A recent statistic said that over 80% of Christian teens abandon their faith for a season. Author T. Suzanne Eller says, “As someone who has ministered to teens for a long time, I believe that teens leave a support system only to have to find out what they believe, as opposed to what they’ve heard in a sermon or celebrated as a family.” Making It Real starts that journey now, rather than later so that they are not one of the 80% who aren’t sure what they believe anymore. Whether the reader is a first-time Christ-seeker or a seasoned believer, the book is for teens wanting to know God on a personal life-changing level.
Making It Real helps teens grow their faith, no matter where they are spiritually–into a dynamic relationship with God.
For teens asking questions about their faith, like:
- How do I make my faith more personal?
- How do I turn to God in both good and bad times?
- Where is God leading me?
- Is my faith a relationship or tradition?
Family faith is awesome. Youth church is a place where teens can grow. But personal faith is a one-on-one journey. Making It Real is great for individuals as well as small cell or discipleship groups or Sunday school classes.
How can teens own their faith rather than inherit it from their families?
At some point we all need to make a decision as we ask this question: Whose faith is it anyway? It’s especially crucial for teens because they leave a support system and their faith is questioned, or they hit challenges and obstacles and dig deep for God and come up with a 1,000 sermons or their parent’s belief system and it’s often just not enough. Statistics say that over 80% of young adults walk away from their faith for a season. For some, that’s just a statistic. To me, it’s names. I could sit with you for hours and talk about the young adults who abandoned their faith for a season, and those who have never come back, and those who lost their way and are now in situations or circumstances that they never expected to be in.
Faith is so much bigger than hanging out in a church. It’s knowing and loving God, and being loved and known by Him.
You talk about four “faithbusters.” What are they?
- Living your faith by feelings – Teens get tripped up when God is only as big as their last experience–whether an awesome camp moment or a colossal mistake. Living by feelings is roller-coaster Christianity at it’s best. You are close to God and you are up. You make a mistake and you bungee down. The problem with living faith by feeling is that you turn to what feels good at the moment, instead of God when you don’t feel Him or feel worthy.
- Confusing tradition with faith – Traditions are amazing, but intimacy with God is making Him more than a habit. Going to church doesn’t take the place of seeking God, or being honest with Him about your life, or carving out a part of your day to hang out with Him. It’s not a to-do list. It’s relationship.
- Making faith a group activity only – I’ve worked with teens for a long time. I can tell you every gross food game; I can proudly say I’ve conquered mud mountain; I’ve watched teens connect with God in a beautiful way as a group in worship or service. But sometimes teens wait for the music or hype or youth pastor to tell them when to worship God. Worship is more than a song. It’s becoming a follower of Christ, even if no one else chooses that path. It’s knowing where to turn if the people you trust, like your youth pastor or believing parents, walk away from their own faith.
- Living on borrowed convictions – A lot of teens (and adults) start thinking about education at a young age. It’s a goal. But are we as educated about our beliefs? Too often Christians have enormous amounts of education, but only a 6th grade knowledge of their faith. I don’t say that to be condemning, but to encourage believers to dig deeper. Do we know who God is? Do we understand the act of the Cross? Do we understand scripture and how it applied then, and how it applies today? When you live on borrowed convictions and you have to live them out in the real world, it’s tough. That’s why I wrote Making It Real. I love discipleship. I wanted a resource that a teen could take and it be relevant and real and deep, but not complex.
Isn’t it scary for a teen to doubt his faith, or to ask the tough questions?
Many parents are fearful when a teen questions their faith, but let’s look at it another way: they are trying to make it personal. They need to understand why they believe, and as they do their faith becomes a life-long journey, as opposed to just going to church.
If your teen came to you and said, “I don’t get calculus,” you’d most likely try to help them by giving them additional resources or support or encouragement. You wouldn’t react with fear or anger.
So, what do you do when a teen is trying to “make it real”? During that time, you still go to church as a family, but you understand that Christ didn’t drag any of us to the foot of the cross. You let your teen know that you trust that he or she will find their way and that you are praying for direction. You offer resources. It’s important that your faith remain vibrant and intimate, as you turn to God and pray for your child. The average teen hears a thousand messages about spirituality or skewed perceptions of Christianity. My daughter once said, “when I thought about it, Mom, I thought about your relationship with God and I knew it was real and that was enough for me.” Your influence spiritually is so much greater than you realize. Trust God. Pray. Ask for guidance. Continue to honor God as a family, but encourage the individual journey of your child. His or her faith may not look exactly like yours, but if the foundation is Christ, then they are well on their way to an intimate relationship.
It seems your life calling has taken on so many different themes. You have a heart for student ministries, young adult women, and mothers. What’s it like writing and speaking for three different people groups? How are the dynamics different, and what one thing remains the same no matter the group?
The overall theme of my ministry is “becoming.” If you look at what I teach or write, you’ll see that theme stamped all over them. I dare to believe that God is who He says He is, and I want to become all that I can be as I follow Him. I love to share that same theme with others, no matter their gender or age.
What Others Are Saying
Making It Real will engage you and take you on a faith-building and life-changing journey,leading you daily to a powerful one-on-one encounter with God. This book connects this generation with a message that is relevant, inspiring and definitely needed.
~ Beau Herbert, President Youthfire.com
About the Author
T. Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is the author of five books and over 600 articles and columns. She is a contributing writer to Today’s Christian Woman, cbn.com, and Enrichment Journal. Suzie is a youth culture and parenting columnist, and a community mentor in The Woman of Vision program. Her books include The Mom I Want to Be, The Woman I Am Becoming: Embracing the Chase for Identity, Faith, and Destiny and Making it Real: Whose Faith is it Anyway? Suzie is a sought-after inspirational speaker who ministers internationally to groups of all sizes. She has been featured on hundreds of radio and TV programs. Suzie and her husband have three children and make their home in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. For more information, visit http://www.daretobelieve.org/
1. During this blog tour, any reader who responds to Twila Belk at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of a church or organization that is interested in having Suzie in as a guest speaker, will receive all three of Suzie’s books (up to 10 sets will be given away on a first come first serve basis).
2. If any of your readers contact Twila regarding a Bible study group or book club wanting to use Suzie’s materials, their groups will receive conference calls from Suzie to kick off or conclude their studies.
3. All readers who post a comment regarding Suzie’s books will be placed in a grand prize drawing on August 2, 2008, for a delightful gift basket!