It’s important to remember that on–the-wall and behind-the-wall conversations are for one single purpose: so that the language of the empire does not prevail in the lives of our students. Faith conversations are the explicit and implicit curriculum in the lives of people of faith. We talk with our students about our beliefs, and as we do that, they are taught correct theology and doctrine. The more we chat about our beliefs, the more their beliefs are fleshed out in their lives. And the more that happens, the firmer their foundation will be.
There’s nothing special about starting a behind-the-wall conversation with your student. These conversation starters below are designed to get your “behind-the-wall” conversation started with your student. You can begin with a question or by sharing something and then inviting youth to respond.
What is your favorite scripture? Share your favorite scripture and why you love it.
Is there something for which I can be praying for you this week? Share one of your prayer concerns or how prayer has impacted your life this week.
What did you learn from the sermon? Was there anything you disagreed with? Share something you learned or talk about something you disagreed with in the sermon. Ask their opinion.
What do you think is God’s will for us? Is that different from what we want for ourselves? Share what you have learned about God’s will from your own experiences.
On-the-wall conversations are usually best started with the person modeling sharing first. Here are some on-the-wall conversation starters you can try with your student:
Share your experience of trying to live as a Christian in middle school, high school, or college. Then ask, “How difficult is it for you to be a Christian at school?”
Share your experiences of parties and how you believe Christians should respond to drinking, smoking, making out, or sex. Then ask, “How do you respond when you go to a party where people are drinking, smoking, or hooking up?”
Share your fears with your student. Then ask, “What are you most afraid of?”
Share with her something you are trying to make a decision about related to the family, a sibling, or work. Then, ask her to share her opinion about the big decisions you’re facing.
Bring up something you have seen on the news that has faith implications like abortion, war, justice issues, death penalty, hunger, etc. Then, invite him to share what he thinks about these topics.
Prayer rituals are one of the most important practices a family can participate in. They engage children in communication with God, instruct them in modes of prayer, and teach them to foster an ongoing conversation with God. Family prayer rituals should grow deeper as children’s faith matures. If all we ever model for our children is how to be thankful for our food, then we have not given them an essential tool for living.
You can strengthen your family’s prayer time by creating rituals. Here are a few ideas:
Create a non-negotiable family prayer time. Set one morning or evening every week for your family to pray together. Prayer times can be simple; they don’t have to be overly planned.
When you pray broaden your prayers to include concerns of the world, for our country, for our community, for our church, for our family, and for us.
Look for ways and opportunities to let your children participate in family prayers by inviting them to lead or, consider opening up parts of the prayer time for everyone to participate.
Take prayer concerns before the prayer. You might be surprised what they share. Model prayers that help children and youth move beyond the family cat to include our world, country, community, and church.
Create a family prayer journal. Keep a notebook where you record the prayer concerns of your family. Reference previous prayers and how the situation has improved or worsened throughout the week.
Consider using the historical prayers of the church or prayers from devotional books. You might investigate resources like the Book of Uncommon Prayer.
This may sound simplistic, but if we want our young people to love the Bible, then we must love it too. Start a family Bible study that meets once a week. You can do it during a meal. Look at the scriptures, raise questions, and search for answers together. Don’t try to be the expert, and don’t feel like you have to answer every question. Students actually value learning with their parents.
There are dozens of Bible study guides available online. Do an internet search for possible study helps. If you come up short, consider starting with www.biblestudytools.net or www.bible.org to get you started. As you study, be sure and explore the text and ask questions.
If you have small children, start a tradition of putting a short note with a scripture on it in their lunchbox or book bag to remind them who they are when they are in the world.
If your teenagers have cell phones, you have easy access into their brains. Send your youth a text every day with a short scripture verse in it to remind them that God loves them and you do, too.
Take your family to a center where disenfranchised people come for food, clothing or shelter, like a food pantry or a homeless shelter. Call the center in advance and set up a time when your family can tour, and then spend several hours helping out. Serve food, fold clothes, clean the facilities. Do whatever work you can do to give your children a feel for the kind of work that’s being done at the facility.
Make sure you plan for interaction with the people who use the services of the location where you’re serving. Consider eating with them, or interviewing them, or possibly working alongside them in the shelter. As they interact with these people, encourage your kids to chat with them, asking them questions about their lives and where they have come from.
At the end of the day, sit down with your family and invite everyone to share the experiences they had, including the conversations they had with those who live and work there. Use this interaction to ask your student disorienting questions about their experiences.
Intentional Faith Passing
On-the-wall and behind-the-wall conversations often happen as a result of crises, or moments where students are disoriented. You can create faith experiences simply by putting your students into situations where their pursuits of God are challenged in new ways. Here are a few different ideas (of varying degrees of difficulty) that will help put your child in a place where she will talk about her faith and, as a result, engage in healthy faith conversations.
Commit to doing a once-a-week spiritual practice together.
Fast one meal a week and as you do, gather together and discuss how it felt to go without food. Then, discuss why you’re not eating, and what fasting means.
Memorize one scripture passage a week and say it to each other at meal times. Discuss what it means to “hide God’s word in our hearts,” and how remembering scripture shapes who they are.
Commit to doing fifteen minutes of Lectio Divina together twice a week. After each Lectio session, discuss what you heard the Holy Spirit saying to you, and what you need to do as a result of what you heard.
Go on a family retreat. You don’t need to go to an expensive vacation spot. Spend a few hours at a friend’s house, or rent a hotel room for one night. While you’re there, spend time reading scripture and praying as a family. Be sure to include worship as part of the family retreat. While you’re there experiencing this event together, engage your student in faith conversations.
Take your family on a mission trip, or, sign up as an adult on the next youth mission trip. Choose a safe place to take your family. Engage in work together, and use the work you do to spur your family into faith conversations.
 Almost Christian, pg. 120
 Case, Steven. Book of Uncommon Prayer (Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2002).