As teenagers drag themselves out of summer and into their next school year, they have a lot on their mind. I want to access all of that “seismic activity of the soul,” so I avoid coming off like I’m interrogating them.
Instead, I gently prompt them to think beyond surface conversations. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with: “How was your summer?” or “Remind me again…what school will you be at this fall?” or “Are you gonna go out for ____ [sport/band/drama/club]?” But let’s not be afraid to go deeper, using surprising questions to invite them into a more substantial conversation…
1. How will this year be different from last year?
The Invitation: Things don’t have to be the same as they were last year.
2. What’s different about you from [this time] last year to now? Or: How will you be different as a friend to your friends this year?
The Invitation: I assume you’ve grown and changed, and I’m giving you permission to say it out loud, even if you’ve changed in ways you wished you hadn’t. It’s important to say those things, too.
3. How have you kept your spiritual life alive this summer? Or: How have you grown spiritually this summer?
The Invitation: I’m not quantifying your spiritual life by standards of time or effort, even though I believe those things can grow in a maturing believer.
Let’s not be afraid to go deeper, using surprising questions to invite teenagers into a more substantial conversation…Click to tweet
4. How will you keep your spiritual life alive when school starts?
The Invitation: It’s possible to thrive in your spiritual life during the school year.
5. How has your taste in friends changed since this time last year? Or: What do you want your friend group to look like this year? Or: How has your taste in boyfriends/girlfriends changed?
The Invitation: I assume this is another area of your life in which you’ve matured. Often, teenagers communicate that they want their friend groups to stay the same, even if they’re not the best. It’s scary to be the one who instigates a change. One teenager in my group just texted me about breaking off a relationship, and how talking with me about this hard choice helped—like reading a page from “the brave and necessary choices book.” Sometimes we simply need to ask the right questions, then hand them a pen to write that page of their book. Just opening up this possibility in a safe conversation may give them the courage they need.
6. How can I be praying for you this Fall?
The Invitation: This is something we want teenagers to count on all year round—that they have a caring adult in their corner, praying for them no matter what.