The Unique Discipleship Needs of Adopted & Foster Children and Teenagers.
Have you ever purchased a “One Size Fits All” product, only to get it home and discover that it definitely does not fit? I have, and its frustrating! In reality there really are very very few products that can truly fit everyone.
Often we approach the discipleship of our children and teenagers in the same “One Size Fits All” manner. But in the same way that kids are vastly different from adults, so their discipleship needs are vastly different. And to drill that down a bit further, the discipleship needs of adopted and foster kids are even more unique. One “size” of discipleship does not fit all.
While we never want to change the fundamental message of the Gospel, we do want to be aware of how we make disciples of our kids based on the uniqueness of their past and current stage of life. Here are four crucial areas to consider as we think about the uniqueness of discipling adopted and foster children and teenagers:
1. IDENTITY - Your Teenager is Trying to Figure Out Who They Are.
Perhaps more than in any other stage of life, identity formation is highly prevalent in the teenager experience. It’s during these years that they truly wrestle with who they are in their core. Social identity, sexual identity, cultural identity, political identity and on and on . . . Each of these identities is a piece of the puzzle that makes up their being. Yet as Christians, we want to find our primary identity in being children of God. There is no greater identity than to know that each of us that have committed our life to Christ, are sons and daughters of almighty God. But it can be so difficult to embrace that fact fully when you are in the middle of discovering who you are outside of your relationship with God. Have a conversation with your teenager about who they think they are - what identities they personally embrace - and how they think those identities go along with being a child of God.
2. OWNERSHIP - Your Teenager May Not Have Truly Owned Their Religion Yet.
Most teenagers have at least some concept of religion and most have experienced some level of church attendance - even if it was just on the occasional Easter service. But whether they have only ever attended church once or attend church once a week, its during the teenage years that they begin to decide what they believe about faith and God. It’s often during these years that they begin to take ownership over their religious beliefs. They will no longer simply accept what they were told by well meaning parents or pastors or Sunday school teachers. They want to truly know what they believe - they want to truly believe what they believe. As parents we can help guide them, with out judgement - with out pressure - understanding that they might not yet be ready to fully embrace this whole Jesus story. We must be patient - we must allow the Holy Spirit to work in their life - we must be available to be used by God in their life.
3. TRAUMA - Your Adopted or Foster Child or Teenager has Experienced Great Loss.
The trauma piece is huge for adopted and foster kids. In virtually all cases, they have experienced the great loss of one or both biological parents. This loss could be from death or abandonment, or the removal of a child from their birth home. Beyond loss, many of these teenagers have also experienced severe neglect and abuse. What these kids have gone through is not the typical experience of an “average” person. And because of that fact, our adopted and foster kids see the world - and see God in a very different ways. We need to understand that because of their unique trauma, our discipleship efforts need also be unique.
4. INFLUENCE - Your Kid Experiences Countless Conflicting Influences on a Daily Basis.
In every corner of their world, kids are confronted with countless influences - some good - some hurtful. Billions of dollars are spent every year to influence this specific demographic of young people. When we as parents and youth workers communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to our students, we need to understand that there are potentially dozens (if not many many dozens) of influencers communicating the opposite message to them. Understanding what they are being influenced by can help us talk to our kids about God.
These four areas make the discipleship of adopted and foster children and teenagers very unique and potentially quite challenging, but understanding this from the beginning will help us better communicate with our kids about God.
One size does not fit all.
by Arthur C Woods
Need More Help Talking To Your Adopted or Foster Teenager About God? Check out the latest video & discussion series by Arthur C Woods, called Trusting The God of The Gospel. This 8-Session course will help you as a parent or youth worker walk through the Gospel message with your teenager, in light of their past. Available at: www.TrustingTheGodOfTheGospel.com