3 Tips to Keep Your Student From Shipwrecking Their Faith
The largest growing religious affiliation in this generation are the "Nones." This group doesn't identify with any faith. Many in this group see Christians, and those who follow Jesus, as hypocrites or disingenuous. Here are 3 quick tips that can help nurture your students' faith to survive doubt as they grow and mature.
Open the door for the conversation. Parents sometimes feel like answers should be on the tip of their tongue. We have this weird drive to always be one step ahead of our kids. When big questions in faith come-up, we can feel paralyzed. Sometimes an honest and genuine response is more powerful in really addressing the issue, which might simply be that they want to have a conversation with you. Here are a few quick questions to drive the conversation:
- That's a tough question, and I don't want to brush it off with a simple answer. Can we think about that a little bit here? Maybe we should think of some people who would have a good answer and email or Facebook them the question.
- Here's what I think, but this isn't an issue I would take a bullet over.
- I've spent a lot of time thinking about that myself. Can I tell you some of my initial thoughts and why I came to that conclusion?
Avoid over-simplistic answers or suggestions. Ambiguities and complexities are reality for a lot of issues, so be humble in what you don't understand and can't explain. Here are a few conversation starters to invite and lead a student to work out nuances in their doubts:
- "Let's talk about what we can and can't know."
- "what is your basis for believing something is real (use an example, like gravity)."
This question can drive you into James Sire's four reasons for belief. He says we believe things for sociological reasons (parents, friends, society, culture), psychological reasons (comfort, peace of mind, meaning, purpose, hope, identity), religious reasons (scripture, pastor/priest, guru, rabbi, church), or philosophical reasons (consistency, coherence, completeness (best explanation of all the evidence). It is vital for students to build a framework for belief. Building a framework with them helps guide convictions, something that ultimately affects their daily decisions. A quick resource on this can be found here: http://www.millersvillebiblechurch.org/_files/live/Truth%20&%20Tactics.pdf
Build a road to resolution. The Millennial generation (those born between 1982-2004) have a high need to know. Be willing to talk about almost anything they bring up. Sometimes the conversations are hard to hear. Things that you might like about church, faith, or your community could be driving your student away from practicing their faith. It is important for students to be heard, but also to see a road to resolving their frustration. Addressing their roadblock can help them understand how to continue their path of spiritual growth, and can embolden them to live a convicted faith. Here are a few questions to help with this:
- What are some of your biggest questions about this part of your faith? What are some ways you could potentially find answers?
- What do you think are some of the reasons for your skepticism? Which are legitimate? Which are unfair?
- Where do you see yourself fitting in the body of Christ? What is your role? What might the body lack if you aren't participating? What areas do you want to serve in?
- Have you been personally hurt or let down by the church? How?
- Let's list 25 things the church/faith in Jesus does well. What are 25 things our church does well? Which things are you participating in?
Practicing these 3 simple tips is one step in establishing a solid mentor-relationship with your teen. Showing them you are interested and willing to walk down the path is important. Using questions to build the conversation shows you're willing to talk about real issues. This gives students confidence in your relationship with them, and also your relationship with Jesus. They will follow your lead, but need to know you're walking with them.
For more tips on building conversation with your student and family, read Cultivate by Jeff Myers.