One of the toughest challenges parents often face is how to successfully impart faith convictions to their teenagers. This is one of those areas where you must walk the talk -- the "do as I say, not as I do" approach doesn't work here. John Roberto of the Faith Formation Learning Exchange reminds parents that the family is the first community of faith and the most powerful influence on the faiths of children and teenagers. Modeling faith-based behavior at home is an essential aspect of helping your teens understand their faith and learn how to live it.
Live your faith every day. Your teen needs to see you praying, spending time in devotion, actively participating in the life of your religious institution and doing ministry or mission work. Take your teen with you when you take part in such activities, or, better yet, do them as a family. Talk to your teenager about the core beliefs and values of your faith. Such direct discussions and modeling behavior encourage teens to grow in their own relationship with God, according to Ron Luce, president of Teen Mania Ministries.
Establish core values for your family that reflect your faith. Incorporate these values into your expectations for your teen's behavior and explain to him why his choices, behavior and public persona need to reflect and adhere to the tenets of your faith. For example, you might want to establish your young teen's rules for dating to reflect your core values. Then as your teen gets older, encourage him to make his own decisions from a faith-based perspective. Keep in mind that although somewhat dated, the "what would Jesus do" approach can still be a valuable tool for teens when making behavior-related decisions.
Give your teen the knowledge and tools to understand his faith and apply it in a relevant and meaningful way to his daily life. Expose your teen to regular services, religious education classes and programs that your church or temple offers that prepare teens to formally join the church community, or dedicate themselves to a faithful life. Give him an age-appropriate Bible or other religious materials, along with opportunities to discuss these with you or a leader in your church or temple.
Encourage your teen to participate in faith-based activities with like-minded peers. Suggest he use his talents or follow his interests by singing in the church choir, becoming active in the youth group or even playing on the church softball team. Encourage him to lead a youth Bible study or participate in your church's small discussion groups. At school, he can participate in a faith-based group if there are any available. You might also encourage your teen to join a local ministry project that involves volunteer work with his peer group. Teens struggling to find their true identities might find it easier to resist the temptations of the secular world when they're surrounded by other teens who are strong and comfortable in their faith.