Why Engaging Teens with Scripture is Mission-Critical

Written by Joshua Cooley
Published on January 29, 2021

Parents. 

Teens. 

Scripture. 

In the great mixing bowl of life, these things don’t always seem to blend together very well—or that often. But they should! 

Any genuinely committed Christian would agree that the regular study of God’s Word is vital for our faith. But when it comes to consistently reading the Bible with an adolescent son or daughter and engaging them in spiritual discussions, many parents stay out of the kitchen altogether. 

If you have a teen, it is your spiritual duty and privilege—yes, even great joy!—to dive into Scripture together on a regular basis. 

For some, this might sound like a daunting task. If that’s you, take heart! God’s Word provides us with purpose and hope, and his Spirit equips us for the task. 

1. Scripture is God’s self-revelation to humanity.

The Bible is the world’s greatest theology book. While “theology” often gets a bad rap as too inaccessible for the average layperson, it is vital to our lives. Theology is simply the study of who God is and how he relates to his creation. 

In the inspired, inerrant, and sufficient words of Scripture, the eternal God of the universe has revealed everything he wants us to know about himself. Incredible! 

The Bible is God’s divine love letter to his image-bearers, revealing life-changing truths about himself, his great love for us, and his eternal salvation plan to redeem his chosen people. With that in mind, why wouldn’t you want to open Scripture with your teen? 

2. Scripture provides the true worldview.

Have you ever pondered any of the following questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What’s my purpose in life?
  • What’s the origin of the universe? 
  • What’s right and wrong, and who defines it? 

Of course you have. We all have. These questions are foundational to the human experience. Teens are starting to ask these questions, too. They’re entering a life stage where existential thoughts are developing and worldviews are forming. 

They’re also perhaps at their most vulnerable phase—seeking answers, questioning boundaries, craving acceptance, and fearing rejection. While not as trusting as younger children, their values and belief systems are still like an unfinished artistic canvas, open to inspiration. 

Satan, the world, and their sinful flesh would love to smear it with lies. It’s imperative for us to insert the absolute truth of God’s Word into a teen’s quest for understanding. If Scripture doesn’t shape their worldview, something else will. 

3. Scripture is God-breathed and unchanging.

In a world that is constantly (and often dangerously) in flux, isn’t it good to know God’s Word is unchanging? That’s because God himself is unchanging (Malachi 3:6). Jesus said God’s Word is more permanent than the universe itself: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35 ESV). 

Scripture is also divinely inspired. God himself authored it, using the agency of various human authors (2 Timothy 3:16–17, 2 Peter 1:20–21). So it’s fully trustworthy. 

We can assure our teens that when they submit to God’s Word, they are building their lives on spiritual bedrock that can weather any of life’s tempests (Matthew 7:24–25). 

4. This is your God-given responsibility.

Did you notice the title of this article? Engaging your teen with Scripture is “mission-critical.” That’s because, as a parent or spiritual caretaker, you’ve received a sacred commission: to love God with your whole being and proclaim his glory to the next generation. 

The origins of this commission are found in the great Shema (ancient Hebrew for “hear”) passage of Deuteronomy 6:4–9, where God told Israel: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (v. 6–7). 

The Shema’s call is just as pertinent for us today as it was more than three thousand years ago. A parent’s role as a child’s primary spiritual shepherd is not to be farmed out, either purposefully or through neglect. 

God can certainly use many other vehicles for growth in a teen’s life (e.g., church youth groups, conferences, Christian schools and camps, parachurch ministries, etc.). But his design is for spiritual instruction to come mainly within the family context (cf. Psalm 78:4, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4). 

5. God wants the generations to know his truth.

While we think too often in finite, limited fashion, God is eternal, and he thinks as such. He wants his truth passed down through generations. 

Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Verses 5–7 describe a process where at least four consecutive generations hear this truth “so that they should set their hope in God” (v. 7). 

It’s not just about our teens; it’s about the generations they will affect. We need to enlarge our perspective to align with God’s amazing plan! 

6. You’ll grow, too! 

Any teacher will tell you they learn more by teaching, just as a writer improves by writing. As you help your teen grow in their faith, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you’ll grow in yours. 

And let’s face it: What better way is there to bond with your teen than around the Word of God? 

7. Scripture reveals the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.

As you engage your teen with God’s Word, you’ll have ample opportunities to share Scripture’s core message: the life-changing news of the gospel. More than anything, this is why we must constantly and prayerfully place God’s Word before our youth. 

It’s truly a matter of eternal life and death. 

Remember the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14–15). 

Time to get started 

There’s so much more that could be said. We will never plumb the depths of God’s Word or his great love for us in Christ. Praise the Lord for that! 

Yet as you travel this journey with your teen, don’t forget: Your hard work does not guarantee a changed life. God redeems and sanctifies, not us. Your job is to faithfully pray and proclaim his truth. 

But remember God’s wonderful promise in Isaiah 55:11: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

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Joshua Cooley

Joshua Cooley is a New York Times bestselling author and a fulltime children’s minister. His latest book is a 365-day teen devotional entitled, Creator, Father, King: A One Year Journey With God. His other books include The One Year Devotions With Jesus, the Heroes of the Bible Devotional, and The Biggest Win: Pro Football Players Tackle Faith. In 2018, he teamed with Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles to co-author the star quarterback’s bestselling memoir, Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds. He lives in Durham, N.C. You can visit his website at www.joshuacooleyauthor.com.

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