How to help teenagers find God’s purpose for their lives

Brad M. Griffin Image Brad M. Griffin | Dec 7, 2022
I have a career in mind that I want to do, but I don’t know if that’s what God wants for me. What if I pursue it and it ends up not being God’s best for me? I will have spent four years studying something only to scrap it and start all over. I keep changing my mind about what I want to be. I’m wondering how many times it will change before I finally land on what God wants me to do.

Lilly nervously admitted her anxiety about the future. As a person who wants to follow Jesus and live out God’s purpose in her life, she wants to figure out “God’s best” and “what God wants.”

Do the teenagers in your ministry ever worry about the future like Lilly? Like somehow God has a plan, but they have to figure it out, solve the mystery, put all the puzzle pieces together, or whatever metaphor they’ve heard about how this seems to work for other people?

That can be exhausting. I remember feeling this exhaustion. I’m pretty sure I was asked at least once about my post–high school plans every single day of my senior year. This year I have a daughter who’s a senior, and I see the same tiring cycle.

Maybe, like Lilly, our teenagers have had well-intentioned people in their lives who teach about God’s plan in a way that ends up stressing them out. Lilly shared that her middle school pastor “really emphasized knowing God’s vision for us. Ever since then, I’ve been tripped up about different paths I’m interested in, wondering which is God’s vision for me. I have always been told that our purpose as humans is to advance God’s kingdom, and I want to do that. But I’m stressed because I don’t know how I’m supposed to do that.”

In other words, maybe we’re the ones unintentionally stressing them out—the leaders and supportive adults who care about them and see such potential in them and can’t help but share our excitement about what God could do through them.

Lilly was one of the teenagers we interviewed for our 3 Big Questions research about identity, belonging, and purpose; many others in our study felt the same pressure to have a clear sense about their future. One senior said he “feels like a failure” because “it feels like everyone else knows exactly what they’re going to do. Not knowing makes you feel out of it and different.”

God has a plan for that

As caring leaders, we often need to take it down a notch or two. The thing is, God’s plan isn’t a game. And God’s desire isn’t to trick anyone or lead us the wrong way or shame us for choosing badly. Our students need to hear this.

Today’s anxious, adaptive, and diverse teens are longing to hear our reassurance that their story has a place in God’s bigger story. If you have teenagers in your life who are grappling with understanding God’s plan, offer them this reflection taken from our new teen devotional, 3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future:

God’s plan, purpose, vision, and future for you will unfold. You will be there, and God will be there. With you.

And maybe that’s the most you need to know about God’s plan. But here’s something more from Scripture: all things are held together in Jesus.

Read this passage:

The Son is the image of the invisible God,

the one who is first over all creation,

Because all things were created by him:

both in the heavens and on the earth,

the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.

Whether they are thrones or powers,

or rulers or authorities,

all things were created through him and for him.

He existed before all things,

and all things are held together in him. (Col. 1:15–17)

This is an incredible plan! You aren’t in charge here. You didn’t exist before all things, you didn’t create all things, and you don’t hold all things together. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been at work since before time, and we can rest knowing Jesus holds everything together—so that job isn’t up to us!

If God is holding all things together through Christ, that includes your future. It includes all the things you might be wondering about like what to do after high school, what to do after that, who you’ll spend your life with, and where you’ll go. God’s plan is to be with you, and Jesus will be holding all things together the entire way.*

3 questions to spark conversations with teenagers about purpose

Here are a few questions you can use to process with students in your ministry who are stressed about finding their purpose:

  • When you think about the future, what makes you most uneasy? What makes you most excited?
  • What are some of the ideas and phrases you’ve heard about God’s plan or purpose for you? What’s helpful or unhelpful about these messages?
  • How does it feel to know that Christ is at the center of all things, holding everything together—even your future?

Tweet this: Sometimes “finding God’s plan” feels like a puzzle teenagers can’t solve or a game they can’t win. Here’s how to help students explore God’s purpose without stressing them out.

*Adapted with permission from Kara Powell, Kristel Acevedo, and Brad M. Griffin, 3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future: A 60-Day Exploration of Who You Were Made to Be, released by Baker Books December 2022.

A new devotional for teenagers grappling with life's biggest questions

3BQF - Order Today

Life’s full of so many questions. But good answers can be hard to come by, especially when you’re a teenager. This book will help teens embrace the 3 big questions underneath the rest, then take next steps in their journey toward faith-filled answers.

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Photo By: Matese Fields

Brad M. Griffin Image
Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content & Research for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based resources for youth ministry leaders & families. A speaker, writer, and volunteer pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over fifteen books, including Faith Beyond Youth Group, 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager & 3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future, Growing Young, and Sticky Faith. Brad and his wife, Missy, live in Southern California and share life with their three teenage and young adult kids.

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