My teenager’s second home is the church. She’s a pastor’s kid. She knows Sunday school answers, Bible trivia, and what it means to be a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. Hymn lyrics were the lullabies of her childhood, she had more story Bibles than Dr. Seuss books on her bookshelves, and the girl can sing 14 years’ worth of VBS soundtracks in her sleep. She is a full-blown church kid.
Thankfully, my daughter isn’t just a church kid. I see evidence of her faith in more than fluency in Christianese or proficiency in church culture. She has professed saving faith, been baptized, and is blossoming with the fruit of the Spirit. She loves others, is quick to serve, demonstrates repentance when she sins, and desires to please God, because she’s actually a follower of Christ.
As such, she’s called to grow.
Whether we are 10 or 110, Christians are called to grow in godliness, being continually conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). If your teenage church kid has been born again, she will increasingly demonstrate growth and maturity in Christ. More than churchiness, she will strive for godliness as she grows in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
More than churchiness, [a born-again teen] will strive for godliness.
As she grows, help her cultivate the soil with a few tools. These tools may seem basic. They are. But even your church kid needs to be reminded, by you, that centuries worth of Christians have looked to these necessary means for growth in godliness.
1. Search Scripture
In a 2016 survey, 86 percent of teens agreed the Bible is a sacred text, but less than half saw it as a source of hope, and only 35 percent believed it holds everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life. Most teens don’t actually believe the Bible offers help for their daily lives.
How will your son or daughter grow in godliness if he or she doesn’t look to God as their primary source of wisdom? Don’t assume your church kid falls into the 35 percent. Ask your teenager if the Bible is his or her primary source of hope and help. If it isn’t, start here.
Scripture is the primary way God teaches your teen about himself. Inside its pages she will learn to discern right from wrong and to find wisdom and knowledge. The Bible isn’t irrelevant or boring for teens—it’s gloriously imperative and your child’s greatest source of hope. Show her the countless examples that have ministered hope to you. Then, give your teen the tools she needs to discover the riches of Scripture for herself. Don’t just tell her to read the Bible, teach her how to both approach and study the Bible, and help her establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
2. Love the Church
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25). And yet many teens today don’t even like the church. Statistically speaking, more than half of teens see involvement in the church as unimportant, and only 20 percent regard it as “very important.” Does your teen realize that the church isn’t a building or another weekly commitment? The body of Christ (Rom. 12:5) and her blessings (1 Cor. 10:16) extend past the youth-group doors!
Teach your teen to love the church by expressing your own love for who and what’s inside.
Teach your teen to love the church by expressing your own love for who and what’s inside. Inside the walls of a healthy church is a community of worshipers of all ages, on unified mission to make disciples and bring glory to God. Here, faith is lived out in joy and trial, spiritual and physical needs are met, and the weak and wounded find help and hope. Inside the church, the fruits of the spirit are abundant in the lives of God’s people. Inside the church are shepherds and pastors who speak the Word of God, set a faithful example (Heb. 13:7), and joyfully keep watch over the souls of their people (Heb. 13:17).
Help your teen experience the church’s blessings by connecting her. Invite someone your teen doesn’t know to share a meal (and their story) with your family. Encourage your teen to volunteer at the church’s hospitality desk or offer to sit with an exhausted mom’s squirmy child during church. Or suggest a weekly lawn-mowing for a widow or single mom. Whether it’s an organized ministry opportunity or fulfilling an organic need within the body, teach your teen to look for needs, jump in, and invest in relationships.
3. Pray Continually
As a church kid, my teenager has grown up hearing her parents pray over meals, bedtimes, family worship times, and in-between times. We make efforts to tell her how prayer became a joy and privilege in our own lives. We also try to be honest about how sometimes it’s challenging and difficult. But even as a church kid who hears prayers all the time, our daughter still needs to be coaxed to practice uncomfortable spiritual disciplines: to be asked to pray when she doesn’t volunteer, encouraged when she’s embarrassed, and nudged to seek prayer as a first line of defense.
Encourage your teen that giving attention to her prayer life will help her to grow in godliness. Weakness is the Christian’s invitation to pray. Rather than always rescuing, teach your teen prayerful dependence on the Father’s rescue. Call her to draw near to the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find help in her time of need (Heb. 4:16). Assure her that embracing the awkwardness of a growing prayer life is part of the process. Prayerful maturity comes with time, determination, and lots of practice.
As the parents of a teenage church kid who follows Christ, we must take up the task of watering, tending, and pruning their discipleship—while recognizing their growth is in the Lord’s hands. Helping our teen grow in godliness means giving her the tools to water and till the soil and then watching the Spirit produce fruit in all circumstances.
As parents of teenagers, may we never grow weary of doing good to the disciples living in our homes, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature [wo]manhood, and to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13).