In the previous article, we talked about starting a Family Devotional Time for your whole family. That is a beautiful way to weave in spiritual conversations into a natural part of your family’s culture.
As our children grow, spiritually, we should be able to see more and more Fruit of the Spirit evident in their young lives. Not fruit of our parenting, but fruit from the Holy Spirit, which is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. What parent wouldn’t want to see their child grow in any of these fruits? But we cannot control the fruit production, only nourish the roots of their seedling faith and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
Planting spiritual seeds, providing space for spiritual conversations in your family life, and continually nurturing those seedlings when they are young can bear beautiful fruit for years to come. But gardeners tending their gardens do not only provide just one type of nourishment to each plant in their garden! And so, as our children grow, we must make sure that they are getting a variety of biblical spiritual nourishment, and particularly for teenagers, from others outside the walls of our homes.
During the teenage years, it is very common time for kids to start to question their faith. They begin to take notice of who walks the walk and who just talks the talk. It is important to recognize your own propensities in this area: Are you prioritizing your own spiritual growth? Are you attending church and biblical fellowship regularly? Your teenager is going to notice. He or she is also going to naturally begin to notice what others are doing around them: both other teenagers and adults they look up to.
As parents, you are still the main source of spiritual nourishment in your teenager’s life. But you shouldn’t be the only source of biblical spiritual nourishment. Who else might you encourage to mentor, influence, or nourish, your teenager, spiritually?
- A youth pastor and a vibrant, healthy youth ministry is an easy place to start! Sit down with your church’s youth pastor and ask what his or her discipleship plans are for kids in the youth group. Make sure it isn’t just fun and games but they are diving into God’s Word and readily applying it to their lives. Does this happen in small groups? One-on-one? Who volunteers in this ministry? Are there opportunities for one-on-one discipleship as well as the fun that is also had in the average youth groups? What is the long-term, four-year-goal and beyond, of the youth ministry? How will the youth group practically equip your teenager for their teenage years and beyond? What is the current dynamic in the youth group: how are other teenagers influencing your child? How can you, partner with the youth pastor to nourish your teenager spiritually, keeping in mind that the youth pastor is not your child’s parent, you are?
- Another great option is a spiritual godparent. This could be a biological grandparent, a family friend, or another relative. An older man or woman of the faith that you respect would likely love to pour into and nurture you son or daughter’s young faith. Oftentimes in these teenage years, your teenager is more likely to talk to a trusted mentor than his or her own parents. Do not take this personally but remind yourself that it is a part of your child stretching his or her own wings in preparation for leaving your nest. It doesn’t mean you can’t ask a trusted spiritual godparent to invite your child into a one-on-one relationship! You can make a suggestion of a resource for them to walk through together and possible issues of concern you might have. But be ready to trust another adult to nourish your child’s seedling faith.
- You! Depending on your relationship with your child, do not remove the option that you might still be the best person to disciple your teenager. Ask for help from other Christian parents about what resources they have used to help your teenager answer their questions and walk them through how their faith impacts the choices they make. Allow them to ask hard questions and even if you know the answer, be willing to look up the answer with them. This can be a hard season for parents as they navigate the delicate balance of keeping their teenager safe and letting them grow up. Dig into the Bible together and be transparent with your own sin struggles and how Jesus covers and helps you daily. Give yourself grace, ask for forgiveness, and be humble enough to admit your faults: doing this can open the door to some real spiritual conversations! As age-appropriate, be as real as possible with your teenagers about your life, your sin, and your struggles so that they can learn and grow from your mistakes and be prepared to take their mature faith into adulthood.
The important thing is to help your teenager to begin to make his or her faith their own, with your and other spiritual mentor’s guidance and nourishment. As they grow and mature, consider what steps of faith would be appropriate for their age and spiritual maturity. Consider serving with them in local ministries. Let them go on a short-term missions trip. Talk through the questions they have about their faith and other faiths. Let them lead your Family Devotional Time! Continue to feed them spiritually, pouring different kinds of spiritual nourishment onto their young roots so that those roots will grow deep and strong to support them into adulthood.