There are three drives that are hardwired in every kid:
If you think about those drives as dials you turn to help a kid connect with God, then what if you turn those dials to different volumes for different phases? It’s just like finding the right mix for a love song. Wonder is like the melody. Discovery is the harmony. Passion is the rhythm. When you get the mix just right, something magical happens; and the song connects with the heart of the listener.
Knowing what you now know about the phases, which dial do you think you should turn up the loudest for a high schooler? You will turn all three dials at every phase, but the volumes may change in order to create the right mix. Teenagers who think like philosophers look for principles that will give their story meaning. They relate to a God who guides their decisions, promotes love and forgiveness, empowers their freedom, enables them to live more fully, moves them toward a greater purpose and identity, and connects them to a bigger story. When you mobilize their potential, you help a high schooler to pursue an authentic faith and discover a personal mission.
The way God proved His love to humanity through time is similar to the way a child grows up and relates to God throughout the phases. It’s as if there is a pattern for spiritual growth working throughout the events of history the same way it works throughout our lives. Your goal is to show up in the lives of kids and teenagers, over time, to love them and help them mature in their ability to relate to God at every phase. The best way to help kids mature in their relationship with God at every phase is to help them relate to God in their present phase.
3 Ways to Help:
Give an application.
Don’t let the term “philosopher” confuse you. High schoolers want more than theory. They want to know what is helpful for life right now. The best way to help high schoolers remember what you say is to say something they can do this week. Then, maybe post what you said to their social media channel midweek just as a reminder.
Ask a question.
Philosophers ask questions. If they aren’t asking you hard questions, they are asking someone else. That’s what high schoolers do. They want to know how what you say connects with their real-world experience. Resist the temptation to defend or over explain your theology. Anything you talk them into now, someone else can talk them out of later. Give them space. Answer their questions with another question. Guide them to discover the answer on their own if you want it to stick.
Make it experiential.
High schoolers will never feel important until you give them something important to do. They are ready for freedom. They want to do something that matters. They want a little less conversation and more action in their lives. Now is the time to give students every opportunity to use their skills to serve and be the church while they are still with you.
When it comes to leading the next generation, spiritual growth means helping kids mature in their ability to relate to God. In order to grow up and know God at every phase, kids need adults to help them rediscover how to relate to God in every phase. You create a unique mix of wonder, discovery, and passion for each phase. Remember that every kid will always need all three—just maybe at different volumes.