Five Spiritual Practices for Today’s Teen | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
January 2024

Five Spiritual Practices for Today’s Teen

By Cindy Click

In our post-pandemic world, it is increasingly challenging for families with teens to make church a priority on their bursting calendars. By giving youth tools to practice their faith regularly within the church building’s walls and (maybe more importantly) beyond, we can nurture the relevance of their spiritual lives.

1. Prayer

Demystify this practice by reminding students that anybody can pray in any place and at any time. Help youth become comfortable by encouraging them to lead prayer in a safe group setting (remind them that you can’t do it wrong!), and then offer them easy language they can fall back on. Sharing phrases such as, “Please join me in an attitude of prayer,” or “My joy today is the joy of being here!” can help them find common, comfortable ground.

2. Gratitude Journal

Much like prayer, the practice of being thankful can result in great changes within each of us. By writing down what we’re grateful for and making the list different each day, we expand our recognition of the abundant blessings around us. Help youth develop an attitude of gratitude by providing fun journals and pens; consider text reminders to complete their list daily or weekly.

3. Spiritual Friendship

We all have friends who fill different needs in our lives, from those who are the life of the party to the ones we count on for a coffee date or a game of pick-up basketball. But who are the friends you can ask to pray for you or with whom you can be totally honest about how you’re doing? Talk with students about character traits we find in our closest friends and confidants. Develop small-group opportunities to nurture friendships that value traits like intentionality, honesty, availability, loyalty, and vulnerability.

4. Spend Time with Nature

Playing in a park, sitting beside a flowing stream, or even raking leaves can offer a quick boost of endorphins that makes a rough day suddenly tolerable or even great. This pick-me-up works whether we’re alone or in a group. Offer youth creative ideas for guided walks and nature scavenger hunts; lead small-group discussion time outdoors when possible. Students who love to be on the move may also enjoy walking a labyrinth and practicing body prayer outdoors (Body Prayer for Every Day.

5. Breathe

The mindfulness technique of paying attention to your breathing can calm you down, clear your head, and generally make for a better day ahead. Breath prayer is an easily taught practice that can become a go-to stress manager for teens and adults alike. Try breathing slowly, eyes closed, and repeating Psalm 46:10a, or another short scripture, as follows: Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be.

The big takeaway? Prayer and spiritual practices are important, and part of your role as a spiritual mentor is to make doing those spiritual practices as easy as possible for the youth in your ministry, whether the youth are in the church building, doing official ministry programming, or not. These tools are practical and accessible ways for youth to connect with their faith amidst the business of modern life. Each tool offers a unique path to nurture their spiritual well-being, encouraging them to find moments of peace, reflection, and connection in their daily routines. As we guide our teens through these practices, we are not only helping them to navigate the complexities of their world but also instilling in them the timeless values of gratitude, mindfulness, and community. By helping them integrate these practices into their lives, we empower our youth to build a resilient and vibrant faith that will sustain them now and in the years to come.