Can We Teach our Teens To Fail   by Leneita Fix


This past week I led an activity with my teen small group. I asked them to write down at least 5 things they don’t like about yourself.   Next to that I asked them to write down 5 ways they keep messing up, and wish they could stop.  We then opened our Bibles talked about our sin, our need for a Savior, and His plan for us. Finally, I asked them to write the word GRACE over everything on their page.

Here was mine as an example:

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As we talked I was reminded of something I read recently by Kara Powell on the topic of Sticky Faith, “As we have examined 500 youth group graduates to see how families and churches can build a faith that lasts it’s become clear that most kids equate faith with a list of “do’s” and “don’ts”. When (note I said when and not if) young people fail to live up to those behaviors, they run from God and the church—just when they need both the most.”

It struck me as one 13 year old boy became emotional during the study declaring, “I feel like I just can’t stop messing up.”  I wonder if we (the church, parents, all of us) are not only subconsciously expecting perfection from our teens (or Bionic as Tony Myles would say. Read his earlier post on the idea here) but are we teaching them about failure

  • No One Is Righteous- NO NOT ONE…

Teach what this statement made more than once in the Bible means. I have told my uber perfectionist daughter on more than one occasion that if we could “get it together,” we would have no need for an ongoing relationship with a perfect God who loved us enough to conquer death.

  • You Are NOT ALONE

I said to a 16 year old just this week, “What’s funny to me about teens is that everyone thinks they are the ONLY ONE to make mistakes, while even the ones that seem to “have it all,” are figuring out ways to hide their inadequacies.  That feeling never goes away.”   Remind them you still mess up.  There isn’t a point where you finally get that list of do’s and don’ts totally right

  • Mistakes vs. On Purpose

An analogy I often use is, “Choosing to not study for a test and failing, is different from a pop quiz gone wrong.”  We will all mess up from time to time.  However, there is a difference if we keep playing the “how close can we get to sin without sinning ,”  or “what can I get away with” game.

  • Guilt vs. Repentance

Guilt is a feeling, that keeps us weighed down in our  failure.  Repentance turns us away from sin, embraces Grace, brings us closer to the Lord, and a genuine heart change occurs.’

  • Celebrate Failure

Try to teach students “what did you learn through this misstep,” and then coach them for “next time” on how to approach things differently.  A mentor of mine asked the questions above followed by, “How did others see Jesus in that?”

Kara Powell in the same article said her family practices saying something profound,  “Jesus is bigger than any mistake.”   The ongoing conversation needs to be that Christ WANTS us even when we slip.   He doesn’t love us in spite of ourselves, but because we are created in His image.

One 14 yr old summed it up well at the end of our study by praying, ““Thank you Lord for taking our trials and mess and molding them into something beautiful.”

What will you do to help  your youth fail well?

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