Helping Parents Embrace Spiritual Weirdness

When it comes to parenting teenagers, I think “awkward” is one of the best descriptors. In fact, I think many parents give up on trying to engage spiritually with their teenager because of this exact feeling—it just feels weird. As parents, it can feel weird to pray with their teenager, unnatural to ask them what they think God thinks, awkward to tell them how they see God working in them and how proud they are.

When it comes to partnering with parents, I think a big part of our job in student ministry is to give parents the courage to do the awkward things.

Somewhere between grade 6 and grade 9, as students begin to process a personal faith, parents move from CEOs to advisors, from directors to influencers, and initiating spiritual interaction or experiences doesn’t feel right—it feels “weird”. However, I feel it’s the stage when their child needs them to open up spiritually more than ever. I’ve rarely heard an adult say, “I wish my parent never prayed with me as a teenager” or “I hated it when my dad told me how he saw God working in me” or “It really turned me off when my mom was authentic and transparent about her faith journey”.

I think that awkward moments are often the most spiritual moments of all.

A few days ago I gathered a bunch of students and their parents for a final night prior to a student compassion trip. I asked the students to sit with their parents and share a visual exercise we’d done that explained their fears about the trip, and their hopes and dreams of what God might do in their life. The students thought it might be awkward, but did it. Then I asked the parents to say whatever they wanted to say to their teenager and then pray for them. For some it was the first time they’d prayed with their teenager in years, for others the first time in months they’d sat eye to eye and encouraged their teenager’s spiritual steps—awkward. The result, parents blessed their children and prayed for them through tears of joy, students prayed for their parents—many for the first time. What was awkward became a powerful moment. God was up to something, and there was nothing awkward about that.

What are some ideas you might have of how to help parents engage in the “awkward” spiritual experiences with their child? When do you think this spiritually awkward stage begins and how can we prepare parents and students for it?