21 Things Every Christian Teen Should Do Before High School Grad
High school students: listen up! You are growing up in a world that expects very little of you and sadly does not challenge you very much to pursue personal growth. You are living in an entertainment culture (think movies, youtube, social media, video games etc.) that does almost nothing to help you develop skills, habits, attitudes, and life-shaping experiences that will benefit you later on in life. Actually, scrap that – many are ones you could use right now!
Let me take just a few minutes to challenge you to get outside of your comfort zone, do something different than everyone else around you, and try some things that will stretch and grow you. Don’t settle for the lame standards our culture has of you. Become all that God created you to be!
- Read through the entire New Testament. It’s not unrealistic to think that you could read through the entire Bible; in fact, it takes an average reader about 20 minutes a day to do that. But given the really poor Bible-reading habits of modern Christians (as noted by my youth ministry comrade Bryan Windle here), I think starting with the New Testament is an extremely realistic goal, even for a slow reader. Christians of yesteryear literally were killed trying to preserve a Bible for you and I to read. Millions of Christians across the globe would give their left arm for a copy of the Bible in their own language. As someone who likely has several kicking around (that might be collecting dust!), you are priveliged. Read it, and let God speak!
- Lead someone to Christ. I can’t think of a greater honour than to be the agent God uses to bring someone to him. I should clarify that technically you can’t guarantee someone will convert even if you are a great evangelist. The results are up to God. But let’s be real – most high schoolers don’t lead anyone to Christ because they have never tried. What are you waiting for?
- Befriend an older saint. Did you know that youth groups are a modern invention? Back in the day, churches almost never separated off into age-divided groups. Instead, they all meet together. I’m not advocating this as the way to go, but cutting off relationships from people older than you is a mistake. Don’t you think that the lady in your church who has been walking with Christ for 40 years has a few things to teach you? A few stories that might be interesting? A few experiences that might shed some serious light on issues you are facing? Of course! It’s your responsibility to seek out a relationship. Heck, how about starting with just one conversation! Go and make it happen.
- Start saving – and giving – money. This, obviously, assumes that you have a job. Even if your parents give you enough money to spend or take care of your expenses, you should start getting your own income and learn how to manage it. The habits you form with money now will define how you treat it for the rest of your life. Start saving for the future, for school, a car, a house, a wedding, and maybe even retirement. One of the smartest things I have ever done was open a RSP when I was 19 and started saving $50 a month in it (that’s all I could afford at the time!). I ended up using some of the money as a down payment on my first house. It never would have happened if I wasn’t putting money aside early on! In addition to saving, you’ll need to develop the habit of giving. This would include a regular, systematic giving to your church (many Christians aim for the 10% rule), and the occasional charitable donation. Don’t think that you will start giving later on when you make more money. It never happens that way. You start giving when you are young, and it simply becomes a great life habit. After all, it is more blessed to give than receive!
- Get involved in a missions project. I say “missions project” and not “missions trip” because travel for some is impossible or impractical. Wether it is close to home or abroad, get involved in some project that is oriented towards helping people. It could be renovating a local soup kitchen over the summer, building houses in Haiti, sharing the gospel in Uganda…doesn’t matter, just don’t spend your teen years sitting on a couch or sleeping in bed till noon. Get out there and make a difference!
- Share the gospel with a stranger. Does the thought of going up to a complete stranger and saying “Hey, can I talk to you about Jesus?” sound crazy? Does it freak you out? Good! That’s exactly why you should do it. No one grows by doing what is safe, or doing what they are used to. People grow by doing something different and outside of the ordinary. Give it a try and see what happens!
- Share the gospel with a family member. If you are like me, this is way scarier than witnessing to a stranger. After all, we’ll have to see family members again and Christmas and Easter. What if we totally weird them out, or they get offended? It could go down that way, but maybe not. I tried sharing the gospel with one of my relatives for the first time a few years back. It scared me to death to do it, but the conversation actually went really well and opened up a door in our relationship. Don’t chicken out. You can do it!
- Find out about your grandparents. I have found that my grandparents, or people my grandparents age, are some of the most interesting people to talk to. I’ve heard stories about life before automobiles, what it was like to really be poor, play baseball with a stick and rolled up ball of tape, and even have bombs go off in the front yard during a war. The stories your grandparents could tell makes Call of Duty sound lame. Go, ask, and listen.
- Get your drivers license. Quit making your parents drive you around, or your older friend with a car. Get some independence!
- Learn the art of conversation. One man I know, who is in his 50’s, told me recently about an encounter he had with a teenager. He was sitting at a table at his son’s high school football banquet, and strangely ended up as the only adult with a table full of high schoolers. He turned to the one sitting next to him and said, “Hi, I’m Craig.” The guy looked at him, said “Oh,” and started texting on his phone. Wow! Even many of the teens I know admit they have lousy social skills. You don’t have to be an extrovert, but you do need to be able to talk to people. Next time you are sitting in a waiting room somewhere or standing at a bus stop, why not strike up a conversation with the person next to you? Quit using your phone as a safety blanket and learn to talk to people.
- Get a global perspective of your life. The average person on planet earth has never used a computer, is uneducated, owns less clothes than you wear in a week, and has no idea who Justin Bieber or Santa Clause is. It’s sad, but most of us really have no idea how much we live inside a bubble. Travel, read, watch documentaries, or do whatever it takes to learn more about other cultures and come to appreciate what you have.
- Volunteer with kids. Statistically, most of you reading this post will be a parent one day. Why not get used to being around kids now? The worst it can do it cultivate your imagination, humble your attitude, make you grateful for what your parents have put up with (from you), learn some responsibility, and find out that it is actually a lot of fun.
- Do something you would never ordinarily do. I leave this open-ended so that you can fill in your own blank. Are you shy? Try public speaking. Are you an indoors person? Camp out overnight. Are you a TV watcher? Try reading a book. Just try something new and let it give you a broader perspective on things.
- Unplug for one week. It’s scary to think how attached we are to our technology, when only a few generations ago none of it even existed. People used to do manual labour, go for walks, and socialize while cooking or hand-washing laundry. Yet our generation is one that seems to complain an awful lot. You may not realize it, but technology is shaping who you are as a person. It’s not a sin to use it, but it is wrong to let it master and control your life. Fight back by unplugging. My guess is that for many of you, the thought of ditching your phone, internet, and television for one week sounds horrifying. What in the world would I do? Well, try some stuff that’s probably a lot better for you, like praying, painting a picture, and sitting at the table with your family. You know…productive, creative, and relational stuff.
- Fundraise for a worthy cause. This generation is one that hears of a terrible plight, is outraged by the injustice, shares it on social media, and then moves on. Let’s admit it: we stink at making a difference. Instead, try taking action. Find a worthy cause and do something about it. If you think you are unqualified, you aren’t. Even a 13-year-old can do it.
- Plant a tree. Stop for a moment and think about how many chopped-down trees you personally have benefitted from in your life: every spiral notebook, every pencil, every piece of furniture, every building you’ve ever been in. Why not give back?
- Come up with a life mission statement. This is a cool exercise that will make you think about things you probably never (but should) think about. What are you here for? What kind of a life do you want to live? What kind of a person do you want to be? What imprint do you want to leave on the world? What has God put you on this planet to do? Answer these questions with one concise, inspiration-packed statement that makes your heart sing. (If you are interested, this is mine: to raise up the next generation of Jesus-followers who will change their world for Christ.)
- Learn how to cook and clean. Eventually these are skills you are going to need in life. Don’t wait until you are at college or university before you figure out how to sort colours or make a stir-fry. Maybe start by washing your own clothes and cooking a meal for the family once a week.
- Forgive anyone who has wronged you. Letting bitterness linger is like the insect that walks onto a spiders web thinking he can walk away any time he pleases. Before long, he is tangled up so tightly he can’t get loose, and the fangs of his enemy are upon him. Satan loves to prey on people who don’t forgive those who have sinned against them. Don’t fall into this trap.
- Ask forgiveness from those you have wronged. It works the other way too. Far too often we remain in pride and refuse to acknowledge our mistakes. We either ignore them and hope they will magically disappear (they don’t) or excuse them away (denying the truth). Take responsibility for your action. Ask forgiveness and if it is within your power, make it right.
- Do a random act of kindness. Actually, I should make this one plural: do random acts of kindness. Loving one another is not a rare, one-time thing. It should be a lifestyle. But, it becomes a lifestyle by starting somewhere. Pay for the person in the drive through behind you. Write a note of encouragement and leave it for someone to find. Send a gift anonymously. Just do something. And please, don’t film it and post it for the world to see! Matthew 6:2-4 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
I’m sure there’s so much more that could make this list. What do you think? What would you add?