There is a trap we fall into as it pertains to our discipleship efforts with teenagers. It's a common pitfall for all of us who lead young people (including our own children) in their faith journeys.
If we're not careful, our efforts at disciple-making can be motivated more by wanting to see our students (or our children) act right. Or more appropriately, to want to see them not act wrong.
Sure, we want to see them live their faith. We want there to be no separation from what they believe to be true about God and His Kingdom and how they conduct themselves in this world. We want to see their identity tangled up and intertwined with Christ. In Paul's words, we want them “hidden in Christ.”
But in our desire to see this, we do the only thing that is measurable. We do what we feel we can control. We focus on their “bad” actions, hoping that maybe in our misguided zeal we can pester them enough that maybe our voice ringing in their ears will keep them from doing something they shouldn't. Oh to be sure, we praise their “good” actions. Which is maybe the worst part of all . . .
Shouldn't we be concerned about the way our students and children act? Of course we should. We are called to imitate the character of God in this world. If this is so, what's wrong with being motivated by the end product of behavior? Is there abetter way?
There is a better way. But we have to come to grips that the better way is much harder for us to control. In fact, it has very little to do with us at all.
The better way is to consistently unfold to our students who Christ is. The better way is to reveal to them through God's Word Jesus' message and mission. To talk to them all the time about what He did for them. About what He does for them. To model for them a life affected and impacted by this truth. The better way is to trust in the Spirit and His work of sanctification. The better way is to do all that we can to help our teenagers abide in Christ.
If we will do this, if they can begin to internalize the Gospel and to be broken down and built up in it over and over again, the funny things is the actions we're so concerned with will become more and more in line with their identity as Christ-followers. But their actions will be motivated by a love for Christ, not a love for feel-good morality.
There is a level of surrender in this. But if we trust God's message to us in the Bible, we know that this is the better way . . . the only way . . . to see our children, our students, and our selves own a faith recognizable to the faith Jesus speaks of in the Scriptures.