Our church has begun a twice-yearly series of training sessions for parents designed to help them know the “why” and the “how” of discipling their children. Our college pastor, a good friend of mine, recently kicked off the latest series with a great challenge from Deuteronomy 6. 

One of the things I liked about his talk was that he didn’t put a ton of emphasis on the practical, application-driven aspect of discipleship, but instead focused on the attitude parents should embrace as the foundation of their discipleship efforts. He preached that we should all focus on “being” before we focus on “doing.” He defined “being” as emphasizing on who we are in Christ, our “new creation” identities as children of God. 

I loved this approach because I see a similar issue impacting our efforts to lead teenagers deeper in their relationship with Christ. 

As we interact with youth ministers from across the country, one thing I see quite often is the “cart before the horse” effect. Guided by the best intentions, we push the “how” of programs and practices before the “why” of a true and deep love of God. We over-emphasize the “doing” and under-emphasize the “being.” 

But as we challenge youth workers to start with the “why” of their students’ faith before the “how,” to focus on their new identities before they focus on what to do, we often arrive at a similar place . . .  “OK, but how do I do that?” 

And so, I couldn’t help wondering if there were some thoughts on guiding people in “being,” a way to answer the question, “What can I do in order to be?

I think this is an important point for us as youth workers. We need to help guide our students in “being” as much as we do in “doing.” And I think there are some practical things we can do to accomplish this. Here are a few. 

Seek Silence And Solitude

There’s no way to spend meaningful time focusing on our identities as God’s children without, um . . . spending meaningful time focusing on our identities as God’s children. If we don’t fight for time alone with God, where we’ve briefly disconnected ourselves from the world, it’s virtually impossible to allow God to deepen our understanding of what it means to abide in Him. There is no shortcut here. You must do this. And you must challenge your students to do it.

Listen

You pray. And prayer is the language of our relationship with God. But like any conversation, prayer is a two way street. We must listen for God’s response. So the question is, does your prayer life include time to listen for God’s response? Pray with expectancy. Pray expecting to hear God’s voice in the silence, or through Scripture, or through the voice of a Christian friend. One of the most important things you can do is to lead your students to embrace this value in their own prayer lives. 

Engage Your Heart

Part of “being” is connecting with the emotional side of your relationship with God, as opposed to growing in knowledge of God. Both are vital. But engaging your heart happens through praise and worship, through meditating on the psalms, through a heightened awareness of God as He is seen and experienced all around you, and so on. This is one of the hardest things for us and for our students to do because of how we live our lives in our culture. But it’s such a vital part of “being.”

A focus on “being” can seem abstract. After all, “doing” is measurable. It makes us feel like we’re, well, doing something. While the doing of our faith is important, doing without being can lead to an empty faith. We don’t want this for ourselves, and we sure don’t want it for our students.

What do you think? What are some ways you lead students to focus on the “being” of their faith?