Whenever I read titles like this, there’s a part of me that hopes for a simple mathematical formula where x + y = z, and that if I do these exact things then I’ll get the results that I am hoping for. Yet we all know there are no hard and fast rules about helping young people to deepen their faith. However, these are some useful guidelines that I believe might just inspire you to try something new.

Young people are in a season of life where they are in more places and with more people of diverse thinking and opinions than ever before, which also means that they are more likely to engage with Christians and Christian groups. That means that young people are influenced by us – what we do matters.

Relationship and experience

Okay, so this is technically two concepts in one, but I’m going to put them together and you’ll see how they are linked.

Over the lockdown period, Youth for Christ interviewed numerous young people about their faith journeys and how they came to find and follow Jesus. Two threads appeared consistently throughout the stories of each young person.

The first, that they had a key relationship with someone who invested in them. Someone who guided them along, supported them and prayed with them. Sometimes it was a parent, sometimes a friend, sometimes a youth worker. Think of the young people you know – who is this figure in their life? Do they have one? Could it be you?

The second was that they had an experience with God, whether it was experiencing the Holy Spirit at a big festival, praying with a youth leader and seeing prayer answered, or feeling God quietly speak to them at home. It was experiencing God, not just knowing about Him, that made the difference. How might we help provide spaces where young people can experience God?

Don’t tell them how to follow Jesus, but show them

Recently, a couple of the young people from my youth group expressed that they don’t just want people to tell them about Jesus, but to show them how to follow Him. This isn’t the sole responsibility of youth workers but of the church-wide community – involving everyone from parents, peers, the worship leader, those on the tea and coffee rota, to the regular who has come for 54 years without fail. It’s about showing what it is to live sacrificially, out of a place of loving God and others. It’s letting them see how you interact with others in daily life. We need to let young people join us along the journey of life with Jesus.

We don’t need to be experts

Sometimes we can feel the pressure to provide the perfect answers to young people and that if we don’t answer their questions, then we’ve failed in some way to help them along their faith journey. Yet most young people simply desire a safe space to ask their questions, to know someone is listening and to know that God cares. In fact, digging into a topic or question together and encouraging them to seek out answers for themselves often leads to much bigger faith revelations than if we give them a short, succinct answer.

Tell your story

In research that we’ve carried out, we have repeatedly had feedback from young people about the power of testimonies. Christian young people are encouraged by them, and non-Christian young people say it’s one of the biggest things that instigates any thinking about spirituality or God. What opportunities do you have to share stories of God at work in your life?

There are no surefire guarantees in what we do, but it helps to know that God cares so much more about the young people we know than we ever possibly could. There are undoubtedly more than five ways to help young people deepen their faith, but my hope is that these will have inspired you in some way. Perhaps you could take a moment to pray for the young people you know and see if God is stirring you to start doing something new.

In research that we’ve carried out, we have repeatedly had feedback from young people about the power of testimonies. Christian young people are encouraged by them, and non-Christian young people say it’s one of the biggest things that instigates any thinking about spirituality or God.