30 Oct Getting your Tween Excited about Faith
“I don’t need to go to church. I already know everything about Jesus,” said my pre-teen on one particularly challenging Sunday morning. “And anyway,” Ace continued, “you can love Jesus without going to church.”
On the one hand, I had to chuckle to myself about the kid’s sheer audacity. While he surely doesn’t know everything about Jesus, I had to admire his pluck. Of course, I didn’t dare let him see me crack a smile.
On the other hand, I was miffed that he was giving me grief again about going to church. Plus, I was caught off guard without a good rebuttal. I simply responded, “Well, I don’t know everything about Jesus. And we are going to church because that’s what we do.”
That was the end of that discussion, but the beginning of something new. I wanted to understand where Ace was coming from so that I could encourage authentic spiritual growth on his own terms and at his own pace.
I love attending worship service, but I began to recall my attitude about going to church at my son’s age. By the time I hit my pre-teen years, I was a pro at The Sunday Shuffle: Stand up. Sing. Sit down. Pray. Listen to the preacher. Say, “Amen.” Repeat.
I could recite all the lines from the call-to-worship to the benediction. So, why did I need to roll out of bed each week to perform the same routine? I definitely loved Jesus, I knew he loved me, and therefore concluded that he wouldn’t want me to be this bored every Sunday.
I discovered that Ace was experiencing some of the same feelings I had during my tween years. He knows Jesus but loses interest during the regular worship service. I asked him to elaborate on his thoughts, listened intently without judgment, and contemplated my next steps. My goal was to boost engagement, encourage questions, and spur more authentic conversations.
As a result of our chats, I became intentional about integrating spirituality into everyday activities that Ace already enjoys. We have more relaxed talks about God and the universe, and we inject a lot of humor and wit. We still attend Sunday services, and Ace has even begun to ask us more questions during sermons when he doesn’t understand something. But the more casual, less structured one-on-ones seem to resonate more deeply with him.
Regardless of religion, the formative years can be tough to navigate, but some unconventional parenting tools can help pave the way. Here are five ways to jump-start your tween’s spiritual journey.
- Laugh more!
One of Ace’s gripes is that he is just plain bored. Fortunately, there are existing media resources that entertainingly highlight Biblical truths. For example, check out the True Hollywood Bible Stories from Get Up! Mornings with Erica Campbell. These short audio bits are depictions of Bible stories with a comedic flair. You and your tween will laugh out loud and learn something to boot. If your tween responds well to humor, you can also find Christian stand-up comedy shows online or in person. Comedy can be a fantastic means to loosen up and stimulate more dialogue!
- Meet them on their turf.
Does your pre-teen have a hobby or particular interest? Add a dash of Bible study to something they already like doing. In our case, we appealed to Ace’s fiercely competitive nature. Each week, our family is challenged to learn one memory verse. Want to amp up the competition with your family? Recite your memory verses while juggling a soccer ball, shooting baskets, or hula-hooping!
- Speak their language.
Is your son or daughter a music lover? Find music in their genre of choice that reflects your values. There are countless hip-hop, country, and rock artists who rip their lyrics straight from scripture. As your pre-teen sings along, pinpoint the Biblical verses upon which the lyrics are based. This may fuel a desire to read the Bible even more!
- Enlist their tribe.
Most young people thrive in their chosen social circles. Earn your cool-parent badge and arrange a few Saturday night sleepovers at your house. Order some pizzas, put on a movie, and lay out the sleeping bags. In the morning, load up the kids for Sunday service. If your church has a teen ministry, your son or daughter will have a blast hanging out with their peers away from the dusty old folks (that means you). If your church does not have a teen ministry, inquire about starting one!
- Admit you don’t have all the answers.
Sharing knowledge is great. But occasionally, it’s refreshing to discuss what you don’t know. On our family’s spiritual journey, it’s okay for us to debate, disagree, laugh, and wonder about things that we haven’t discovered by reading scripture. One of our favorite things to ponder: What does Heaven smell like? I say, “morning coffee.” Ace aggressively disagrees! I’m just glad he’s engaged enough to offer strong opinions.
What are some of your tips for keeping your brood fired up about faith? Post a comment below!