Encouraging Spiritual Growth in Teens: A Guide for Parents

Encouraging spiritual growth in teens can feel like navigating uncharted waters for many parents. Imagine my friend Sarah. She is a busy mom of two teenagers who noticed her children drifting away from the values she cherished. She remembered the peace and direction her relationship with Jesus Christ gave her and wanted the same for her kids. Through patience, open conversations, and shared experiences, Sarah found ways to inspire her kids to explore their spirituality, fostering a deeper connection within their family.

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In this post, I want to explore practical and heartfelt strategies for Moms like you and Sarah. You can encourage spiritual growth in your teens and help them navigate life’s challenges with faith and purpose.

Encouraging Spiritual Growth in Teens

Encouraging Spiritual Growth in Teens: A Guide for Parents

Right around the time our kids hit the age of 12 or 13 (adolescence or teen years), they begin to change. Some begin to really grow spiritually, others start to question the things they’ve been taught, while others start to show rebellion.

It is a transitional stage that we need to be aware of.

For this reason, it’s very important as parents we do all we can to nurture spiritual growth in our teens!

We should be encouraging that from the time they are young, of course, but the teen years are pivotal, and parents need to be extra purposeful in guiding them in spiritual growth during this season of change,  by our example as well as by our teaching. 

Society tells us that the teen years are the perfect time for young people to focus on pleasure, and making the most of those years. However, we should not buy into that belief, or encourage our teens to do so. 

The Bible doesn’t ever use the word teen or teenager! However, it DOES use the words “young men” 140 times. 

I Corinthian 13:11 lays it out for us: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child: I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

We need to realize that our teenagers are adults in training, and should intentionally disciple them to help with their spiritual development. Our job as parents is to do all we can to help mold our teen’s hearts and minds to the truths of God’s Word. Our goal as we teach them and train them Biblically is that they will at some point in their spiritual journey “make it their own.”  

We can’t force their hearts to love God, and we can’t force them to believe as we do. However, we can give them a hunger and thirst for God as they see US growing and seeking after Him. You’ve probably heard me say this before when talking about guiding our young people spiritually:  “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink…..BUT you can salt his oats!’

As parents, we can salt the oats and help our teens develop a thirst to know God and His Word.

Understanding the Teenage Spiritual Journey

Teen years can often be rough as our young people navigate changing hormones, peer pressure, and the decisions they need to start making during those years. As it can be a stressful time for them, we need to point them to God and His Word and help them grow in faith. remembering that though they may face unique challenges during these years, they also have growth opportunities!

During the teen years, our kids may begin to question why they believe what they believe, and may start to have doubts about the truth of God’s Word. This is when we need to keep building their faith,  giving them a Biblical worldview to guide them in wisdom and truth.

The good thing about this happening in the teen years is that they are still in your home, going to church with you, and being influenced by your example and teaching as they think through all their questions or any doubts they may be having.

Also, they have more opportunities and time for spiritual growth such as:

  • Studying the Bible
  • Reading good books 
  • Seeking Godly counsel and wisdom.
  • Spending time with Godly mentors

They should do this when they aren’t overwhelmed with the busyness that comes after they graduate.

Creating Open Lines of Communication

To help our teenagers in their spiritual development as they start to process all they’ve been taught over the years, we must have strong, open lines of communication with them. Our teens need to know that they are welcome to come to us with any questions, doubts, fears, or concerns. They should know it is SAFE to share their hearts with us, knowing we won’t criticize, scold correct, or try to change their thinking.

A key in the teen years is to strive to keep their hearts, so they are open to your influence and teaching. A huge part of winning their hearts is having open doors of communication. This means they can come to you with different views or questions without fear of judgment. It also means that you can’t react out of fear! 

Often when our young people begin to have questions, we fear that we are going to lose them, and they are going to rebel. It’s easy to react with fear and tell them their thinking is wrong, or that they are wrong to be questioning what you have taught them for years. 

The truth is that it’s GOOD for teens to question what they’ve been taught about their faith, asking..

Is this Biblical?

Is this what God says?

Then they will be able to make those Biblical truths their own beliefs.

How can I encourage my child spiritually?

Invite your teens to come to you with their questions, doubts, or confusion. Start conversations where you “challenge” their beliefs and ask them to tell you why they believe that. Of course, do so in a loving way that encourages them to think, but not criticizing their beliefs. Remember that they are growing spiritually during the teen years and those conversations are great to encourage them to read the Bible and search for answers. Good conversations also lead to a bond, helping you to keep that heart connection!

Ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation:

  • What does faith mean to you?”
  • How does your faith influence how you live?
  • What questions or doubts do you have about your beliefs?

Talk about your faith in daily conversations during dinner, or car rides. Share what God taught you as you read His Word that morning, or what spoke to your heart in the sermon at church. As you talk about your faith as a natural thing, it makes it much easier for your teens to talk about it with you and share what they are learning, and how they are growing.

Practical Ways to Foster Spiritual Growth

Having daily routines as a family that encourage spiritual growth is important not only when our kids are young, but should also continue through the teen years.

Some things you should do to continue to foster teen’s spiritual growth:

  • Encourage your teens to start their day with God, spending a little time reading His Word, and praying. Giving them a daily devotional guide that has a suggested passage to read, and then a little application is also a good way to have them start their day.
  • Pray together before breakfast daily.  Thank God for the food He has provided, but also ask for his direction throughout the day, and for His guidance and protection throughout the day.
  • Go to church as a family, and get together with like-minded families that have young people that your teens enjoy spending time with.

Utilizing Resources for Spiritual Education

There are many Biblical resources available to help your teens grow and develop spiritually, and I would highly encourage you to take advantage of these products! Encourage your teens to read books and do Bible studies that will help them develop their Biblical beliefs and grow their faith.

Some of my favorite resources for helping teens grow spiritually are:

Encouraging Community and Fellowship 

Another vital part of helping our teens grow and develop spiritually is by keeping them involved in church, and offering them opportunities to fellowship with like-minded teens and adults.

  • Be sure you go to church regularly as a family. After church talk about what you learned, how God spoke to you about something you need to change, something He taught you, etc.
  • Encourage your young people to be attentive and take notes. Get them a nice journal to use for that. If they see you taking notes, often that gives them the desire to also start writing down points that they want to remember from the sermon.

If you have a good youth group at your church that provides activities for spiritual growth and fellowship, be sure your teens get involved. 

There are many benefits of this:

  • They hear what we have been teaching from a different person or perspective, and may be more open to that truth.
  • They have Godly adults to mentor and encourage them. These mentors offer support and wisdom, helping point teens toward God’s Word.
  • They have something to look forward to each week and opportunities to be involved in various opportunities that are given.

While it is our job as parents to teach and train our children in God’s Word and nurture them spiritually, youth leaders and Sunday school teachers can also have a significant influence in their lives. Several of my kids were strongly influenced and grew spiritually under the mentorship and encouragement of teachers or youth leaders as they were growing up.

Modeling Faith in Daily Life

As parents, we are the ultimate influence in the lives of our teens, and as such we are strong role models. How we live our daily lives will have a powerful influence and will be one of the determining factors that shape their spiritual beliefs and values. Our teens watch what we do and how we live out our faith.  If we say one thing, but do a different thing, they are going to catch us in our hypocrisy and we are going to lose that place of influence that we want to have in their lives. 

It is vital, therefore, that we truly and consistently practice our faith in our daily lives, and how we live each day. 

What do our daily actions teach them or say to them?

  • How do we handle difficulties?
  • Do we live with integrity?
  • Do we show love to others?
  • Do we practice what we teach?
  • Do we live the way God’s Word instructs us to?
  • Do we take time daily to read God’s Word
  • Do we go to God in prayer when we have needs or need His wisdom?
  • Are we excited to share what God is showing us through His Word?

Never underestimate the power of your example and the influence it has on the lives of your teens. When we are authentically grounded in our faith, it gives our kids and teens a strong foundation to build their own spiritual journey.

Addressing Doubts and Questions

Sometimes we tend to think that our “compliant teen” who does all “the right things” and never questions anything, is on the right path, It can be tempting to think we don’t need to be concerned about them. On the other hand, we tend to fret about the one who is always questioning our rules, our standards, and most importantly our beliefs and faith that those rules and standards come from. 

To be honest, perhaps the child who questions is safer than the one who doesn’t! Sometimes I have found that the quiet, compliant one at some point as a young adult hits that questioning age. They begin to sort out what they believe and why. Often they aren’t in our home at that point, so we don’t have the opportunity we had when they lived with us. For that reason, I would encourage you to WELCOME questions about their faith! Prepare yourself for the day they start bringing those questions to you, and be ready to give Biblical answers.

Some things to remember as you address those doubts and questions:

  • Listen without interrupting them.
  • Don’t react out of fear, and go on a rant about why they shouldn’t doubt, or have those questions.
  • Listen to hear what they have to say,  not just to answer. Try to hear what their heart is saying, and what they are feeling when they ask those questions. Validate their questions.
  • Don’t take it personally, and get offended that they don’t just accept all you’ve taught them over the years. Realize they genuinely want to sort it out in their mind and need to know more. They need Bible answers and proof.
  • Share your own story of times when you had doubts and questions. 
  • Encourage them to do their own research and look for Biblical answers to their questions.
  • Encourage them to talk to Godly adult mentors, because often it’s good to hear the same thing from someone different.

Encouraging Spiritual Growth in Teens

Remember that teens can be very spiritual and have a close relationship with the Lord. As Christian parents, we should encourage their spiritual development. Be sure to set a Godly example for them by living out your own faith, as well as being willing and available when they want to ask questions.

The other vital key ingredient is prayer! Pray faithfully for your teens to have a heart for God, a love for His Word, and a burning desire to grow spiritually and serve Him! If you aren’t praying regularly for your kids and teens, can I encourage you to commit today to start doing so? Prayer is powerful and it changes hearts!

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