.org) – is dedicated to giving every young person in Canada an opportunity to explore the Christian faith and to discover Jesus Christ. Alpha has been influential in seeing thousands of people come to Christ and has been a unifying force for many churches, communities and ministries.
Canada Fire (www.canadafire.org) – is a grassroots ministry that has a vision to start prayer groups in all 16,000 schools across Canada and provide resources and training to students who want to change their world for Christ.
The Canadian Youth Network(www.canadianyouth.net) – is a ministry that is committed to serving the Canadian Church, supporting youth leaders and developing spiritually healthy teens.
Youth For Christ Canada (www.yfccanada.com) – is a ministry committed to impact the youth of Canada and helping to shape the future. It has twenty-four chapters across the country with hundreds of full-time youth workers and volunteers who are faithfully serving Canadian students.
NET Canada (http://www.netcanada.ca) is the Canadian branch of NET Ministries, a Roman CatholicChristian organization, founded in the United States and based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries of Canada is a Catholic charity committed to challenge young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church. It recruits and trains teams to evangelize over 28,000 youth every year. The mission is to evangelize young Catholics, reaching them through retreats and parish ministry.
Bible Quotes for Teenagers
Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. (Proverbs 23:22)
Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters – with absolute purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in divine and human favor. (Luke 3:52) Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)