My four-month-old daughter is going through a bit of a sleep regression. Every 1-2 hours I’m jolted awake to the sounds of her waking up and screaming in her crib. Sounds fun, right? Here’s the thing about this regression: it’s actually not a regression at all. In fact, it’s a progression. It’s around this time that babies’ sleep cycles begin to mature to resemble adult sleep cycles. It’s hard right now, but this is an important milestone to sleeping better long term. She needs to learn this new rhythm, and as her mom, I need to help her get there.
This is easier said than done. At 2am, I want to do whatever it takes to get her to calm down as quickly as possible. This actually exacerbates the problem. You see, in order for her to establish this new rhythm for better nighttime sleep, she needs to figure out how to self-soothe. I can guide her, but ultimately, she needs to be challenged to do it on her own.
We experience a similar problem in youth ministry.
We want students to grow spiritually. When we diminish the importance of their involvement by doing the work for them, we unintentionally teach students they can be passive participants in their faith. In order for them to change, they need to take steps forward on their own.
What does this actually mean?
This doesn’t mean requiring some over-the-top, out-of-reach requirements for your group on your first Sunday (if you do that, you likely won’t have a second Sunday). It means slowly and intentionally pushing them to go just one step further than where they are right now, and being there to guide them every step of the way. It means giving them a plan, letting them fail, and celebrating the wins.
- Give Them A Plan – Help your students start (or continue) this process of spiritual growth by giving them a plan for reading the Bible and discussing it with their peers. This plan should meet them where they are but challenge them to go one step further than where they are now. For example, if a student in your group has never read the Bible, challenge him to read it 1x a week. That’s 52 more times this year than last year!
- Let Them Fail – There will be times where students forget or just don’t do it. That’s okay. Spiritual growth is not linear and there is plenty of grace to go around. Our goal is not to help them get a perfect spiritual score, but to help them establish a rhythm of time with God so they can carry it on for their lifetime.
- Celebrate The Wins – The first time I watched my daughter put herself back to sleep on the monitor, I just about jumped through the roof with joy. She was figuring it out! Be your students’ biggest cheerleader. Celebrate even the smallest steps forward. They add up and they matter.
We are praying for you as you challenge students in this way. Scroll down to grab a sample pack of Soul Exercises – a curriculum specifically designed to help your students grow in their faith.