In the ”olden days”, going on a road trip required a paper map. Before you started the trip, the map was carefully examined to determine the fastest route or perhaps the route with more interesting things to see and do along the way. Since there was no GPS, even trips to an unfamiliar area of town required a map.
It is interesting how many times we throw a lot of biblical information at teens and just expect they will figure out on their own how to get themselves from where they are spiritually at the moment to becoming the strong, productive Christian God wants them to be. No wonder so many of them struggle!
Educators use mapping to shape a curriculum so that it is thorough and effective. The basic principle could be easily adapted to create a tool for young people to use to plan how they will achieve spiritual growth and assess where they are at any point in time. While none of us will ever achieve perfection, striving for it is a very biblical principle.
Give each student a large sheet of blank paper. You can purchase these in any craft store. (You want it to be at least 18 x 24 inches). The final design can be determined by each student and they may want to sketch out the design in pencil and then make the final tool in pen.
Start by having them designate areas of their map for major categories in spiritual life. These, too, may vary by student. Some may have one area for prayer and another for Bible study, while another student may place both of them under the heading of practicing spiritual disciplines. Remind them to make room for things like character traits, obeying God’s commands, faith sharing, etc. You can have students call out various suggestions which you capture for all to see and then give them time to place them on their map.
The remainder of the map can be created over time as you connect Bible lessons to items they should add to their maps. For example, you may do one or more lessons on spiritual disciplines and then have a map time when they decide where to place those items on their maps. The more they understand the importance of the items they place on their maps, the more likely they will try to reach those places in their own spiritual growth journey.
Once the map has that level of detail, it’s time to help them assess where they are currently in each area and map out how to grow in various areas. This can be done silently by the student, in one on one conversations or as a class discussion. Remember to keep the tone encouraging and not turn it into a critique of the student. You are coaching them towards a great goal not punishing them for failing to reach it on their first step.
Seeing everything on paper may feel overwhelming to some of your students. It can help to remind them about the Apostle Peter and how many times he made mistakes, but continued on his journey to spiritual maturity. Encourage them to focus on making progress and showing growth, not beating themselves up emotionally for not being perfect or actually reaching the goal. Note how even Peter seemed at times to take one step forward and two steps back, yet God still used him to teach and serve others. Have lots of discussions about repentance, forgiveness and grace.
When the lessons and maps are complete, encourage students to look at them periodically. Are they seeing growth in any areas? Do they need help in areas where they continue to struggle? How can they get the help they need? Have they become stagnant in every area? How can they begin growing spiritually again? This activity isn’t for every teen, but for many it can encourage them to be more intentional about their spiritual growth.