Leading students to authentic faith

Navigating your faith as an adult is hard, so imagine how students feel trying to connect their faith with their day-to-day lives.  I remember fighting my parents on Sundays about wanting to sleep rather than go to church.  The days that I wanted to go were on special holidays like Easter and Christmas, when an old lady from our church would make homemade donuts.  These were life-changing donuts.  I’m not messing around here.  I mean melt in your mouth goodness.  But even on those days church was an adult experience that left me feeling disconnected and confused.  The pastor would give a message on how to be a good husband or what role our jobs play in our faith.  I was disengaged from the start.  I spent the entire message wondering how this all connected to me.

I don’t believe my experience is much different from some of our students’ here at Five Oaks.  We need to make a deliberate effort to engage our students on their own faith journey as they discover where they fit in the story of God.  I want to offer three very simple ways you can begin to engage your student and over time lead them to discover an authentic faith. 

Question Truth
No matter how far along you are on your faith journey you should never stop questioning.  When we question information it has the opportunity to become truth in our lives with unshakable roots.  As parents and leaders we need to create an open environment for doubt.  By creating an environment that is welcoming to doubt we allow our students to explore their faith in a real way.  Doubt is not something to worry about; rather, it’s something to embrace.  Doubt leads us to greater understanding and a faith that can withstand the ups and downs of life.  One clear way we can create a safe space for doubt is to share our own doubts and questions with our students.  By opening the conversation it allows our students to bring their own doubts to light.  The next step is to explore these doubts by saying, “That is a hard question; let’s do some research and explore what answers are out there.”  Move doubt to understanding and understanding to faith. 

Apply Truth
As parents, it is important to help our students take biblical truth and apply it to their everyday lives.  While a student may agree that a certain biblical principle is true, they may lack the ability to apply it to real-world experiences.  For example, let’s say on Sunday the main principle of the message is that we have received grace from God through Jesus and we should in response give others the same grace we have received. To adults this may seem like a straightforward application (although not easily lived out).  To students it may not be clear.  Middle or High school students tend to be asking the question, “Who am I?”  In this stage of development, they tend to be inward focused rather than outward.  Even if it seems simple, take the time to connect the teaching principles to your student’s everyday life.     

Live Truth
We often forget that our students look to us as examples of what faith lived out looks like.  This means that your student notices what your priorities are.  If we want it to be a priority in our student’s life it has to be a priority in our own lives.  This means taking time to have a devotional, pray and serve those around you.  Be an example of faith that is lived out daily, but remember we are all on a journey so don’t fake spirituality in your life, but instead let it flow out of you as a natural response to the love and grace God has shown you.  Share your struggles and questions with your students, and allow these moments to push them in the direction of discovering a faith that is their own.  

Something is Better Than Nothing
Don’t let fear tell you that it’s too late or that you can’t be an example of authentic faith because you’re still discovering what it looks like for yourself.  It’s a lifelong journey.  Remember that doing even one of these three things is better than doing nothing at all.  Take steps to create moments for your student to discover their faith, but remember that your journey of faith is not perfect, and theirs won’t be, either.  That’s the beauty of this journey, of parenting your student, of helping them develop their own faith. It’s imperfect because we are.


Aaron Parsons
Student Ministry Associate