This week, children and pre-teen specialist, Sarah Caton reminds us of some of the unique developments 11-14 years olds are going through and how their faith is developing.
Woah, remember being a 11-14 year old? You know, that stage when kids question or argue about everything….when they seem to struggle with their identity, and start caring more about what their friends think of them….and when they’re oh so moody… Yeah, most of us try to forget! Maybe you work with this age group, or have one or two in your house (like I do). I wonder what would happen if we started to shift our mindset from seeing characteristics of this life stage as something to ignore or change, to something that we can actually use to ground them in their faith?
Why all the questioning?
Pre-teens may not actually ask loads of questions out loud, but you’ll “hear” them in the way they act. Sometimes these questions can sound critical, but let’s think of it as a new super-power! Adolescents have a new ability to think abstractly, to go beyond the facts to the how’s and why’s of life. With all this questioning comes a new ability to take into consideration the perspective of another, and when they can do that with God, their faith grows to a new level. And when they can do that in the context of a spiritual family (whether at home or in the family you create in your youth group), powerful things can happen.
Here are 2 questions adolescents ask (usually by how they act):
Question 1: Who am I?
Individualisation, or “becoming one’s own person” is an important goal for adolescents. The fact that adolescents are wondering “who am I” and “do I matter” seems to drip from their very sweat glands, possibly quite literally! And it’s in this place that we get to come alongside them and point them to God, who calls them beloved. Look for ways to ground them in their identity as a son or daughter of God, who loves them perfectly, just the way they are. Remind them of their identity often. Do this by interacting with the overarching story of God and the good news of His grace and wide love and acceptance of them through Jesus. The answer to the question: Who am I? You are God’s child, fully loved and accepted.
Question 2: Whose am I?
This transformation of becoming one’s own person isn’t meant to happen in isolation. It requires the interdependence of community in order to be a thriving experience. We see pre-teens grasping for who their friends are, trying to figure out how to relate to others. We get to come alongside young people in this search and help create and provide the community they so desire to be part of. Statistics show that parents are more influential in young people’s healthy development than any other external force. Adolescents still want, and need (whether they show it or not) parental influence, advice, nurture, and guidance. The church also has a unique opportunity to be a community for young people. According to Lifeway Research, teens who had five or more adults invest in them were less likely to leave the church as they approach adulthood. It’s through these relationships that questions about life and faith are best asked, when we have created an environment of trust that is shaped by the Gospel. The answer to the question: Whose am I? You are an important part of our family, our community, and are part of God’s story.
Categories: Youth Ministry Resources
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