In Do Hard Things the Harris’ have described 5 different kinds of hard things that you and your teenager should be seeking to accomplish. First, look for opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone. I have found this to be crucial for growth in my life and have watched God change young people through this principle as well.
Second, work at going beyond the normal expectations. For instance, don’t settle for a C if you can get a B with a little more hard work. I have to admit I short-changed a lot of my education by just getting my work done instead of getting it done well. This is where a little extra encouragement from mom and dad or a friend can really make a big difference.
Third, accept challenges that are too big for you to accomplish alone. You need other people to help you develop your talents and gifts for God’s use. He also wants to use you to help someone else grow. As a youth pastor I love this principle.
Fourth, pursue things that don’t earn an immediate payoff. This sounds a lot like the process called sanctification.
Fifth and last, teens should attempt to accomplish things that challenge the cultural norm. Some examples that the authors give are dressing modestly, holding unpopular positions on socially acceptable issues like abortion or homosexuality, share the gospel with others and live as an obvious Christian. I think this area needs some thought and discussion in our particular subculture, but it is a great challenge for our young people.
I believe our young people want to accomplish great things for God if we continue to encourage and inspire them to pursue that one cause greater than themselves. As a youth pastor I want to see our teenagers do hard things first by being faithful to the daily discipline of personal worship, pursuing relationships within the church that are not always easy or comfortable, and challenging their minds to pursue truth instead of simply accepting the religion that they may have been born into. I want them to know why they believe what they believe.
I think there are several ways that we can encourage our teens to pursue these goals. First, as a parent encourage them in being faithful in their daily worship by sharing your successes and failures. Faithfulness to the word on a daily basis is difficult for any believer and I have noticed it is especially difficult for our young people to avoid being discouraged if they fail to accomplish their goals. Help them explore good options for Bible reading that are the most helpful for them.
Second, challenge them to adopt one ministry in the church and to be faithful. If they are already actively involved encourage them to seek an opportunity out of their comfort zone and make a one year commitment to it. God may use that training in the future in a way we don’t realize.
Lastly, engage them in conversations that make them reveal what they are thinking. It may be surprising, encouraging or discouraging, but it will at least help you understand where your young person is in his beliefs. One of my greatest concerns as a father is that my 19 month old son already does what he knows pleases me. This is not in itself a bad thing, but his favorite song is about the Bible and at this point I know that he does not love God or His word yet. Seek discussions that help reveal the heart of your teen. Do they pursue God on their own or are they simply going with the flow? Do they have a vibrant personal relationship with God or is it the family’s relationship? This is crucial for the day they leave the influence of your home.
As you challenge them to do hard things I believe the Lord will begin to increase their desire to know Him and in building the kingdom of God.