One of the incredible things about a relationship with God is the way He has something unique to show us at every phase. Just like the same dad would respond differently to his three-year-old than his 13-year-old, our heavenly Father seems to respond in different ways at different times so we can better understand how completely He loves us. High school is a time to test the limits. They are ready for new experiences and desire greater independence from authority.
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.
Here are three ideas to help high schoolers mature in their relationship with God:
1. 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 a high schooler remember what you say is to say something they can do this week. Then maybe post what you said to their social media channel mid-week just as a reminder.
2. 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.
3. 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 life. 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 you mobilize high schoolers’ potential you help them keep pursuing authentic faith and discover a personal mission.