Helping Teenagers Live Out God’s Purposes by Rick Warren
The most fundamental question that teenagers in your community will ever wrestle with is, “Why am I here?”
Unlike past generations, teens today aren’t looking for the meaning of life. Instead, they’re searching for meaning in life, a purpose for living, something that makes their lives worth living.
The fact is they’re seeking the very thing for which God made them, and that’s why it’s important you consistently teach teens about their purpose in life.
The Bible teaches that God made everyone – even teenagers – with a purpose.
For instance, in Colossians we’re told, “For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible … everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him”(Colossians 1:16 MSG).
Do you think you would see a difference in the life of your teenage son or daughter if he or she felt truly and wholly accepted by God? What if they understood – deeply – that they belonged to the family of God? Or that the hand of God will guide them – deliberately – throughout life?
How do you think your teens would react if they discovered that God created them for a specific mission in life, and he’s ready for them to start on that mission right now, regardless of their age?
Frankly, all of this is true, but I think we often lose focus of this as we face the day-to-day challenges of ministering to teens in the 21st century. Yet, the Bible teaches that God had 5 purposes in mind when he made each one of us. Discovering and living these purposes is the single most important thing any of us can ever do, and as pastors, teaching these 5 purposes to our teens is foundational to truly training them in the ways of the Lord.
Teenagers were created by God to fulfill these 5 purposes:
1. Every teenager was planned for God’s pleasure
Can you imagine how different teenagers would be if they really, truly believed that God made them for his own joy. It is such an important truth to tell teens that the first purpose for living is this: You were planned for God’s pleasure.
Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased”(NLT).
Yet, most teenagers struggle with love and acceptance. We need to build into their lives the precious knowledge that they were created as an object of God’s love. And our kids need to know that there is nothing – absolutely nothing – that can stop God from loving them. He loves and accepts teenagers, regardless of piercings and tattoos, exactly as they are.
2. Every teenager was formed for God’s family
Teenagers search for a group where they can belong, a place where they can feel accepted. And I believe they do this because God created each one of us with a longing for belonging.
He gave us this longing because his second purpose in creating us was for us to become a member of his family. Ephesians 1:5 teaches us, “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family.” (TLB)
Teens might wonder if some of their friendships will survive a single summer. Yet, God’s family – and our relationship with believers – is going to extend for eternity. We need to teach our teens that the Christian life is not just a matter of believing; it’s also about belonging. God didn’t create us just to be believers; we’re also made to be belongers to the family of God.
3. Every teenager was created to be like Christ
God created each one of us to be like Christ, and we call that discipleship. God made us to transform us into the likeness of his son, Jesus Christ.
As we’ve often heard from evangelists: There isn’t – and never was – a Plan B in God’s design. You need to convey to your teens the sense that they were not an accident. Your teens’ births and families are all part of God’s original plan. Even if there were mistakes in the past, God works all things out for those who call upon him and are called according to his purpose.
God is still working the same plan he’s always had from the very beginning of time.
As pastors, God’s plan needs to become our plan – immediately. Our goal needs to be to help our teenagers become more and more like Christ. Part of the process is helping them understand how God is going to take them through everything Jesus went through – including loneliness, temptation, unpopularity, criticism, and more. Only then can they truly become like him.
Looking over that list, it sounds like Jesus lived the American teenage experience. Yet, often when our teens experience these circumstances, we do everything we can to fix the problem, without taking the time to determine if this is something meant to make our teen more Christ-like.
Helping our teens see their problems from God’s perspective will help them submit to his sovereign hand as he works to make them more like Christ.
4. Every teenager is shaped for service
God created each of us to serve him, and in the church, we call that ministry. Ephesians 2:10 teaches, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT).
Every Christian is created to serve, and that means teens are called to ministry, created for ministry, saved for ministry, and uniquely gifted for ministry. The Bible makes it very clear that every Christian is a minister, regardless of age.
We need to teach our teens that they need not wait until they get older before they jump into ministry. The God of the universe shaped them to serve, and they can start right now.
And the earlier your teen starts, the sooner God’s fourth purpose for his or her life – Christ-like service – will develop deep within.
5. Every teenager was made for mission
Do you think your teen would be encouraged to know that God created him or her for a specific mission here on Earth?
Jesus said in John 17:18, “[Father], in the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world” (MSG).
Every believer needs a ministry to believers, and a mission to unbelievers. Teens can do both, serving believers and evangelizing unbelievers. In fact, you might even involve entire families as you all go on a mission trip together or in reaching their neighborhood for Christ.
Studies show most people who come to Christ – at least in the United States – come to him before they turn 18. Other studies show people are far more receptive to hearing the Gospel from a friend than a stranger. This combination gives Christian teenagers an incredible opportunity for ministry and mission.