Teaching the biblical concept of submission to youth is more important than we may think as it informs how we relate to God and loves others. But there are challenges! We’ve already considered why teach submission and how to teach it to kids. In this article, we’ll look at two challenges I’ve observed to teaching youth about submission and how to respond to them.
Challenge #1 – Teenagers are on the path to adulthood
After reading some literature about teenage development I’ve been reminded I never want to go through it again!
This period of life is described as the ‘storm and stress’ years. In Patricia Weerakoon’s book, she writes,
‘A teenager’s brain changes as rapidly and as radically as his or her body does. This is because it has to undergo some serious reconstruction to get it ready for adult life… the thinking processes change from childlike simplicity and trust to complex integration, analysis and decision making that you need to function as an adult.’ (Weerakoon, P., 2012, Teen Sex by the Book, p49-50)
This creates a challenge when teaching submission. Young children are often ‘happily’ dependent on their parents and in some ways quite naturally submit to their parent’s authority.
But in the teenage years, authority is more readily questioned (and at times not trusted). Combine this with the fact that their brain is being pumped full of feel-good chemicals that make them eager to experiment and to enjoy risky behaviour, such as rebelling against authority, and teaching submission becomes very difficult.
Challenge #2 The anti-authority scripts they receive
There is so much space and time for teenagers to be conformed to worldly ways of thinking. This happens at school, on the sport field and in the casual work places. In these places, teenagers are often taught to overturn or oppose authority. This is the script being written into their lives. They are being taught to rebel against teachers, principals, coaches, referees, prime ministers, pastors, employers and parents. Ironically, teenage culture conforms teenagers to oppose authority.
A helpful way forward…
With these challenges in mind – as you teach youth (and children), the following two principles are really helpful and can be woven into a lot of you teaching:
- Uphold authority
- Promote Humility
These principles taught at a young age will form building blocks that can be built on in the future. They can become the better script for teenagers to live by.
What could it look like to weave these principles into your teaching? Here are some examples…
One week, one Christian boy was complaining to me about the amount of homework he had been given on his first day of school. He had to write out a whole page of German – can you believe it? My gut reaction was to make a joke and say ‘wow, your teacher is a bit of slave driver.’
It was just a joke (a lame one at that) but it does not necessarily uphold authority as being given by God for their good.
This small comment about homework became a teaching opportunity about submission. We were able to speak about how a teacher is given by God for their good and the student was encouraged to do his homework without complaining so that his teacher might be won over by their conduct (1 Peter 3:1).
That conversation happened on Friday night and then on Sunday a different year 8 boy said, ‘I don’t like any of my teachers’. Another teaching opportunity arose. This time the conversation went a little longer and little deeper and we start discussing whether Christians should voluntarily submit to evil authorities like Hitler.
It struck me after these two conversations that I had never given much thought to how I teach submission, especially how I uphold authority, and so maybe I had been missing out on these good opportunities to teach, correct, rebuke and train.
There are not only word teaching opportunities. In a youth ministry context, there are many times when leaders can model upholding authority and promoting humility. This may be in the way leaders listen to the youth pastor or how they choose to not jay-walk when going to get hot chips or as they chat about the strange ways of Donald Trump.
While it sounds like a topic you would most likely want to avoid, teaching submission to teenagers can create wonderful opportunities to speak the truth in love and see the next generation built up in Christ.