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  Children's Ministry Today    

Today's Featured Article

Understanding Your Child's Spiritual Development  (Part 3 of 3)
                  Paul Heidebrecht


As Christian parents, we want our children to believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and to have a personal relationship with Him. But we cannot give our adult faith directly to our small children, because they are not yet ready for it. Spiritual development--like physical, emotional, and intellectual development--is a gradual process with definite stages.

We can most effectively guide our children to Jesus if we understand how the stages of spiritual development work.

Ages 12-14

Because your junior-high child can grasp abstract concepts, he now can learn deep spiritual truths. He can begin to grasp the concept of the Trinity. He can have a much deeper understanding than ever before of what salvation means. The concepts of redemption, the sinful nature, and how Jesus bore our sins on the cross are all much clearer to him now. It would be wise to discuss these subjects with your child to see how much he understands. You can help him a great deal by clarifying certain things about which he may be confused.

Your child can have a much better understanding of what the body of Christ is all about. He can know what spiritual gifts are, though he may have difficulty identifying his own. If he has committed himself to Christ, he should be able to become a member of your church. He can understand the meaning of Communion, and after instruction he should be allowed to partake. His participation in church depends a great deal on your own involvement. If you are involved, he will be also; if not, he probably won't be either. 

Your child will probably want to be involved in church. If he is a member, he will want to think he is a vital part of the body. He has the capacity to serve others. He wants and needs guided opportunities in leadership. Remember that your child is one of the church's future leaders. Active participation in a well-planned youth program will help develop his leadership skills.

Your child is now developing Christian values of his own. He is seeking answers to many questions he has about morals, ethics, and spirituality. He is beginning to question your values, and he may openly reject some them. Deep inside he wants to do what is right and submit to God's authority, but he is searching for answers he can call his own. He will particularly question absolute guidelines imposed by his parents and church. He is very perceptive and quickly identifies hypocrisy and double standards.

This questioning and searching period is difficult for many Christian parents to face. You may see your child swaying in his faith. Feeling protective, you may argue with him and try to force on him what you believe is right. This may only drive him further away from you.

Your best approach is to encourage him to discuss his questions with you. Be open with him-express your feelings and beliefs, but allow him to disagree. Take the risk of treating him as an equal. Do not belittle him or think you must put him in his place. Realize that his searching and questioning approach is a healthy way to come to terms with spiritual matters on his own. In the end, he will be a much better Christian for it.

Ages 15-18

Your teenager's experience and ability to do more sophisticated thinking enable her to think in deeper and more serious terms about spiritual things. She is still searching for her own answers about life and her relationship to God. She may develop a special interest in some rather complicated theological issues. If this happens, you can help her a great deal by encouraging her spiritual interests. Discuss her questions with her. Give her your insights and opinions, but avoid arguing. You can challenge her thoughts, but show respect for her opinions too.

If your child has been involved in church up to this point, she may have a growing interest in being a vital part of the church. She thinks she is grown up and appreciates being treated that way. She is willing to take on more responsibility and, if encouraged, she will appreciate opportunities to serve and lead. A wise will do all it can to present older teens with such meaningful challenges.

There are also many fine opportunities for Christian service available to older teens through service-oriented organizations like Teen Missions. Other missionary organizations and camps offer short-term service opportunities. You will do well to encourage your child to get involved in such programs.

Obviously, not all children are interested in church activities. In her search for herself, your child may rebel against her parents and the church she grew up in. If your child has rejected you or the church, it is important that you seek to maintain an understanding relationship with her. This is vital.

Beyond seeking the Lord in prayer and depending on the Holy Spirit to work in your child's life, you can do little else. You do not necessarily need to blame yourself for her rejection. Your child is responsible for her own relationship to God. If you have provided her with a relatively secure family life, she may very well come back into the fold.

Part 1  -  Part 2  -  Part 3
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