What to Do When Teens Struggle With Faith: Bible Basics for Catholics

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"What to do when teens struggle with faith" by Marc Cardaronella (CatholicMom.com)

Image from Bible Basics for Catholics copyright 2015 John Bergsma; used with permission from Ave Maria Press. Title added by author.

Do your teens struggle with faith?

Do they have a hard time making sense out of Catholicism or seeing why it’s important?

Don’t be discouraged. You might feel helpless, but there are definitely things you can do.

As parents, you can have a lot of influence in your child’s life. You need to take action to strengthen their faith.

When teens struggle with faith, evangelize them

In a recent post here on CatholicMom.com, I wrote about what to do when your teens push back on attending Mass.

The gist was—don’t force them, evangelize them.

Raising children in the Catholic Faith these days equals being a Catholic evangelist. Faith doesn’t happen automatically after Baptism. It requires work. As well, teen culture fights against faith.

Therefore, if your teens struggle with faith, help them make sense of it. Help them see the beauty of Catholicism.

My suggestion is learn about the Catholic Faith together. Without a doubt, one of the best ways to “get” Catholicism is to study salvation history.

Learning salvation history

I did this recently with my own kids.

I did a kind of informal, makeshift Bible study using Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture for Salvation History by Dr. John Bergsma with my 14- and 12-year-old boys.

It’s one of the best resources I know for getting a grasp on salvation history.

We got together once a week, usually on Sundays, and went through the book. I read it to them, pausing to interject thoughts and answer their questions. It sparked a ton of great conversations and insights.

Salvation history and Bible Basics for Catholics

In my book, Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick, I talk about how salvation history is foundational for understanding the Catholic Faith.

“Salvation history and typology debunk the common misconception that Catholicism is random, primitive, and irrational. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Catholic faith is a sophisticated, unified network of signs and concepts that mutually interpret each other. It’s logical, organized, and reasonable” (Keep Your Kids Catholic, p. 73).

Salvation history is the story of our relationship with God throughout the centuries. We mostly get it from the Bible, but there’s some other important theological pieces mixed in, like typology.

Typology is a method of biblical interpretation that shows the connections between the different parts of the Bible. It’s a little bit like foreshadowing in literature.

Typology explains how Jesus is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. This helps you understand what he’s all about. In fact, it helps us understand everything in the New Testament…especially the Church.

“For me, salvation history and typology brought order and sense to many pieces of Catholicism….They showed me that God has a plan, that he’s not random in the least” (Keep Your Kids Catholic, p. 74).

Salvation history and typology provide the context for everything Catholic…and why we do what we do. This understanding is vital, dare I say revolutionary, for teens struggling with faith. It’s a game-changer.

With an easy-breezy style and straight forward presentation, Bible Basics for Catholics is the best way to introduce your child (or yourself) to the beauty and comprehensive unity of salvation history.

Drawing your way through the Bible

"What to do when teens struggle with faith" by Marc Cardaronella (CatholicMom.com)

Image from Bible Basics for Catholics copyright 2015 John Bergsma; used with permission from Ave Maria Press.

One of the coolest things about this book is the illustrations. They are Dr. Bergsma’s own drawings.

He developed them as a way to reach large classes of college freshman in his introductory Scripture course at Franciscan.

To help them remember, he structured the history of salvation using the covenants God made with mankind through 7 mediators: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus.

To keep their attention…he drew.

The illustrations are simple line drawings with symbolic elements to capture the important themes of the covenants. Simple…but effective.

For example, to indicate Adam is God’s son, he draws him with a shining face reflecting God’s glory.

"What to do when teens struggle with faith" by Marc Cardaronella (CatholicMom.com)

Image from Bible Basics for Catholics copyright 2015 John Bergsma; used with permission from Ave Maria Press.

Because he’s priest, prophet, king, and bridegroom Adam also has a stole, a big open mouth, a crown, and a wedding ring.

Send the right message

As I said in my last post, it’s important you do this together.

Don’t just buy them the book and have them read it. That sends the message that this religious stuff is just something adults make kids do and nothing more.

Make it a shared experience and discuss it. You giving of your time to study as well sets the tone.

If it’s important enough for you to participate, then it’s important.

Have you read Bible Basics for Catholics? Have you ever done a study with your teen? Do you think this would make a good one? Do you have any other suggestions? 

Copyright 2017 Marc Cardaronella

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About Author

Marc Cardaronella is the author of Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick coming in May from Ave Maria Press. By day he works as director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute for Faith Formation at the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO. By night he writes about Catholic parenting and how to share the Faith on his personal blog. Marc lives in Kansas City with his beautiful wife and two awesome boys.

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