2 Amazing Faith Shaping Skills

How are your faith shaping skills?

What I am asking is how do you move a student from uncertainty and doubt to commitment and dedication. Stephen Jones’ helpful book “faith shaping” describes 2 excellent skills that all of us who parent or work with teens can use to help students on their journey to faith…

 The Skills

Jones suggests that adults who pastor youth, faith nurture them in two ways: clarification and advocacy.

clarification – means attempting to help youth recognize, admit and answer their faith questions.

Adult faith-nurturers are also faith clarifiers. Faith clarifiers raise questions that can point the young person toward his/her own answers.

-Who open up choices for the youth and involves the young person in identifying the problem and exploring the alternatives and offering support and resources as he/she responds.

advocacy means attempting to bring the faith nearly or directly to young people. “Nearness,” in Jones theory, is bringing faith-building activities and traditions near to youth.

Directness” is presenting the claims of faith directly in an open and appealing way.

book understandingIf you click on this book you can download a free copy of my book, Understanding Adolescent Behavior

In greater detail, the two ways to advocate faith with youth are –

  1. nearness: There must be nearness (closeness) to the faithful community and its traditions, rituals, and doctrines. Jones explains that faith is near to youth when:

a) adults live out their faith in natural, expressive ways before youth.

b) when the young person feels he/she is an integral part of the church.

c) when the young person is allowed to develop deep relationships with adult Christian models

d) when families are not embarrassed to express faith and when parents verbalize their commitments.

e) when families develop and practice faithful traditions and rituals in the home.

f) when youth see how much faith is prized by the significant adults around them.


  1. directness: There must be specific times when the issues of faith are presented directly to youth. Directness is presenting the desire of God to transform a young person. Jones suggests that directness –

a) occurs when we intentionally assist young people in writing new chapters in their faith stories.

b) occurs when we share our own faith story and faith convictions

c) implies searching discussions with youth about the meaning of their personal faith.

d) includes occasions when worship is intimate, when prayer touches reality and when servant hood is suddenly eye-opening.

e) happens when we help youth address their own questions of faith

f) occurs whenever we give shape and focus to those moments when youth appear ready to open themselves more fully to God.

Using Nearness and Directness

I like these two concepts because they seem to come naturally to me. Nearness is the groundwork of relationship building and sharing the journey with a youth. In business you might call this “good will” it is developing a relationship from which you can have credibility. Youth workers call this earning the right to be heard.

I like directness because there are moments when we can be upfront with a student. We shouldn’t turn away from these opportunities. They can be teachable moments when a student is ready to hear our story. They may be asking directly, “What do you believe.”

Using directness cautiously is a good idea. There is a time and a place to “speak into” a student’s life. We may be anxious for this and become too direct too soon. There may be an urge to rush past nearness to get directly to the point.

As we carefully use nearness and directness in our interaction with students we have a greater ability to help shape their faith. If you would like to read more about this you can download my free book Understanding Adolescent BehaviorUnderstanding Adolescent Behavior EBOOK


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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com