NETology part 2 – Peer Belonging builds Personal Belief – Dan & Suzie Potter
How can a young person maintain a life authentically lived for Jesus?
We sat across the table talking with a very discouraged couple. They spoke of their son who had recently walked away from his faith? The parents lived a deep faith, were active in a good church and had a solid relationship with their son, so WHY had this happened? They told us that their teenage boy had no Christian friends and quickly followed the friends he did have, away from faith.
We have leaned into this story many times, with many parents, in many countries. Every time we leave the conversation with a broken heart and a head full of WHY?
But the “WHY” has an answer! We call it the “NET”.
Imagine, for a moment, standing on a rectangle net with people holding tight on the left and right side. This net is stretched in order to support your stance, catch your fall and launch you into the life you were created to live.
On the left side of the NET are your peers. Not just a school crowd or youth group, in which you might be included, but instead a “clique”. A “clique”, though often times has a bad connotation because of its exclusiveness, actually signifies “parallel”, people going in the same direction as you! A NET of peers or “clique” contributes security, freedom, support and a sense belonging to one another. This group is normally small, 2 to 5 people, but might include as many as 12. The NET is exclusive, but not discriminating. You process life together, share time and space, beliefs and questions, authenticity and vulnerability. The NET requires trust and trust craves commitment.
Too often as parents and Christian leaders, we believe that correct information is the key. But for the young person who has been raised with correct information, the deeper need is for correct formation. No young person forms his or her own personal beliefs. Beliefs are established as one encounters the beliefs and actions of others. One’s beliefs actually come from another’s convictions, or lack thereof. Convictions are communal, as is faith.
Thus, a young person’s beliefs are built and continue to grow, as they sense belonging with paralleling peers. This is the great strength of having a NET.
Proverbs 12:26 says: “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them away.” and Proverbs 27:17 says: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Our role as parents and leaders of teens must be to help them establish deep connections with others who will together surround, support and regularly re-launch them towards a life authentically lived for Jesus.
There are many ways to help teens establish the left or “peer” side of their NET. We look forward to sharing these ideas with you in future NETology blogs, as well as the crucial adult element on the right side of the NET.
We would love the opportunity to coach, consult or bring a special NETology course to you or your area. Written by Dan & Suzie Potter November 7, 2016