What to Do When Your Teen is Struggling with Their Faith
“If our kids never struggle with their faith, they will have borrowed convictions.” –Josh McDowell
I was raised in a Christian home. My mom was a children’s pastor. I felt like I was always at church. But when I got to high school, I started having doubts about my faith. I was no longer interested in taking everything my parents said at face value. I had to figure it out for myself. More importantly, I needed the Holy Spirit to help me…to change my heart. I could no longer rely on my parent’s faith. It had to be my own.
I’ve heard it said; “there are no grandkids in God’s family.”
Later, in college, I came to have a more personal relationship with Jesus. It became something of my own, something I had wrestled with and worked through. I’ve continued to grow in my faith since that time. I can say, now, that there’s nothing I value more than my relationship with Christ. He’s the center of my life.
I was a Christian from an early age. I was five years old when I prayed the first time, asking Jesus to forgive my sins- and I committed my life to him. But if I’m being perfectly honest, there was something of a parent pleasing aspect to that first prayer. Nevertheless, it was what I was capable of at the time- and I believe God honored that prayer, making me His own, from that moment on.
Now that I’m a parent of a teen, myself, I can sympathize with my own parents, and how scary that must have been for them, seeing their daughter struggle with her faith during those teen years. As a Christian parent, there’s nothing more important than the aim of our children coming to know Christ in a personal way.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not only normal, for kids raised in Christian homes to struggle with their faith, but it’s important.
I was surprised when I read an article about Josh McDowell and his son, Sean. Josh McDowell, as you might know, is a famous Christian apologist, the author of Evidence that Demands A Verdict…and many other books. The article was about how Sean went through a period of questioning. What surprised me was what his Dad said, that he had prayed for the day when his kids would doubt their faith, because “everyone must personalize their faith.” Sean McDowell questioned his faith, and he did, eventually, work his way through those questions, coming to a personal faith in Christ that was his own.
Maybe you’re a Christian parent, who’s still looking ahead to the teen years, or maybe you’re already there. The idea that our kids might doubt, or turn away from God completely, isn’t something that’s easy to think about. But it’s important. I want to leave you with 8 thoughts on what to do if you have a child who is struggling with their faith.
- Nurture the kind of relationship where your child feels they can express themselves, honestly, without judgment, to you. Encourage critical thinking.
“If you determine to circle your children in prayer, you will shape their destinies … your prayers will live on in their lives long after you die.” –Mark Batterson
- Something to say to your teen…don’t reject something simply because it was a part of your parent’s life.
- Don’t panic.
At least they’re thinking about important issues. It’s a start.
- Help your teen sort out their emotions from their intellectual concerns. Emotions aren’t always correct, and it’s important not to confuse the two.
- Offer unconditional love. Let them know that your love for them has nothing to do with their faith.
- Watch yourself for hypocrisy and legalism. This causes many teens to question the faith of their parents.
- Be passionate about your own relationship with God (and don’t hide it).
“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.” Deuteronomy 6:7
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Dawn Klinge is the author of Look To Jesus: How to Let Go of Worry and Trust God (January, 2016). She writes about Christian faith regularly at Above the Waves, drawing on her experience as wife and mom to two. She holds a degree in education from University of Idaho. A pastor’s kid and a church girl her entire life, she’s still trying to figure out what it looks like to put her trust in Jesus. Dawn and her husband, Derek, live near Seattle, Washington. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram