How Can Teenagers Keep Their Faith after High School?
Raising your children at home means you can guide them through their schooling and share your Christian faith with them. This closeness can seem to disappear once teenagers leave home for college, work, or travel.
When teenagers are away from home on their own, parents often worry their child might lose their way and their beliefs. Particularly in the case of college, students are sometimes faced with culture shock that can adversely affect their Christian faith.
How can parents help their children continue living like Christ? What advice and teaching should they give them to best prepare them for leading a Christian life during their college years?
Start from Home
“[…] nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
If parents model what it looks like to live a life of faith, teenagers can take their example from home and imitate their parents’ behavior.
As C.G. Jung pointed out, “children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by what he says.” Living a Christian life ourselves is the greatest example we can set for our children.
Of course, parents should also be there to guide their children. Even as teenagers prepare to enter adulthood, they still need their parents’ support and a listening ear. Steer them gently toward Christian choices and decisions.
Teenagers who have a strong Christian faith are less likely to lose it in college. Their faith will be theirs to shepherd them. With the help of their family, their faith will grow and remain strong.
Organize a Schedule that Includes Praying
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18
Going to college is very exciting for students. Meeting new people, trying new foods, learning new subjects, and having the freedom to make choices is thrilling. But sometimes students engage in too many activities for fear of missing out. So help your student to organize a schedule that can help them prevent overloading their calendar. Prayer time should be part of their daily schedule.
It is helpful and soothing for Christian students to set aside a specific time to pray and communicate with the Lord. Early in the morning or late at night, this time will be dedicated to God and prayer.
Find a Local Church
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” James 5:13
Moving to a new place means students may not have their usual church where they can fellowship with other Christians and continue growing in their faith. But they should be able to find a local church that suits their needs. A great way to keep your faith and nurture your relationship with God is to worship in His church.
Our relationship with God is ongoing. If we nurture, grow, and develop it, then our faith will strengthen, and our relationship with God will become more secure.
Make it a priority to help your student find a “home church” during college. Going to church to pray with like-minded people is a great way to help keep a student’s faith strong.
“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” Deuteronomy 15:11
Helping others is something children need to learn at home before going to college. Keeping this habit in college is a great way for students to be reminded of what really matters in life. No matter how many parties, BBQs, or movies they might miss, helping those in need is a great way to demonstrate and strengthen the Christian faith.
There are several ways a student can help others: volunteering at church, serving in a soup kitchen, tutoring underprivileged children, or keeping an elderly person company are just a few ways of helping people.
Find a Mentor
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Mentoring is a crucial part of Christian faith—think of Christ’s disciples and the way they spread and taught the faith.
Students far away from home could find themselves lost. Freedom comes with uncertainty and confusion. But having a Christian mentor who can guide students in a Christian way is a helpful way to keep the faith. Someone who is more seasoned in their Christian faith can help guide college students by listening and encouraging them along their Christian path.
Students can find a mentor through Christian organizations in college such as Baptist Student Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ, or Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. They can also seek a mentor in their church family. With the advent of social technology, students can even find a mentor in someone who lives far away.
Use Freedom Wisely
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13
College gives students the freedom they may have never had before, and it can be a cultural shock to many students. Teenagers will need to make an infinite number of decisions, small and big, from what to study and how to learn, to whom to keep company with, what to eat, how to spend their time, and so many more.
With freedom comes with responsibility. Remind students that they should use their freedom wisely, to improve themselves and to help other people. Freedom can be used to expand students’ Christian faith and to help them learn more about the world while discovering how God uniquely made them for His kingdom and His glory.
Find Like-Minded Friends
“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Thessalonians 5:11
Friends are there to support one another. Christian friends can help each other through life’s trials. They will be able to see things through the same Christian worldview and guide each other toward wise decisions.
A friend will also be there to offer accountability if they see a Christian friend straying from God’s truth. Friendships in college are precious: finding the right friendship can help teenagers follow Christ’s example.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
College is a time to learn more and discover the world. New subjects and new ways to approach ideas can be intriguing. Christian students should be encouraged to take advantage of this learning opportunity by expanding their knowledge and understanding of their faith. They can choose books that explain and interpret the Christian faith to help them see the world in a clearer way.
Students will be asked to study for their exams and their courses. They should also save some time to study the faith that will guide them throughout their life.
Ask for Help
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
No one is free of temptation. Sometimes, God tests our faith to help us progress and mature. If a teenager doubts their faith, they should have the strength to ask for help. Asking for help is a sign of strength rather than a sign of weakness, as some might think.
Again, seek a Christian mentor who will be able to offer guidance and advice to your student during times of spiritual struggle. Find like-minded parents to pray with you, asking God to help your student act with wisdom and discernment. Offer to help your student in any way that you can.
There is no reason why students should forget their Christian faith when going to college or leaving home. With gentle guidance and support from their family, teenagers can strengthen their Christian beliefs in college and lead a Christian life while enjoying their university years.