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5 ways to help teenagers connect with their faith

Author: Gemma Wildsmith

5 ways to help teenagers connect with their faith

Youth minister Gemma Wildsmith offers just a few of the many ways to engage young people.

As a youth minister the most common question that parents ask me is: "How do I help my teenage children connect with their faith?"

The answer to this question really depends on a lot of things: the particular teenager, family life, faith commitment, what school they go to, what hobbies they have...the list is endless.

There is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to teenagers or to faith. I don’t propose to have all (or any) of the answers, but here are a few ideas, in no particular order:

Music

Music is often one of the defining characteristics of a youth sub-culture and there is a constant ‘soundtrack’ to our lives, even though we may not realise it. Films, television and even advertisements all use music to create a mood, convey a story, evoke a particular feeling or make us remember a product.

Why not try to bring God into the soundtrack of your lives as a family? If you’re the sort of family that always has the radio on in the car, you could purchase some great worship music to have playing instead.

If your children are musical or enjoy singing, you could encourage them to get involved with the music group at Church and if there isn’t a music group at Church, you could start one – that’s what my friend’s mum did and it kept us going to Mass for a good few years!

Opportunities to encounter God

“Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est.

I am thankful for all the times that my parents took me on pilgrimages or to conferences when I didn’t really want to go, and the sacrifices I know they made in order to afford to send me on retreats or summer camps when I wanted to be with my friends, for it was in these places that I encountered God.

I saw leaders who had something that I wanted, and I made friends who made it seem normal to have God as part of my life.

The ‘come-down’ after the retreat ‘high’ can be difficult for parents to deal with, but experiences like this give young people a taste of what is on offer to them through the life of faith.

These encounters with the living presence of God help them to remember that he is real and he loves them and that they are not alone on this journey of discovering what life is all about.

A culture of questioning

We adults like to portray to others that we are confident, knowledgeable and have informed opinions on ‘hot’ topics.

It is seen as a weakness or an embarrassment to not know the answer to a question, particularly if it comes from someone younger than us.

However, when it comes to faith, there is a call to be humble and honest, admitting when we don’t know something and there is a great witness in showing how to seek God and look for answers.

Are questions encouraged and issues discussed in your household?

Do your teenagers ever see you reach for the Catechism, the Bible, Church documents or other spiritual book to find out the answer to a tough question on faith?

Children and young people have a natural propensity for questions; empower them to seek knowledge and look for answers.

Witness

It is impossible for teenagers to connect with a faith that they do not see lived out fully by others, and parents are the first witnesses of this in the home.

When people walk into your house, is there any way of them telling that you are a Christian family? When your teenagers look at your life, is there any way of them knowing that your faith has an impact on your attitudes and way of life?

It is vital that teenagers see their parents as people who are doing their best to live out the values and virtues they hear preached in church and taught in school. That way they are more likely to be receptive when their parents try to instil those values and virtues in them.

Talk about and share your faith, your struggles and your joys. Be thankful to God for all of his blessings, no matter how small.

Don’t let anything get in the way of going to Mass on a Sunday. Talk about the readings from Mass and whether you understood the homily.

Pray

Pray for your teenagers and be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in action and conversation with them.

You don’t know and can’t see how God is at work in their hearts and you may never know when something you say or do is finally going to make the penny drop for them.

 

  • Gemma Wildsmith has worked with young people for a number of years with the Sion Community, as a school chaplain and with the Diocese of Westminster. She is currently the Children’s and Youth Regional Coordinator for the Celebrate Family Conference

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