What if teens could self-counsel from Scripture? Could recognize heart idols? Could know what to put off and put on? Made a habit of doing this? How could this transform Christian youth (and the Church as a whole)?
A Trustworthy Origin
After receiving an MABC from The Master’s University, my “normal life” of teaching middle school Bible has never been normal again. I am unable to respond to students as I had before. When a student seems anxious, I want to address his root issue of trust in God. I want to guide students in conflict to follow biblical principles of reconciliation. As students demonstrate a controlling desire for approval from peers, I want to address heart idols. Now I filter everything through the concepts of the gospel, put offs, repentance, renewal, and put ons. I know I need to apply biblical counseling principles to my teaching. But how? I had to figure out how to adapt what I learned to my teaching for my students’ spiritual growth.
I remembered “The Self-Counseling Project,” which required me to learn to counsel myself from Scripture throughout the semester. This assignment has changed my life, and I am indebted to whoever created it. I have learned not only how to counsel from the Word, but how to be counseled from the Word. Now I want to teach my students to self-counsel.
My instruction of “The Self-Counseling Project” to teens is far from perfect. I have only one year of experience under my belt. Any teacher knows that means there are still many kinks to work out. However, the fruit that God graciously produced through it in my and the students’ lives was beyond what I could hope for. I believe this project could turn the tide for Christian youth.
A Timely Occasion
The prevailing cultural philosophy for handling life’s struggles directs people to look anywhere except Scripture for solutions. This philosophy has found its way into Christian communities. Even Christian teens embrace this philosophy in part or whole, not noticing its dangers any more than a fish notices water.
Believing teens know the cliché, “The Bible holds all the answers,” but they do not know how to practically use the Bible to apply real solutions to their problems. Their perspective of their sanctification is usually reactive as opposed to proactive. They do not recognize common heart idols, so they pursue idolatrous desires, and are applauded by the world for doing so, which feeds the idol even more. Even as believers, they are highly susceptible to worldly thought because of spiritual immaturity (Ephesians 4:14). We must put believing teens in the driver’s seat of their own sanctification. What are some practical benefits to teaching believing teens to self-counsel?
It Gives a Real Opportunity to Apply Matthew 7:1-5
Teens can talk all day about the sin issues of Adam, David, and the disciples. It’s the classic speck in another’s eye (Matthew 7:3). The Self-Counseling Project challenges them to examine the log in their own eye, with specificity. This teaches them a godly practice that will hopefully become a habit.
It Proves that Scripture is Sufficient in a Personal Way
The Self-Counseling Project puts skin in the game for them. David’s lust for Bathsheba becomes more important to them when they see their own struggle with lust. The disciples’ self-serving desire to be greatest in Jesus’ Kingdom gains significance when they see in themselves the same heart desiring recognition.
It Instills Humility
Teaching humility is less effective than modeling humility. Modeling humility is less effective than training humility. Training humility is less effective than providing opportunities to practice humility. The Self-Counseling Project provides the opportunity for teens to practice humility. And where humility increases, pride decreases.
It Wakes Them Up to the Spiritual Battle
Believing teens who do not know they are in a fight are not motivated to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-13). They will not be sober-minded and watchful if they do not see the destructiveness of sin (1 Peter 5:8-9). Facing a sin issue and dealing with it over time will show them the deceptiveness and trapping nature of sin. Self-counseling will help them see they are in a war and that it is difficult to fight sin.
It Introduces Them to the Noetic Effects of Sin
The noetic effects of sin demand that believers do not trust their own thinking. Teens must be taught this explicitly and repeatedly. Believing teens often know they will continue to battle the sin that remains in them (Romans 7:20), but they do not realize its present effect on their thinking. Self-counseling teaches teens it takes time to renew their thinking to align with godliness, especially where sinful habits have been established.
It Presupposes That Teens Can Obey God
Many spiritual leaders seem to think otherwise, but believing teens can obey God. Nothing saddens me more than hearing from believers whose adult children are not walking in godliness. In most cases, the sad turn began during the teen years. Sometimes the moldability of this age is what frightens us, but what if we viewed it as an asset? The Self-Counseling Project helps teens mature into adulthood spiritually.
It Introduces Them to Their Generation’s Common Heart Idols
The Self-Counseling Project introduces teens to themselves in a way, such that they see more clearly what sins they tend toward. This provides opportunities for conversations regarding idols such as acceptance, attention, belonging, comfort, happiness, relevance, and safety. It also helps them not feel isolated. The temptations they face are common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13).
It Redirects the God-Given Desire for Independence
Teens want more independence, which, by itself, is not evil. This is natural. What is not natural in a biblical sense is this desire driving a teen toward evil. Self-counseling taps into the desire for independence but for the purpose of utilizing the independence to honor God (as opposed to the desire for independence leading to rebellion against authority).
It Gives Them Biblical Hope for Change
This is my favorite benefit. Experiencing true biblical change gives hope! Teens can taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8), guard their way according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:9), and put off the old self, renew their minds, and put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24). They can learn to apply self-counseling principles for the rest of their lives. When the culture tells them the Bible is obsolete and has no real solutions to life’s problems, they will be living proof to the contrary.
A Tremendous Overflow
Teens are not the only ones who benefit from learning to self-counsel. The overflowing benefits of a self-counseling teen to others has the potential to help the Kingdom of God. A self-counseling teen could positively affect…
Teens’ issues are new and everchanging, so parents get overwhelmed and tend to focus on the fruit more than the root. Guiding teens to self-counsel will help parents keep the root of the issue as the priority. It will help parents to confidently counsel their teen from the Word and give their teen independence in their own sanctification.
The Self-Counseling Project will motivate parents to self-counsel. A self-counseling parent is in a strategic position for relationships-building with his teenager. Additionally, consider the impact on adult biblical counseling in churches if parents came into the counseling room with experience in counseling themselves from the Word.
The younger a believing individual learns to apply the biblical counseling principles in Scripture, the better. Siblings are often in awe of older siblings, so why not lean into that not-necessarily-evil tendency, and provide opportunities for teens to be role models of humility and self-examination? This can model (and teach) self-counseling to children before they reach the teen years.
Parents and teens who self-counsel will strengthen churches and provide benefits to the church’s biblical counseling ministry. It is proactive as opposed to reactive.
“Teenagehood” involves peer pressure. How could teens who are well-equipped in rightly handling the word of truth impact their peers who flounder under the unbearable burden of culture to pursue godlessness? Think of Daniel, Ezekiel, Titus, Timothy, and Mary. This is an exciting thought that teens could meet their culture with a readiness from practicing habitual biblical application.