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Youth Ministry & Spiritual Development of Teens

Pic 014Wayne Rice’s description of adolescent faith is instructive.1

First, spiritual development in teens includes doubt and disbelief. With their newly acquired ability to think, it should be expected that adolescents will challenge the faith of their childhood. They are also bombarded with different information that complicates their faith-formation.

Second, it is personal. Young people experience the transition from “received faith” (from parents, church) to “existential commitment” (personal decision to embrace a moral standard). Hence, the church and family should always create an atmosphere of acceptance and friendship and opportunities for teenagers to discover Christ. Sometimes, forcing them to attend church will provide them more reasons to resist the faith we want them to embrace.

Third, adolescents have difficulty living their faith. Rice writes, “One of the most frustrating aspects of youth ministry is seeing adolescents not good at connecting what they believe with what they do.”2 Elkind calls this phenomenon “apparent hypocrisy”—young people do not walk the talk by living two lives.  They may show “appearance” of religiosity/spirituality by attending youth worship services and Bible studies, but may not have truly “received Christ” as their Lord and Savior. Given this scenario, it is essential that youth ministry leaders possess a “sower mentality”—not to get frustrated by superficial confessions of faith. As Kurt Johnston puts it, “Youth ministry is a process and that we won’t always see immediate results. The world is full of Christians who were exposed to the gospel in junior high, but did not become believers until later.”3

Fourth, adolescent faith includes failures. As toddlers in faith, they are expected to stumble and fall in some areas of their Christian walk. Adults must help them learn from their moral lapses rather than be overpowered by them.

Fifth, it involves feelings and emotions. Young people must validate their faith through tangible and spiritual activities. Positive emotional experiences can reinforce their spiritual convictions. When youth shed tears, they represent their real feelings which will have significant impact on their lives. Nonetheless, adults should be always cognizant of the dangers of using teenage emotions to achieve ministry ends.

Lastly, adolescent faith is idealistic and requires models of faith. The church should affirm their idealism through positive activities that will enhance their spiritual beliefs.  Teens can be easily misled by people who can capture their admiration and allegiance. Hence, their “hero-worshipping” attitude should be complemented by adults and church leaders who demonstrate integrity, righteousness and Christ-like character. They must be instructed to imitate “heroes of faith” rather than mimic secular music/movie “idols” who can lead them astray.

A conclusion.

Previously discussed:

Physical Development of Teens

Intellectual Development of Teens

Social Development of Teens

Emotional Development of Teens

References:

1.    Rice, Wayne. 1987. Junior High Ministry. Youth Specialties Inc. Pp. 127-140
2.    Rice, 1987: 133
3.    Johnston, Kurt. 2001. Controlled Chaos (Making Sense of Junior High Ministry). Standard Publishing: Ohio. pp. 33.









Third, adolescents have difficulty living their faith. Rice writes, “One of the most frustrating aspects of youth ministry is seeing adolescents not good at connecting what they believe with what they do.” Elkind calls this phenomenon “apparent hypocrisy”—young people do not walk the talk by living two lives. They may show “appearance” of religiosity/spirituality by attending youth worship services and Bible studies, but may not have truly “received Christ” as their Lord and Savior. Given this scenario, it is essential that youth ministry leaders possess a “sower mentality”—not to get frustrated by superficial confessions of faith. As Kurt Johnston puts it, “Youth ministry is a process and that we won’t always see immediate results. The world is full of Christians who were exposed to the gospel in junior high, but did not become believers until later.” 3

Fourth, adolescent faith includes failures. As toddlers in faith, they are expected to stumble and fall in some areas of their Christian walk. Adults must help them learn from their moral lapses rather than be overpowered by them.

Fifth, it involves feelings and emotions. Young people must validate their faith through tangible and spiritual activities. Positive emotional experiences can reinforce their spiritual convictions. When youth shed tears, they represent their real feelings which will have significant impact on their lives. Nonetheless, adults should be always cognizant of the dangers of using teenage emotions to achieve ministry ends.

Lastly, adolescent faith is idealistic and requires models of faith. The church should affirm their idealism through positive activities that will enhance their spiritual beliefs. Teens can be easily misled by people who can capture their admiration and allegiance. Hence, their “hero-worshipping” attitude should be complemented by adults and church leaders who demonstrate integrity, righteousness and Christ-like character. They must be instructed to imitate “heroes of faith” rather than mimic secular music/movie “idols” who can lead them astray.

  • alvanman

    Article related to this:

    "Children, argues Justin L. Barrett, are born receptive to the idea that there is a god. In Born Believers: The Science of Children's Religious Belief
    (Free Press), Barrett, a psychology professor at Fuller Theological
    Seminary, builds upon previous research on cognitive development to show
    that children naturally intuit design—and a Designer—when exposed to
    the natural world."

    http://www.christianitytoda...

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