As adults, it’s hard to look at high schoolers and think that they’re deep thinkers like us sophisticated, mature grownups. Surely those teenagers don’t think about anything besides Instagram or prom!
But think back to when you were in high school. Your problems and struggles may not have been the same as they are now, but they still were real.
At forty years old, you may worry about your mortgage and your marriage and your aging parents. In light of those stresses, teenage problems seem light and insignificant.
But to a high schooler, a break-up does feel like the end of the world. A fight with your best friend crushes your soul. Getting a B+ in Algebra (ruining your 4.0 GPA) legitimately seems to ruin your chances of getting in to your dream college.
And teenagers deal with big issues too: parents’ divorce, temptation, peer pressure, life-changing decision making, dating, and, of course, faith questions.
These struggles may seem to pale in comparison to losing your job or receiving an uncertain medical diagnosis, but they still are real and feel big to the teenagers experiencing them—which is why it’s critical to talk about real issues with the teenagers in your life.
So a fluffy devotion that lasts five minutes at youth group isn’t exactly helping address any real challenges they might be facing.
As a pastor, youth leader, or parent, you might be intimidated to dig into a deep Bible study with your youth. Or maybe you think your youth wouldn’t even want that kind of Bible study—they just want to do a quick five-minute devotion and then go play basketball.
But the truth is teens need to talk about their faith and life and how those two things should be deeply intertwined. Here are a few ideas to get you started talking about real issues with your teens!
Ask what they want
Ask your youth what topics they’d like to cover—you might be surprised what they want to talk about! Have teens submit their suggestions on scraps of paper or via an anonymous online submission system.
If your youth group is trying something new by doing more in-depth and real devotions, you don’t have to go all-in right away. Ease into your new devotion style with slightly longer devotion time and a little more in-depth topics, and then eventually move into harder-to-talk-about issues.
Don’t underestimate your teens—they’re going to ask some hard questions. Find a book or commentary on the specific topic for the week, or meet with your pastor to get answers to some questions you think they might ask. And if you don’t have an answer for your youth, remember it’s okay to say you’ll ask your pastor and get back to them next week with an answer.
When addressing some sensitive topics—such as transgenderism, same-sex attraction, and premarital sex—it’s important to be gentle in your presentation of Law and Gospel. Some students may be quietly struggling with some of these big questions, so be sure to speak the truth in love.
Find more tips for working with with teens in Connected for Life: Essential Guide to Youth Ministry.