But this is a natural part of growing up, and kids of this age need to be treated with respect and understanding. Don’t shame them if they demonstrate a desire to rebel or question the rules — guide them towards God instead.
Instilling spiritual discipline in teens sets them up for life. It isn’t a simple path, but it becomes endlessly easier with a youth ministry that meets them where they are.
Help teens grow with God in a way that makes sense to them with these six tips.
What is Spiritual Discipline?
Spiritual disciplines are the things you do to worship and learn. They are actions that Christians practice to help them be more like Jesus. Praying independently is a type of personal spiritual discipline, whereas going to church is a form of interpersonal worship.
Think of spiritual disciplines as Christian habits rather than motivations, feelings, or virtuous characteristics. We find them modeled in the Bible by Jesus and His disciples, and they are further promoted in scripture. They act as a binding glue for Christians.
As a means to a Godly life, all Christians should work hard to maintain their spiritual disciplines. For teens, this is the start of a lifelong journey of faith, so we must equip them with the tools they need to thrive.
1. Break it Down
The word discipline often comes shrouded with images of painfully early mornings and monks who sit still from dawn to dusk, which does not incite feelings of excitement in the best of us, let alone teens who are just starting to find their way.
That’s why we need to ease teens into the concept and opt for words like ‘habit’ instead. Analogies are useful for explaining the importance of spiritual disciplines too. If you want to be good at a sport, you must regularly train and show up for the matches. The same concept applies to those who want to be good Christians.
2. Make it Accessible
Spiritual disciplines for teens need to feel accessible and enjoyable. If we send them off for Bible study with little more than an ancient and daunting copy, they will feel overwhelmed, gain little from the experience, and certainly won’t be eager to make a habit of it.
Nowadays, there are countless Bible study apps available, so teens can access valuable resources straight from their smartphones. This transforms how young people can engage with Biblical resources, blending them seamlessly into their everyday lives in a way that makes sense to them.
3. Create Support Circles
Youth ministry needs consistent small groups to help teens develop these essential practices. Creating an environment where kids hold each other accountable and share their feelings and experiences is invaluable, so set them up with reliable small groups as a part of your youth ministry curriculum.
Introduce young adults to the powerful feelings of community that are present in Christian circles. Instead of Bible study being a chore to be dreaded, it becomes an opportunity for friendship, belonging, and worship tied into one. Community bonds keep us going through even the toughest of times.
4. Create Volunteer Opportunities
Get your teens involved in ministry life by opening them up to their first serving experiences. This could be anything, from providing helping hands on the welcome team to reading a story to preschoolers during their Sunday school sessions.
It doesn’t have to be too challenging or require extensive time commitments. Volunteering for teens welcomes them to the world of giving back from a young age. Show them the rewards of community generosity early on, and they will grow into selfless adults.
5. Lead by Example
The phrase “practice what you preach” holds significant weight here. Show your teens exactly how to create their own spiritual disciplines by modeling them yourself. Don’t demand that they study, read, or worship without carving out time for these activities yourself.
When kids’ ministry leaders fall into this trap, it creates distance between them and their youngsters. Teens will notice if you live by a different set of rules than what you ask of them, and it will likely stunt their motivation to follow it. Demonstrate your own willingness to prioritize your spiritual habits, and they will feel inclined to follow suit.
6. Get Parents Involved
Nothing is more important than the influence of parents. Laying the foundations of faith in kids’ minds requires their parents’ influence too, as kids spend far more time at home than with the church. If they aren’t encouraged to extend their spiritual habits into daily life, they’ll stop practicing those habits altogether.
Think Orange knows and values the importance of parents, which is why their ministry method weaves the two together. With apps like Parent Cue to remind parents to keep their kids on track and daily activities to deepen their faith at home, the Orange curriculum covers all the bases.
When spiritual disciplines become a fun element of practicing faith, teens will learn to see it as second nature. These habits and daily acts of worship are the things that help not only teens but also all of us to thrive as Christians.
So lead by example, show them how to make the most of their time, and watch your youth ministry shine. Treat your teens as adults, care for them as kids, and most importantly, give them the respect they deserve.