The journey of guiding teenagers in developing a devotional habit is no easy task. As leaders, it’s crucial to steer away from the temptation of resorting to sternness or imposing expectations. In this blog, we’ll explore a compassionate and effective approach to help teens establish a meaningful quiet time habit without the need for forceful tactics.
Addressing Faulty Thinking
Before diving into strategies, it’s essential to address faulty thinking that can hinder the development of a quiet time habit.
Sternness is Not Leadership
Being stern has the potential to create an environment of fear rather than inspiration. True leadership involves leading by example and showing understanding.
Completion Does Not Equal Success
Merely completing quiet time doesn’t equate to leadership success. Success lies in fostering growth and transformation, not in checking off tasks.
Non-Completion Does Not Equal Failure
A student’s failure to engage in quiet time doesn’t necessarily mean you have failed as a leader. Great leaders create a healthy environment for spiritual development, but it is ultimately the Lord’s work in the lives of individual students that will bring about the results.
Don’t Assume Students Value Quiet Time
Not every teen may understand or value the importance of quiet time. Leaders must seek to communicate its significance and inspire a genuine desire for spiritual growth.
Position Does Not Equal Relationship
Leadership positions don’t guarantee meaningful relationships. Trust and connection require intentional efforts beyond the title.
Reorienting Your Approach: Cultivating Attitudes over Actions
To guide teens effectively in their spiritual journey, you must shift their focus. Our goal must always be to change thinking, and in doing so, we will change actions. Here are some key attitudes to develop.
Attitude Over Actions
Leadership is about transforming hearts, not modifying behavior. Focusing on positive attitudes and values promotes long-term, meaningful change.
Progress Over Performance
Rather than fixating on performance (e.g., the number of days your students completed their quiet time), prioritize the progress of your students. The goal is to guide students in developing a deep and authentic relationship with the Lord.
Development Over Deed
Shift language from asking, “How many days did you do your quiet time this week?” to, “How was your time with the Lord this week?” Emphasize the development of a personal relationship with God rather than a mere checklist of deeds.
Relationship Building Before Results
Before expecting results, invest in building a relationship with each student. Demonstrate genuine care and lead by example in your walk with the Lord, allowing love for your students to guide your actions.
Three Time-Tested Strategies
1. Lead by Example – The 2 Timothy 2:2 Approach
Being the example is foundational to effective leadership in any area. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:2, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Here are just a few ways you can lead by example.
Personal Discipline: Your personal, daily quiet time (including reading, meditation on Scripture, journaling, and prayer) is key to helping others develop their quiet time habit. Your personal discipline always sets the standard for those you lead.
Accountability: Make yourself accountable to your students by sharing insights from your quiet time regularly. This will also serve as a reminder and set a positive example.
Positive Sharing Habits: Foster a positive environment for students to share what they have gained from their quiet time. Encourage them to focus on how the Word has impacted their lives.
2. Use Effective Communication Strategies
Communication is key to inspiring teens on their spiritual journeys. Here several strategies you can use to encourage students in their walk with God.
Teach Them Why: Instill the biblical principles, philosophy, and purpose behind quiet time. Emphasize that it’s about building an intimate relationship with God, not just a routine. A few great verses to use when teaching this are Psalm 1:1–3, Psalm 42:1–2, 1 Timothy 4:7b, and Hebrews 5:14.
Show Them How: Provide practical guidance on having a quiet time, both in small groups and in individual settings. Show your students how to ask questions about the passage and how to apply it to their lives. Encourage them to ask questions such as the following: “Who are the characters in the passage? Where did you see God in the passage? What did you learn about God from this passage?”
Encourage Them to Apply the Passage Personally: Use first-person pronouns like “I,” “me,” and “my.” Have students think of themselves as Bible spectators, asking, “Is there any promise for me to claim? Is there any sin for me to forsake? Is there any example for me to follow? Is there any command for me to obey? Is there anything to be thankful for today?”
3. Regularly Inspect and Encourage Your Student
Remember that you must regularly check in on your students to nurture their spiritual growth. Below are a few ways you can begin to evaluate and inspire your students.
Daily Prayer: Pray for your students to flourish in their walks with God. Remember, “we have not because we ask not.” (James 4:2)
Two-Way Accountability: Create an environment of mutual accountability. Encourage teens to share their challenges related to quiet time as well as their insights. Be patient with this. It may take time to see this come about. Be consistent in your sharing and continue to build relationships.
Peer Accountability: Foster a sense of community by encouraging peer accountability. This creates a supportive environment where individuals can learn from and inspire each other. Peer pressure is a big deal, so you will need to be patient here as well.
In conclusion, guiding students in forming a quiet time habit requires a shift from focusing on actions to cultivating attitudes, building relationships, and understanding the individual journey of each teen. Remember to lead by example, communicate the reason for quiet time, and to regularly inspect your students’ progress. By doing this, you can foster an environment where quiet time becomes a transformative and personal journey rather than a mere obligation.
John is the Director of Word of Life Youth Ministries. He and his wife Pam have served with Word of Life for over 33 years in several regions including Southern California and North East Pennsylvania. They currently live in upstate NY where John has been serving in his current role since November, 2014.