Christian meditation for teens is a wonderful way for teen girls and teen boys to learn how to renew their minds and grow closer to God. If you’ve ever wondered how to help your kids overcome negative thoughts, today’s conversation with Sarah Geringer offers great insight on how to help our kids manage toxic thoughts using the power of God’s word.
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:
- [2:41] What is Christian meditation?
- [3:42] The need to help teens manage their minds
- [5:20] How anxiety manifests in teens versus in adults
- [10:31] How parents can introduce Christian meditation to their teens
- [19:05] Providing opportunities for teens to process and manage their thoughts
- [21:48] Facilitating conversations that can transform teens’ thought lives
- [24:48] Welcoming in God’s word through Christian meditation
- [30:15] TODAY’S LISTENER SUBMITTED QUESTION: How can I be happy for a situation and frustrated by it at the same time? What do I do with my conflicting emotions?
[2:41] What is Christian meditation?
Sarah describes Christian meditation as thinking deeply and intentionally about God’s word. It’s not a mantra, nor is it self-affirmation, she says. It is the literal word of God that is your focus. You are inviting in the Holy Spirit’s presence and asking Him to reveal His truth and to help you apply it in your life, in different areas. Ultimately, that is why it has so much power: God’s word is living and dynamic and can transform us and change us from the inside out. That is what makes the idea of meditation so exciting.
[3:42] The need to help teens manage their minds
When Sarah was launching her first book, Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus, some of her launch team members had teen daughters and wanted to use the book with their daughters to help them through various struggles. Because teens deal with anxiety frequently. The most popular chapter was the anxious thoughts chapter. They told Sarah that their daughters really loved the book, and it really helped them. They asked Sarah if she had ever considered writing a book for teen girls.
[5:20] How anxiety manifests in teens versus in adults
Many teens struggle with anxiety, but it may show up in a different way than for adults. In her new book, Transforming Your Thought Life for Teens: Renew Your Mind with God, Sarah addresses negative, anxious, and impure thoughts from a teen’s perspective. As she went back into those stories in her head, she remembered what made her feel anxious at that time in her life. Because a teen’s prefrontal cortex (area of the brain) is still developing, they may not have the same ability to lean on reason and experience to help them know that everything will work out okay.
In earlier generations, there was still a greater sense of God’s sovereignty. Because of this, the sense of awe, reverence, and godly fear that we need to have to hold God in the right perspective is lost on this generation. Sarah points out that when we don’t have that core centering belief on who God is it is easy to see the world as this chaotic jungle that has no direction.
Sarah also shares that one of the dangers in making God too personal or too familiar is that we can further lose his sovereignty, and thus, that centering anchor of hope that can bring peace to anxious thoughts.
As grown Christian women, we’ve seen how meditating on God’s word is helpful. Many of us want to help our teens who are struggling with anxiety and insecurity, but we’re not sure how to help them understand Christian meditation. At first Christian meditation may sound too formal for children, but it’s possible to help teens incorporate meditation as an everyday practice, especially in the area of anxiety.
[10:31] How parents can introduce Christian meditation to their teens
Sarah recommends making managing thoughts a priority in our own life as the first component of helping teens learn to manage their thoughts. “If you have five minutes a day, that is all it will take to start centering yourself on God’s peace,” she shares. In 2003, Sarah challenged herself to read through the whole Bible in a year. Sarah used Christian meditation to choose one verse out of her reading every day to think about. She would consider how it applied to her life at that time, and what principle in the verse she could pull out.
Within about three weeks of doing that every day at breakfast time, she noticed a change in her spirit. The Bible was not unfamiliar to her, but devoting that time to reading and thinking about the Bible reprogrammed her thoughts during that process.
Story is the second component she recommends in helping teens manage their thoughts through Christian meditation. She says we need to ask the Holy Spirit for enlightenment about which the stories you should share with your teenagers, and He will answer that prayer.
She says we should share not only the good stories, but also the struggles, the trials, and the times where we felt stuck. Secular and church studies show that teenagers seek authentic conversations about faith with adults. Authenticity is key so our stories have to be real. Teens are great lie detectors, but they’re also hungry for this genuine storytelling.
Starting with a story is a way to disarm a challenging or awkward topic. If you’re ashamed of certain aspects of your story, Sarah also suggests asking the Holy Spirit to empower you with wisdom on what stories to share and courage to share them. “You can share how God helped you, or what you wish you had known at the time. Maybe there is a verse or Bible story you’ve have been meditating on. Let them know that you wish you had the courage of Joshua, or the integrity of Joseph, for example. You can just make it a normal part of your conversation,” Sarah says.
When people think about it this way, a weight comes off their shoulders, Sarah says, about sharing Christian truth with our kids. We don’t have to have whole Bible passages memorized, or go to a class focused on doctrine. We can find what God has used in our lives and share our stories with our teens.
Sarah uses this technique with her two sons, who are always in a hurry to get out the door. Often, she will read a verse of the day. She doesn’t necessarily do any commenting on it, as they are familiar with Bible stories. If your children are not very familiar, it might help to give some context. The seed she wants to plant is to start their day with God, because she hopes they will do it on their own someday.
With her daughter, Sarah reads a devotion out loud to her with the verse. It takes about three minutes while they are eating breakfast. Sarah feels like she is planting seeds, and doing her duty as a Christian mother to invite God into their day and let the Lord do the rest of the work at the stage they are at. We need to give teens a lot of space to process these thoughts on their own. As parents, we can plant and water the seeds, but God has to do the growing.
[19:05] Providing opportunities for teens to process and manage their thoughts
Christian meditation is not necessarily us telling our teens to go sit down and read a Bible. Providing opportunities for God’s word to be in their heart is a good start.
The longer conversations, Sarah shares, are opportunities to share your own stories and experiences. She sometimes asks if she has permission to share a story with her children.
“As you know if you have teens in your life, the relationship is on their terms,” she says. “You have to give them that agency to decide whether they are in the frame of mind to listen or not. It’s a sign of respect.” Once she shares her story, she asks what they think. Following the conversation, she shares that she will be praying for them and lets them know that they are always welcome to come back and talk or ask any other questions.
Sarah advises that it only takes one generation of faith not being passed on for the faith to die out. We are already living in a post-Christian society in the United States, and Christian meditation can be a good tool for keeping it present in your own life. While she doesn’t think God requires us to save the whole world, the whole country, or even the whole state or city, but Sarah points out that we can start in our own homes.
If you worry that you don’t have much time left before your child graduates from high school, Sarah encourages us to use whatever time you have left. They will be able to look back and say, “I had ten faith-based conversations with my mom,” and that matters. Those ten seeds could grow into ten plants that turn into a hundred plants later in their spiritual life. Don’t get discouraged. Ask God for help and be as honest and authentic as you can be. It will make a huge difference.
[21:48] Facilitating conversations that can transform teens’ thought lives
Sarah’s teenage daughter told her that a lot of girls would get her book as a present and then it would sit on the shelf unread. After she said that, Sarah thought about what she could do to facilitate these authentic, faith-based conversations between parents and their children, a mentor and a teen, or even a youth group leader and a group of teens.
Together with her assistant Sarah developed a 26-page book study guide to connect the adult version and the teen version of the book. It’s meant to create a framework for a slightly more formal discussion about managing thoughts using Christian meditation. There are also some suggested YouTube videos to watch together, as well as some memes to discuss.
[24:48] Welcoming in God’s word through Christian meditation
As parents, we have to understand that teens need space to think about these things in creative ways. Engaging them in learning about Christian meditation in this way is not necessarily something that has to be a certain way or needs to be forced. Ultimately, we want to support our teens as they welcome in God’s word as the barometer they will use as truth for their thoughts.
Sarah says that we should pray specifically for our teens to let God’s truth be their focus for their thoughts. She reminds us that we might be the only person praying for our specific teen, and that we are certainly the person who will pray the most fervently and lovingly for them.
We can pray that God will speak to our teens through His word, that it would come alive in their hearts and their minds, and that our teens would start seeing it as their guide for living. If you keep praying, God will give you opportunities to help facilitate that process – whether it is using these free discussion guides or having pop-up conversations with your teens. He will answer that prayer.
OTHER PODCAST EPISODES ON MEDITATION AND YOUR THOUGHT LIFE:
- Ep 27: Life Balance: Your Spiritual Self: Learning to Settle Your Soul with Ruth Schwenk
- Ep 51: How to Study the Bible (Spiritual Growth Rhythm Pt 1)
- Ep 61: Mindset Matters: 3 Ways to Calm Anxious Thoughts
- Ep 96: 10 Minutes to Daily Spiritual Connection with God
- Ep 111: What is Christian Meditation? with Sarah Geringer
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