“Spiritual disciplines” may sound intimidating, but they really boil down to spending regular, focused time with God. As a youth leader, you can help young people develop these important practices that they’ll use throughout their life. Teaching spiritual disciplines to youth isn’t complicated. Instead, you can follow these basic guidelines with your kids.
5 Tips for Teaching Spiritual Disciplines to Youth
1. Define “spiritual disciplines.”
We need to demystify prayer, Bible reading and meditation for teenagers. Too many times when we speak of spiritual disciplines in a nonspecific way, teens envision monks and monasteries. It seems like something people in castles on hills in Europe do instead of, well, typical Christian teenagers.
But spiritual disciplines basically mean becoming spiritually disciplined to absorb the truth of God’s Word deeply into our souls and psyches. In other words, it’s two-way communication between us and God. He speaks to us through his Word and the wonder of his creation. Meanwhile, we speak to him in prayer and sing to him in “psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:19).
2. Show young people how they can engage in these disciplines via smart phone.
If spending time with God is just about big books and Jesus journals, then we may be missing opportunities for teaching spiritual disciplines to youth. Show your tech-savvy teens the many wonderful apps available for them to read the Bible, memorize and meditate on Scripture, and journal their prayers to God.
Don’t fight the tech bent of your students. If you do, you’ll sound like the priests who railed against the evils of the printing press centuries ago. Satan has used technology for years for his purposes, but God desires to use it in teens’ souls for holy purposes.
3. Teach them how.
In Luke 11:1, when Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, he used a short, pithy prayer (aka “The Lord’s Prayer“). It’s a succinct, powerful guideline for interacting with God.
Of course, like any alliterating preacher, I’ve developed an acrostic that spells out PRAY:
Praise: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by thy name.”
Request: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.”
Admit: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
Yield: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
In the same way, teach your teens not only how to pray but also how to worship, read the Bible for all it’s worth, mediate on God’s Word, and engage in silent reflection.
4. Show them how.
Talk to teenagers about what you’ve experienced during your own times of prayer and meditation. Even share your struggles with prioritizing it at times. Spend time in prayer together as a group. Go on a spiritual retreat with your teens and, while there, engage in these disciplines together and alone. Gather at the end and share what God is teaching each of you as a result of your times with him.
5. Get your teens sharing their faith.
Although evangelism may seem unrelated to teaching spiritual disciplines to youth, it’s really not. Evangelism feeds our spiritual disciplines, while spiritual disciplines feed our evangelistic efforts. Think of Jesus: In the middle of evangelizing to prostitutes, partiers and the poor, he escaped to pray on a mountainside. His missional movements drove him to pray, to reflect, to meditate on God’s Word, and to look to the Father for wisdom, comfort and courage. It will do the same for us and our teenagers.
What ideas do you recommend for teaching spiritual disciplines to youth?