Parents who lead the family in faith practices through childhood and adolescence are nurturing their teens’ spiritual lives — guiding them to walk closely with the Lord — and become respected spiritual role models to their children.
However, research has found that few Christian parents take spiritual leadership at home. 58% of Christian teens report that they don’t read the Bible with their parents, and about 41% don’t pray or worship together.
Moreover, when today’s distractions like peer pressure, social media, instant gratification are so pervasive, Christian parents face huge challenges keeping their teenagers on the straight and narrow. What can we do to build our children’s faith through their teenage years, especially when they waver?
Surrender to God
When my children accepted Christ into their hearts, their faith was developed through the Bible stories we read to them and influenced by our ways of worship and prayer. We truly desired that they would remain faithful to all they had been taught from young (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
As they matured cognitively and emotionally, they began to question their existence. There came a point in their lives where they also questioned God’s existence, and His place in their lives. Though we were concerned, we were well aware that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit’s work to minister to them.
I learnt that we must trust the Holy Spirit to continue speaking in His still small voice through all the noise our teens face. Even as they grapple with issues we ourselves sometimes struggle to answer, God will reveal Himself to them. Parents who find their children reluctant to go to church or have stopped going altogether may be disappointed, but our children have to seek a relationship with God for themselves.
We encouraged our older children to attend service with us after they graduated from the Youth Ministry, and exercised flexibility in relation to church events by letting them make decisions; they weren’t expected to attend every single event we did and they could go with their friends too.
Spend time with them
Showing them that we love and want to spend time with them even when they’re rebelling is an act of grace; this is inspired by the same grace that God shows us when we continue to assert our human will over His. We can demonstrate God’s unconditional love that we’ve been telling them about.
In spite of our demanding schedules, the entire family intentionally sets aside time to get together during the weekend. When we take our family vacations, we work on having fun together. We still strive to make precious memories with our children, no matter how grown-up they are.
Our children have to seek a relationship with God for themselves.
Connect with them
Treating our teens with respect is the essence of our relationship. Giving them space and also understanding a young adult’s needs help keep lines of communication open.
It’s always good to find out what’s troubling them, but we also give them the time they need to process their issues and let them come to us when they are ready to talk. Conversations in the car and mummy/daddy dates continue to be great times to hear from our teens.
When the time is right and they are receptive, we encourage them with a biblical perspective. Thankfully even in their darker days, our teens have been open to discussing short devotionals or participating in a family ‘book club’ on trending literature too. We are often amazed by the mature and thoughtful views they contribute.
Pray for them
We call family prayer our family conversation with God. We talk to God about the things that made our day as well as those that worried us. This allows us to hear their hearts and gives us the opportunity to pray for them and with them. We pray over their anxieties and their victories; we bless their days, their projects, their friendships. In our exchanges, we remind them of the blessings and miracles they’ve received, and share the ongoing miracles in our daily lives.
Remind them of the blessings and miracles they’ve received, and share the ongoing miracles in our daily lives.
We endeavour to stay connected with our maturing young adults so that they witness God’s grace in our lives and family. By His providence, we continue to model authenticity in our faith — from the importance and commitment we place on our relationship with God, even through the dry and weary seasons.
Our children are such a blessing from the Lord, and He deeply loves and cares for them (Psalm 127:3-5a; Mark 10:14b-15). It is our prayer that they will naturally see His goodness and faithfulness, aspiring to discover the same and more in their own faith.
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Whole Life. (2017, April 7). Whole Life Research Brief 2016: Essential findings on the state of family in Singapore churches. Retrieved from http://www.wholelife.sg/wlresearchbrief