Parenting your teenagers to know Jesus
Raising teenagers can be simultaneously tremendous and tumultuous. You have the thrill of seeing your children increasingly make mature decisions and choices. At the same time, you have the rush of hormones, and the pressures of friends, school, and culture while they try to navigate life. Josh McDowell, author of Beyond Belief to Convictions, writes,
“We have recently noticed a radical change in our youth. I’m talking born-again Christian kids in our pews. In the last 15 years the culture’s had a greater impact on our Christian young people than the church or their parents.”
The rapid shifts in our culture’s views of God, sexuality, authority, media, and education–to name a few–shows how critical it is to be intentional parents. You must balance between being involved and engaged, while releasing your teen to greater independence.
As husband and wife you share the mutual joys and challenges of raising godly teenagers. You have been called by God and gifted by Him to raise these children. You CAN do it! He has given you all of the resources you need to guide your children from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. A promise in the Bible you can cling to is:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
When you don’t know how to handle a situation with your teen, take time together to slow down, pray and ask for wisdom, and then talk things through together. The two of you are a team, brought together by God to mutually raise your children. Here are our four keys to raising godly teenagers:
1. Practice what you preach.
“Do what I say, not what I do” is a maxim that NEVER works when raising children, especially teenagers. The integrity of how you live your life as a couple and as individuals will lay the foundation of respect and authority in what you say. This isn’t about being “perfect” Christians. It’s about being humble yet strong role models in the home of what it means to be a Christ-follower. And when you make a mistake, you own up to it and apologize.
As parents the standards for what you watch on TV or how you approach social media should be Christ-honoring and exemplary. The language you use in the home should be the same. Consider your personal example (not your spouse’s–that’s between them and God). Where do you need to walk with greater consistency?
In a world where one’s personal truth is elevated as supreme, make a stand for THE truth that is found in the Bible. Use it as the guide for your own lives. Doing so will provide the context for conversations about what is right or wrong, holy or unholy in God’s eyes.
2. Provide spiritual consistency.
Has church become optional for your family? If it’s convenient, if nothing better is happening, then maybe you’ll attend? To raise godly teenagers you have to provide (and model) spiritual consistency. Your inconsistency now will translate to their view of church’s irrelevance later. And the local church is the hope of the world when the local church is working right. If it’s too easy to miss church, then perhaps you need to find a more biblically engaging place to worship as a family.
Similarly, we believe teenagers need spiritual consistency with peers. Whether it’s the church youth group, Young Life, Campus Life, or some other ministry, your teen’s spiritual journey will be positively impacted by their engagement with others seeking to model and pursue Christlikeness.
This is a season in your teen’s lives when they will probably have spiritual doubts and questions as well. Don’t panic when they ask questions! These are sincere efforts to grapple with what is true and own their faith. Welcome their questions and commit as a couple to help your teen get the answers they deserve. When one of our children was wrestling with questions about the authenticity of the Bible, Brad took 1 ½ years to read through Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. We didn’t have to be the experts, but we brought the experts to our children and learned with them.
3. Promote personal devotions.
Brad’s Dad remembered being a little boy when HIS father would make the 5:30 a.m. trek down the hall every morning to his study for Bible reading and prayer. His example has impacted three generations of Mitchell men. Encouraging your teen to have their own time with God by reading the Bible and prayer has to be modeled by the two of you as well.
Although it would be nice if they simply read the Bible because they were disciplined to do so, sometimes an incentive is helpful. Maybe the challenge is to read through the New Testament or the entire Bible. Perhaps it will be to journal or read a devotional along with the scriptures attached to each day’s reading. You know your teen. What kind of appropriate celebration would they appreciate? It’s OK to encourage and spur them on spiritually!
4. Partner in prayer.
At every stage of parenting, prayer overshadows it all. Certainly you’ll both pray together for your children. You want God’s blessing and favor on them. You will pray for their protection. You’ll pray for their spiritual growth, their friends, and a future spouse.
AND you pray WITH your teen. When they have a major event in their life, pause and pray with them. Let them hear you intercede on their behalf. Your prayer for them will be an opportunity to celebrate with them when God answers prayer. And should the answer be different than you prayed, you can discuss His sovereignty and care even in disappointment.
Hang in there. You CAN raise godly teenagers together as you Build Your Marriage.