“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
As our teens grow up and head out to college, one of our most pressing concerns is about their faith. We’ve heard about the party scene, the atheistic professors, the pressure to fit in and make new friends. Maybe we’ve known a student who has lost the way. It’s only natural to wonder, Will our teens’ faith be strong enough to withstand the tests of college?
God has placed us in the lives of our children to be their primary spiritual influence. The good news is that—believe it or not—our influence is profound and long-lasting. God saves people through their hearing the gospel (see Romans 10:14). The Scriptures are able to make our children “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Raising teens to have an accurate understanding of the biblical message is often what God uses to bring them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. An August 2013 Focus on the Family study found that among those who came from a home where a vibrant faith was taught and practiced, and who had a very strong Christian faith as children, almost nine out of ten (89 percent) remained practicing Christians into adulthood.
What practical steps can we as parents take to model a vibrant faith to our children?
1. Consider what you model. It’s not a question of whether we’re modeling; it’s what we’re modeling. By the way we spend our time and money, do our teens see us storing up treasures on earth or in heaven? Do they see us approaching work with a godly attitude? Making sacrifices for others? Keeping a clean conscience? Making time to commune with God in His Word and through prayer?
2. Stay in the game. Keep pursuing a deeper relationship with your teens. Pray for them. Invest in them. They’re paying more attention than you think! Be interested in how their day went and in the details of their lives. Be interested in what they’re interested in, for their sake.
3. Welcome questions about the faith. Part of teens’ journey to adulthood is determining their worldview, what they will build their life upon. Some will “kick the tires” to see if Christianity can handle the tough questions. Welcome this process, because our faith—historically rooted, intellectually credible, and experientially satisfying—can withstand as much honest inquiry as any teen can muster. Those who feel they can express their doubts while in high school often go on to experience stronger faith and greater spiritual maturity in college.
Bringing up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is an awesome privilege and responsibility. Through His Word and by His Spirit, may God equip us for this vital work.
BIO: Alex Chediak (@chediak) is a professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University and the author of Preparing Your Teens for College (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014) and Thriving at College (Tyndale House Publishers, 2011). Learn more about Alex’s work at his website.
Aspects of this article were adapted from Preparing Your Teens for College by Alex Chediak. © 2014 by Alex Chediak. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.