Most Christian parents do their best to raise their children to be good Christians. Unfortunately, a sizable percentage of people who grow up in religious households end up largely abandoning their faith when they get older. Some drift away slowly during their high school years as they get too busy with homework, sports and college applications to spend extra time at church. Others leave it behind when they reach college and are barraged with questions, doubts and challenges against their faith at every turn. Still others bury their beliefs deep in their hearts and hide them in the name of making friends or young love. This does not have to be the case. Many young Christians end up losing their faith because they were not prepared. Many of them love God, but their parents, pastors or spiritual mentors simply had not given them everything they needed for living out their faith in the modern world. Faith is not always easy, but there is no reason to add confusion to what may already be difficult. Here are 11 things all young Christians need to hear.
Your beliefs will be challenged.As you age, you meet new people and encounter new situations that may be unlike anything you have ever seen in the past. These people or events may not fit perfectly with what you have always believed. There may not be a perfect, Sunday school answer to your questions. You might struggle to find answers on your own. You will also meet people who will challenge your faith. They may do it unconsciously. They may also deliberately attack your faith. Even if they hold no power over you, their questions may still dig deep into your heart. This is normal. Living a Christian life means that you must grapple with your beliefs and faith when something or someone does not quite fit. Your faith, however, does not have to yield before those struggles. If you are willing to put in the work to find the answers within your faith, you will see that those people, questions or events that made you question your faith fit into your worldview more neatly than you thought.
Doubts do not mean you are damned.You will almost inevitably have doubts. Whether you are struggling with an obscure piece of doctrine or wrestling with one of the central tenets of your faith, know that doubts are normal. The only way a person can live out their faith without ever having questions or facing confusion is if their faith is truly blind. They have never dug into what they really believed and are often happy with more rote answers. If you have doubts, know that they are leading you to answers that will help you grow further in your faith.
Those who are worthwhile will respect your faith.Not everyone in your life will be Christian. You will have friends, teachers, managers, coworkers and acquaintances who are not Christian. You will have to interact with them, and frankly, it is good for people to spend time with those who have a different worldview. As long as another person respects your faith, there is no reason that you cannot be a part of each other’s lives. The world shrinks an awful lot if you are only willing to spend time with people who already agree with you on everything. That is not how you grow. Those people’s friendship, courtesy or cooperation, however, should not require you to abandon or hide your faith.
Anyone who would ask you to change something as personal and fundamental as your religion is not someone who is worth your time. So-called “friends” who continually make mocking “jokes” about your faith are not really your friends. Leave them behind. You will find other people who respect you.
Temptation is normal.You are going to encounter temptation. There is no escaping that. Faith does not stop you from being tempted any more than lacking a wallet keeps you from wanting that double-chocolate coconut cake with dark chocolate chunks, almond ganache and fresh raspberries. Faith does not mean you are not tempted, but it can and will help you handle the temptation. Just as lacking a wallet keeps you from buying that delicious looking cake, your faith can help you avoid giving into temptation. Feeling that temptation in the first place, however, does not mean that you have failed as a Christian. All it means is that you are human.
Mistakes are not the end.You are not perfect. As much as some people may think or act like they are perfect, no human is infallible. You will make mistakes. You will screw up. You will give into temptation. You will do something stupid. You will get yourself in trouble. This is all inevitable. God knows this, and He loves you anyway. Your imperfections do not keep Him from caring about you. Your mistakes should not keep you from caring about yourself either. Instead of beating yourself up for not being perfect, use mistakes as a learning experience. Know what you did wrong, and make sure you do not do it again. Also, try and learn to keep the stupidity to a minimum and the damage limited when you catch yourself in the process of making a mistake. It is better to have to deal with only half the trouble than to throw up your hands and say, “Well, I’ve already come this far. May as well finish it!” The consequences are never quite worth it.
Curiosity is not a sin.As you meet new people and learn about new ways of thinking, you will likely find yourself becoming curious about them. This is not a sin. Wanting to understand Buddhism or know what your Hindu friend is talking about when they mention puja does not make you a bad Christian. Indulging that curiosity does not make you an apostate either. Simply learning about other religions and ways of thinking does not mean that you are going to abandon your own. There is nothing wrong with being curious. In fact, you should encourage your curiosity. Without curiosity, no one would ever learn anything.
You will find friends in your faith.It can sometimes feel like you will never be able to find Christian friends to whom you can relate or with whom you can actually connect. This can be especially true if your home congregation lacks many people you age. Do not despair. You will find friends who share your faith.
Keep in mind that you may not meet your closest Christian friends at church. They may attend a different church or prefer an earlier service than you. You might meet your Christian friends at school, at a sporting event or through another friend. They are out there. It simply may take time to find them.
Christians can have fun.Christians are often stereotyped as boring sticks in the mud who hate fun. This is not true in the slightest. Many Christians have a great deal of fun and very active social lives. They hang out with their friends. They go to the movies. They attend parties. They listen to music and stay up too late watching the series premier of their favorite TV show. Christians simply practice moderation and avoid things that they know are harmful. In doing so, they actually often have a chance to enjoy their fun more. Someone who is drunk as a skunk is not actually having much fun. If they are, they will not remember that fun later. Someone who is sober or only had one drink can enjoy the rest of the party without trying to keep the room from spinning.
Christianity is more than a list of do’s and don’ts.Christianity is far more than a simple list of do’s and don’ts. It is a lifestyle, a worldview and a way of ordering your existence. When Christianity is reduced to a list of proper and improper behaviors, Christian youth never get to experience the full power or beauty of the religion. This makes them far more likely to abandon their faith later as what should be one of the most powerful forces in their lives and one of the most fundamental building blocks to their worldview is reduced to a set of rules. No one is going to give their heart and soul to a list of rules that they may or may not fully agree with or understand.
You don’t have to have all the answers.You will have questions and doubts, and it is alright if you do not immediately have the answers to your questions. Faith journeys can take years or even decades. You do not need to resolve every issue you have with your faith overnight. It may take time.
When it comes to defending Christianity from verbal or philosophical attacks, you do not have to have all the answers either. You are not a theologian. You have not spent years studying the inner facets of your faith. Do not feel that your faith is indefensible simply because you could not explain the mystery of the Trinity to an ardent atheist’s satisfaction. Some people would never be happy with your answers anyway, and frankly, they would be unable to defend their own beliefs to the same degree as you are being asked to defend yours.
Your relationship with God will change as you age.As you get older, your relationship with God will develop and change. You may go from a lukewarm relationship to one of deep devotion. You may feel religious fervor now, but find that you are less involved when you get old. This does not mean that you love God any less passionately, but you now love Him comfortably rather than passionately. Relationships always change as people age and as the relationship itself ages. That does not mean that the later relationship is worth any less than it was in the beginning.
It is the duty of all adult Christians to prepare the younger generations for the challenges and struggles that they will face as they enter the wider world. As such, it is important to let them know what they will really face, not just from others, but from their own heart. They need to know that their fears, concerns and struggles are normal and that they will overcome them. Young Christians need to know that their walk will likely be neither as hard nor as easy as they expect but that it will be worth it all the same. Christ always is.