Although we call them spiritual disciplines or habits, we can’t let the “check list mentality” creep into our walk with God by becoming legalistic about it. I think we can agree that the goal of starting spiritual disciplines in the first place is to create a deeper intimacy with God, not keeping a list like a bunch of Pharisees.
Jesus came to get rid of the man made, law based barriers to knowing HIM and if we want our our kids to develop these habits we have to remove these barriers to get them to even try.
Barrier #1 You’re not doing it right
I think back to watching Sponge Bob trying to teach Squidward how to blow a bubble. Spongebob focused on teaching technique instead of just let Squidward enjoy blowing bubbles. This is the full episode sped up.
We can spend a lot of time on technique of spiritual habits while our kids are missing the joy and the point of why they are developing this habit in the first place.
Barrier # 2 You don’t have the right tools (Bible, etc)
Not only can we focus too much on technique, we can focus to much on having the right tool. The right “tools” could be: the right Bible , the right journal, or the right place and time to practice the habit. We have to get over the fact that no man can create the “perfect” curriculum or the perfect tool to help our kids and if you can’t find “perfect”, write it yourself.
Barrier # 3 Low Expectations
Many youth pastor’s just don’t believe their kids will do any kind of spiritual discipline so they stick with what keeps them coming like games and events. The problem is not with our kids, it’s with us if we don’t believe that teaching, preaching, and creating space to practice the basic spiritual disciplines that will grow their faith.
In the end, it really serves us raise the bar because it will grow mature kids who can then lead within our group, in time. We should at least offer them the opportunity to grow. Set the table, ring the bell, and see who shows up for dinner.
Barrier # 4 Lack of models.
My friend Tim shares a story, in his new book Youth Pastor Manifesto, about an NBA player he got to know and he asks him what brought him to the Lord and he responded, (and I paraphrase)
“Watching my dad read his Bible every morning, Seeing that, I was sold”
Many of our students have no good models to watch read their Bible, pray, quote scripture, share their faith, encourage each other, etc. This is where we can can help and equip parents to be those models. You can offer family devotions as a supplement to our lessons or set up a resource table where resources and be grabbed. I can see you shaking your head now, “They won’t do it Paul”. It’s not on us if they don’t take it, it’s on us if we don’t offer it to them.
If you are looking for some lessons on developing spiritual habits check out my small group material called S.W.E.A.T