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Making a Spiritual Impact on Your Teenager

“Making a spiritual impact on teenagers is the  parents’  role  not  youth ministers’.”  To  accept  this  idea,  I  took  the  same  class,  Ministry  with  the  Families      of Teenagers, three times to understand fully, to make it  mine  and  to  apply  the principles  to  the  actual  ministry  field  while  I  was   serving   the   Korean   church   in Fort  Worth.  Three  years  later,  I  cannot   stop   talking   about   the   importance   of family ministry, especially the parents’ spiritual impact on their children.

Relationships
“Most  parents  not  only  want  their  children  to  have  a  belief  in  God,  but      also  a  relationship  with  God,  yet  many  parents  are  failing  to   make   the introduction.”1 Churches must prove they are ready  to  help  parents  make  this connection.  Parents  might  pour  the  biblical  truths  into  their  kids,  but  how  about     the relationship?  Josh  McDowell  said  “Truth  without  relationship  leads  to  rejection.  We are losing our kids  not  because  they  do  not  hear  the  truth,  but  because  the  people  speaking  the  truth  have  not  spent  the  time  to   build   relationships   with them.”

Teenagers  tend  to  reject  the  truth  when   it   comes   from   someone   who they  have  a  cold  relationship  with.  For   such   reasons,   youth   ministers   have   to help  parents  to  build  deep  relationships  with  their  children.  Relationships  are  the  key of making spiritual impact on teenagers.

Heart Connections
A  heart  connection  is  the  “pipeline”  that  connects  the  hearts  between parents  and  children.  Through  this  pipeline,  spiritual  impact  flows  from  generation   to  generation.  Teenagers’  spiritual  and  emotional  tank  should   be   filled   with unfailing love, significance and security from their parents.

When  this  tank  is  empty,  teenagers  feel  pain,  so  then  they  try  to  fill  it     up  by  themselves  in  their  own  ways.  They  seek  someone  or  something  to  be    filled  with.  In  order  to  make  the  pain  stop,  teenagers  also  push  their  parents   away because of the wounds from their parents’ yelling, screaming or anger.

However,  only  parents  can  fill  the  tank  completely.  This  is  the  way  God  created     the  relationship  between  parents  and   children.   Ministers,   mentors   or   friends cannot  overfill  it  even  though  they  may  pour  the  needs  into  the  tank.  Teenagers  also  give  pains  to  their  parents  through   disobedience   and   rebellion.   They   can cause pain by ruining their moral purity and the parents’ hopes and dreams.

Communication is one of  the  best  ways  to  build  relationship.  The  book  30  Days:  Turning  the  Hearts  of  Parents  and  Teenagers  Toward  Each  other   (LifeWay) helps families to build and restore the heart connections. For 30days every evening a parent and a child have  approximately  10  minutes  of  focused communication based on the questions  on  labeled  cards.  The  most  common feedbacks after experiencing  the  30  Days  is  this:  “We  became  closer  and  know  each  other  much  better”  and  “I  did  not  know  how  much  my  mother  (father)   loves me.” Youth ministers and leaders should partner with parents in order to encourage and equip them as the most  powerful  influence  on  youths’  spiritual  growth.

Broken Relationship
This is what some experts say about  broken  relationships  between  parents  and their children.
“We can’t pass on our faith or protect our  kids  from  the  culture  unless  we  make that relational connection, that  loving  bond,  that  intimate  attachment  our children so desperately need and want.”2 (Josh McDowell)

“Injured relationships are the major,  hidden  force  that  drive  our  children  away from (godly) living, and sometimes from the faith altogether.”3 (Bruce Wilkinson)

“For most parents, it is not a matter of sincerity but rather lack of  information on how to communicate love effectively on an  emotional  level.”4 (Gary Chapman)

“.  .  .  children  cannot  follow  their  parents  in  the  journey  of  faith,  belief,  and  moral  integrity  unless  they  personally  identify  with  the  parents.  Nor  can they identify with the parents unless the parents meet their emotional needs.”5 (Ross Campbell)

“Crowded lives produce fatigue, fatigue produces irritability, and irritability produces  indifference.  Indifference  can  be  interpreted  by  the   child   as   a lack of genuine affection and personal esteem.”6 (James Dobson)

Relationships and Spiritual Impact
Most  children  become  young  adults  with  a  faith  similar  to  their  parents.    Dr. Richard Ross indicates teenagers’ tendencies of embracing their parents’ faith.

1. Teenagers tend to embrace  the  faith  of  parents  who  have  heart connections  with  their  offspring.  Parents  who   keep   the   heart   connection   warm and strong  usually  see  visible  evidence  that  their  faith  and  values  are  passing  to  their children.

2. Teenagers  tend  to  embrace  the  faith  of  parents   who   spend   focused time with them. Many parents who  were  actively  involved  in  their  children’s  life  during the early years withdraw when their children become teenagers.

3. Teenagers  tend  to  embrace  the  faith  of  parents   who   show   them unfailing  love  in  ways  they  can  understand.  Teenagers  who  genuinely  feel  loved       by  their  parents  are  far  more  likely  to  respond  to  the   deep   longings   for community, to welcome structure, to respond positively to guidelines, and  to  find  purpose and meaning in life.

4. Teenagers  tend  to  embrace  the  faith  of  parents  who   surround   them with emotional security. Believing the marriage of parents will be source of that  emotional security.

Youth ministers should not neglect the parents’ influence on teenagers. The primary role of youth ministers is to equip and encourage  parents  to  impact  children’s  spiritual  growth.  Helping  parents  to  build  and  restore   the   relationships with their children is the key of youth ministry.

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Mihyun is teaching  Youth  Ministry  at  Korean  Baptist  Theological  University/Seminary  and  serving  at  Suwon  Central  Baptist  Church.  For  a  decade  she  has  worked   with   youth. She   studied Christian Education  concentrating  in  Youth  Ministry  at  Southwestern  Baptist  Theological  Seminary. Her specialty      is helping  parents  and  teachers  to  make  a   deep   and   healthy   relationship   with   their   children especially  when  they  are  in  the  age  of  adolescence.  She  translated  a  book  30  Days:  Turning  the   Hearts of Parents and Teenagers Toward Each Other written by Dr. Richard Ross & Dr. Gus Reyes.