This weeks’ blog post is by Dee Gibson, CEO of Compass Rose Academy. To learn more about Dee, click here.

I recently had the opportunity to bring the message in an area church. I titled the message, “Leaving a Legacy of Faith.”  In my effort to bring a message that was relevant and “on point,” I asked our students what they needed from the adults to help them be successful. What I shared in my message to that local church, and now with you, is what I learned.

In my interviews there were four reoccurring themes that emerged over and over:

  • Value: While teens today may not always act like it, they value and want adults in their lives.
  • Pressure:  Teens today feel a lot of pressure as they grow up. Pressure to be successful in school/life, pressure from peers, pressure about drugs/sex/ and the like.
  • Exposure to a relevant faith: Teens reject an irrelevant faith, but crave answers to life’s most perplexing problems and mysteries that are answered by a relevant deep faith.
  • Family matters: Teens have a better chance of successfully navigating their teen years if they have a strong family nucleus around them.

With the help of the teens I interviewed and nearly 40 years of working with young people I have come up with six principles of leaving a legacy of faith. And the good news is they are all doable and do not require a special degree or training.  All that is needed is your willingness and being intentional.

  • Be Available. It has often been said, “It’s not the quantity of time, but the quality of time.”  However, this is only partially true. Meet a person on their own terms by showing interest in their activities and creating memories. If long distance is a factor, do what you need to do to stay connected! Even if teens don’t respond like you think they should, don’t give up. They often are getting much more than you think.
  • Be a Role Model: This is more than being a good example. Show them how to live a life of faith in action (etc. marriage, finances, fun things). Living in a fallen world means trials and challenges. Today’s teens should see how we handle life’s ups and downs.
  • Be Accepting. I asked a student, “What do you most want the older generation to know about today’s teens?” He responded, “I’d like them to know we are under a lot of pressure.” Not passing judgment is key. I’m not saying have no boundaries or expectations, but rather recognize that we live in changing times, and some things matter a lot and some not so much.  Focus on “majoring on majors rather than majoring on minors.”
  • Be a Good Listener. Listening is a learned skill, it’s not automatic for most of us. It is a skill we need to learn and be intentional in using with the teens in our lives.  Often times rather than really listening to the other person we are thinking about how we will respond rather than listening. Focus on their interests. Young people like to hear in small doses stories of what life was like when you were young.
  • Be an Encourager. There are few things in life more powerful than an encouraging word. Author Gary Smalley wrote an entire book entitled “The Blessing” and I’ve never forgotten its central message: there is great power of a parent/grandparent giving a blessing to their children through the spoken word.
  • Be Faithful to the Faith. David Kinnamen from The Barna Group (a Christian research organization) says our young people are leaving the church today at record setting pace because young people do not feel church is relevant to their daily life. However, the teens I interviewed and my experience indicates that when presented with a relevant faith that helps them respond to life’s difficult questions teens are not only open but want to know more about God and His plan for their life.  We live in a fallen world. Don’t grow weary…be faithful to the faith.

In your personal relationships, you too can redirect, rebuild and restore the lives of kids and families by leaving a legacy of faith.