There are 168 hours in a week, although technically, most of the country experienced only 167 hours last week due to the time change (Way to go, Arizona… We don’t change time for anybody!). That being said, I know my time with students in youth ministry is limited when compared to the time they spend away from me each week.
Spiritual formation is a process, not a program.
Teenage years can be incredibly messy, but these years can also be incredibly powerful. Just because you might not see the growth that you would like, doesn’t mean that God isn’t working in your child’s life. Talking to teenagers can be difficult at times, especially in an instant-everything world, but talking with your child is crucial in their spiritual development. How then, can you talk to my son or daughter without getting the “blank stare” treatment?
By no means am I an expert on parenting teenagers, as my boys are still 7 and 3. However, in my eleven years of full-time ministry experience with high schoolers, I’ve found that asking open-ended questions helps me better understand my students. Asking good questions has also helped my students learn to find answers for themselves. In spiritual formation, teaching someone HOW to think is often just as (if not more) important than simply WHAT to think. As parents and ministry leaders, we play key roles in helping our students figure out their understanding of God, themselves, and the world around them. Are your teens struggling? Be grateful that they are struggling while still under your roof so you can coach and support them through whatever situation they’re walk through. Do you teens seem apathetic and entitled? Asking better questions could help them view themselves in a different light. The following are 3 Questions To Ask Your Teen on a regular basis:
1. How are you making _________ better?
Insert your child’s current team, group, class, or workplace in the blank above. People love to talk about themselves. And even if your child is introverted, I’m guessing he or she has interests/likes/hobbies. Find out what they are already involved in and ask questions about that group or topic. By asking your child, how are you making ______ better? you are accomplishing two things. First, you are empowering them with the idea that they can make a difference now. Second, you are removing a potential victim’s mentality. It’s easy to complain. We all do it. Complaining is not a teenage thing, but a human thing. Rather than focusing the conversation on what your child cannot control, try getting them to focus on what they can control. Steve Jobs once said, “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
2.Where do you see God moving this week?
Now this question might seem crazy to ask a teen, especially if you don’t normally have spiritual conversations with him or her. Start somewhere. Start small. Start with them. Share from your own experience. Your teens will never become tomorrow what they are not becoming today. In our High School Ministry, we try to inspire our students to invest in the things that matter to God. We structure Sunday mornings in a why where students learn the how’s and the why’s behind our Christian faith. Our small group leaders continually encourage bible reading and prayer. We structure our activities and trips so that students can experience their faith on their own. Since teenagers spend these years searching for identity (both group and individual), why not help they find that identity in Christ?
When your child first learned to walk, I’m guessing it was more like a prolonged fall. Yet, you probably celebrated that moment like your child just brought world peace! Why? Because we celebrate our children’s early physical accomplishments. I believe we need to discover and celebrate our children’s early faith steps as well. By asking where do you see God moving this week? you are teaching your child to look for God beyond a Sunday morning worship gathering. The first few times you ask your child this question you might not get a response. But keep at it. If you ask where is God moving, your child will begin to look for God to move in his or her daily life. The foundation of experiencing God is reading the Bible and prayer, but it goes way beyond that. Maybe you’ll discuss the drama in your teen’s life. Maybe you’ll see God’s beauty in nature on a hike. Maybe you’ll discuss what’s happening on the news. Maybe you’ll discuss God’s love in action. Maybe you’ll discuss God’s forgiveness in action. While I just listed a bunch of maybe’s, one thing I do know for sure is this: you will never hear the answers to questions you don’t ask. Whatever situation your child is walking through, I promise you, God IS there. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Notice in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 how discussion of God’s movement should be a regular in our households.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
3. Where do you want to be in ________ ?
Insert a time amount (3 months, 1 year, 5 years) in the blank above. Goal setting is great, but talking about setting goals can be scary, boring, and most often both. Dreaming on the other hand, is something we’ve done since we were little kids. Dreaming is fun. Dreaming is big. Dreaming is hopeful. What are your child’s dreams? What are some things that he or she is looking forward to? The world is filled with people who will attempt to crush the dreams of your child… don’t be one of them. Do you think your child’s aspirations are unrealistic? Maybe they are, but maybe they aren’t. You can never underestimate the values and lessons learned through the pursuit of a dream. Having a future focus helps you work harder in the present. And discussing your child’s dreams communicates that you care about their future and you’re willing to help them in the present.
I would love to hear from you. What other questions have started great conversations with your teen? Please reply back or comment below with any thoughts/comments/questions/feedback below.
High School Pastor
North Ridge Community Church