Dear Christian Parents of Teenagers:
Your children have probably heard a lot of Bible stories in Sunday School. And the Vacation Bible School programs they attended were most likely amazing. And now they may be hearing engaging Bible messages in your church’s youth group.
But something is missing.
They are on their way to college where they will hear many new ideas. Some of those ideas may challenge their faith and their view of the Scriptures. Your child may be tempted to view the Bible as an irrelevant document filled with contradictions written by ancient people.
What is going to prepare them for that challenge? They have moved beyond the Sunday School level. And while youth group and church provides them with devotional encouragement, what will help them with the intellectual questions that are coming their way? They don’t need a Seminary-level class. They need something appropriate for their age.
They will also meet many new friends—some from a wide range of church denominations with various views on theological issues. So your middle school and high school students also need something that exposes them to different views and conveys those views fairly and concisely. Why? Because in a few short years they are going to hear those views anyway. Allow them to start wrestling with those ideas in their teenage years so they won’t be shocked when they hear them in college.
The only way to accomplish what is stated above is to take your children through the Scriptures, chapter by chapter. We must engage with the details of the text by considering what it says, how it has been translated, and how it has been interpreted. The controversy always centers around the text. A general worldview class won’t cut it.
While your children are studying the Bible they need to be introduced to various ways of interpreting the passages. For example, they should know from the history of Bible interpretation why Christians disagree about communion, how God brought forth life on this planet, and why some believe the flood was local while others believe it was global. Don’t worry, the different views won’t hurt them. It will help them understand the diversity within the Christian faith.
What’s the point?
To prepare them. When they hear a non-Christian mocking a particular Christian teaching, they will know that things may be more complicated than they are being presented. When their Christian friends argue about a certain practice as the one right way to do things, they will know that other believers do things differently and why.
In addition, as they are going through the Scriptures and learning different ways of seeing things, we need to make sure that they don’t get lost in the thickets of controversy. There are major issues and minor issues and we should enable them to differentiate between the two. That means that we should help them see the Bible as much more than merely a book that people have argued about. It is a book we can connect with on a personal and devotional level—a book that should fill us with hope, a book that can help us to endure hard times, a book that can instill in us our God-given purpose in life. In a nutshell: It is a book that can help us become better people.
So Christian teenagers should engage with the text of Scripture in an academic and devotional way appropriate to their age level. By doing so your child will learn to appreciate insights from:
- the original languages,
- the ancient world,
- key thinkers in Christian history,
- famous works of art, and
- personal reflection questions.
In the process of digging into the details they will come to realize that Bible study is a serious field of learning requiring years of study. Why is that important? Because they need to respect the Bible and Bible study. Why? Because they will meet people who denigrate Scripture. So how do we get them to respect Scripture? Just telling them that it is God’s Word is not enough. They need a first-hand encounter with the Bible and the world of biblical studies in order to appreciate it properly. But when and how will they get that?
Now. From you giving them quality Bible curriculum.
As a Christian parent of a teenager, this may be your last opportunity to require your child to dig deeply into Scripture. Think of that. They are going to leave the house and you will never again be able to ask them to complete a book or a study. And if you are a Christian parent of a homeschool student, you can actually require them to complete a study.
I think we do a good job with younger children, but it’s easy to drop the ball when it comes to older children. I’m encouraging you not to miss this opportunity with your teenage children. Get them into the Bible in an intellectual and devotional way before they leave the house and encounter challenging ideas. They are full of energy and questions so give them an opportunity to wrestle intellectually and theologically in a way that will make them stronger.
I’m sure that there are many good resources with age-appropriate Bible study material for your teenage child, and I hope you will consider BibleBridge to be one of them.