How to Keep Your Teen On Fire for Jesus
Your teen just came back from camp, a conference, or an Acquire The Fire youth conference and they can’t stop talking about what God did in their lives. Now you pray that it stays that way.
What can you do to help? Maybe you are thinking, “I wonder how long it will last this time. I saw them get fired up like this before, but it died out after a few weeks.”
Most parents, not feeling very gifted as “youth ministers,” get discouraged thinking they really cannot do anything to help keep their young
person’s fire burning. This is simply not true.
In a recent Gallup poll, 93% of the young people interviewed said they believe God loves them; 2% said they don’t believe it; 2% said they don’t believe in God; and 3% were unsure. 86% believed that Jesus was a God or the Son of God.; 6% believed that Jesus Christ was just another religious leader; 3% believed that Jesus never actually lived; and 5% were not sure.
86% of born again Christians agree with the statement, “the bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves,” 49% of Christians agree, “the devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil,” and 39% of born-again Christians believe “if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in heaven.” No wonder many young people have trouble maintaining their fire – they have been presented with unclear picture of true Christianity.
Listen to what some teens have said:
“It is hard to stay on fire when my parents say one thing and then do another. Their actions don’t follow their words.”
“Many Christians I know are self-righteous and they are always right. I am losing interest in Christianity because most Christians I’ve met show more hatred than love.”
“I need more encouragement, discipline, and accountability from my parents – particularly from my dad.”
“I always feel like I’m doing something wrong in my walk with God. I wish my parents would encourage me more.”
What can you do?
Embrace your teen’s excitement. Many parents patronize their young person. “Yeah, yeah, yeah I remember when I was that fired up.” They think it’s simply another passing teenage fad.
Instead of patronizing your young person and playing down their new-found passion and love for Christ, embrace them and their fire.
Ask some questions about what God did in their life. What specific things can you pray for? What are they going to do differently to make sure their fire does not die? What can you as a parent do to help them maintain their fire? They may have some good suggestions for you. Ask them what decisions they made during the camp or conference that they want to be held accountable to. Ask them what makes it different this time compared to any other time before.
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:11
Keep your fire burning for God. Simply stated, do not keep a spiritual “air” about you without being truly spiritual. If there are areas of your walk with the Lord that are shallow or empty, deal with them. If you need to ask for someone’s forgiveness and repent – then do it!
Sometimes when we see our young person get on fire, we get a little intimidated by it. We think “What can they teach me that I haven’t
already learned?” and we become guilty of sitting in the back of the church, acting like we’ve heard it before.
A wise person can learn from anyone. We need to realize we can learn from our teen instead of letting their fervor and passion intimidate you. Let it push you to deeper levels of humility and intimacy with God, and more passionate times of mediating and reading His Word.
When you have a genuine fire burning passionately for the God, your teen cannot help but be affected. When your relationship with God becomes stale, your young person’s heart will grow hard.
Start having honest discussions with your teen regarding your Christian life. Do not try to be pseudo-spiritual which your teen will interpret as fake, but seek God with more fervor than you ever have.
If your young person is going after God with all they’ve got, you have to go after Him even harder to provide true spiritual leadership for them. As you share with them your prayer concerns, your struggles, and your victories in your walk with the Lord, your young person will do the same with you. You will be on the road of a discipling relationship with your teen. But do not assume that now that they are on fire for God, they will stay that that way forever. The fire must continually be fanned and encouraged in order for it to be kept burning.
In the process of establishing this dialogue, let there be some mutual accountability. Ask your teen to hold you accountable to having quiet times or to dealing with certain areas of your life; not so they can throw it in your face later, but so you can show a little trust and respect. Then ask them, “What can I pray for you about? What are some areas you are being challenged in that you want to God to help you get through?”
When most people who get the fire of God in their life start losing it, they don’t want anyone to know, so they cover it up in the darkness. But when the light comes in, it reveals the darkness for what it is. If you show the darkness for what it is before it becomes a problem, the darkness has no opportunity to become a stronghold. Being accountable to one another will take the friendship intimacy factor to a whole new level in your relationship with your young person.
A fallacy many parents buy into is thinking we need to keep our young person on that spiritual mountaintop . We want them to stay on there forever and ever and hope it never goes away. First of all, you cannot just hope – you must do something to keep the fire burning. Do not presume they will stay on fire forever by accident.
Also, it is helpful to know we were not meant to stay on the mountaintop. What do I mean? Look at the story of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. Jesus went up there to pray and have His quiet time, not necessarily to get transfigured.
“About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed.” Luke 9:28-29
When Jesus was praying on the mountaintop, the presence of God appeared. Moses and Elijah were there having a conversation with him. The disciples got so freaked out, they said, “Lord, Lord, do you want us to build a house for the three of you so you can stay around?” This is what happens when we encounter God – we want to institutionalize it. We want to remember that encounter forever and ever and hope it will never end.
“A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is the Son whom I have chosen; listen to him.’” Luke 9:35
In other words, “Quit talking, man! Check out what is going on”
In visiting the Mount of Transfiguration years ago, I discovered that since that moment in the Bible, Christians have gone up there and built a church for Jesus with two rooms – one for Moses and one for Elijah. It is not surprising, since we’ve been doing that same thing in Christianity for years. We have built whole churches and entire denominations on one experience with God.
There is not supposed to just be a mountaintop. We are supposed to go back again and again into the presence of God. We are not supposed to hope our young person stays on that mountain, but that they get taken to the next mountain.
What’s the next challenge in their life? What’s the next area God wants them to grow in? Maybe it’s going on a mission trip. Maybe it’s doing ministry in the inner city. Maybe there are areas of their character God wants to refine. Ask the question, “Why did He give you that fire and what is the next mountain God wants you to climb?”
Help your teen find what the next mountain is. Help them define the next step in their spiritual journey. They need to feel there is someone helping and guiding them. You cannot just depend on your pastor and youth pastor. Be the spiritual leader of your home! Help your young person see that they have the fire for a reason. God wants to do something in them and through them.
When they see there is another mountain to climb, they’ll throw their passion and fervor into climbing that next mountain, not just trying to keep the fire they have. In going up that next mountain, their fire will build and become stable and strong.