I remember walking my little girl into her classroom for Vacation Bible School. A few years later I would drop her off at the door to her Awana Club. Today, she asks me to stay in the car when I drop her off for high school youth group. (Her friends might see me — gasp! )
As my child began to distance herself from me, I wondered if my role as spiritual mentor had changed. Surprisingly, it hadn't. Regardless of what your teen thinks she needs, the truth is she needs you now more than ever. Outside the home are cultural landmines, and many unguided souls have tripped upon them with disastrous results.
Joe White, president and owner of Kanakuk Kamps, agrees that today's teen has a lot of obstacles to overcome. "Media influence, Internet, peer pressure, cell phones, broken homes, disengaged parents, homes too busy to hug and talk — these present difficult challenges," White says. Nevertheless, he encourages parents to stay connected to their teen's spiritual life, pouring truth into them at every opportunity.
"At night Debbie Jo and I would lay beside each of our kids, talk about their day, and memorize Scripture together. At breakfast I became my kids' chef as often as possible, and used this as an opportunity to take a verse from Proverbs and discuss it with them before everyone grabbed back packs and stormed off to school." Though White is quick to admit that teens eventually have to develop their own Christian walk, daily time in Scripture together helped him build good habits into his children, such as reading and studying the Word.
They're rummaging through my refrigerator, sleeping in my house, and calling me Mom. No, they're not my children, but my child's friends. When kids reach their teen years, friends mean everything — sometimes even more than God. Early on I made a decision not to fight my daughter's craving for social drama; instead, I embraced it.
Including her friends in our lives has provided several opportunities for teaching my teen the Bible, from group devotions and prayer time in the front room, to late night talks sipping hot cocoa with her girlfriends. I make it a point to hold movie nights and swim parties at my home on a regular basis for the sole purpose of finding out about the people who influence my child the most. Staying connected to my daughter's social life gives me the insight needed to discuss things like friendship, dating and life choices.
If your teen is bucking going to church, try to find out why. It might be time for your child to attend a church that better meets his spiritual needs. A sense of relevance is especially important during the teen years, so try to find a church that offers plenty of social activities in addition to getting your child into the Bible. Shy teens are often overwhelmed when attending youth groups, so have him bring a friend. You might also suggest your teen participate in one of your church's ministries to help him become established in his local church family.
The teen years are tough, but savvy parents can provide plenty of ways to engage their teens in God's Word. Here are ideas on how to reach your child in every area of his life.
- Take your child out for coffee or ice cream as a forum for discussing spiritual matters.
- Purchase matching Bible devotionals or study books (one for each of you) and meet once a week for discussion and questions.
- Send your child an e-mail or text message about a passage in the Bible you've been reading and what it means to you.
- Hold a pizza and prayer night in your home.
- Take your teen and his friends on a field trip to serve at a local non-profit organization.
- Start a coffee club that meets once a week for devotions.
- Join with a church that is going on a mission trip.
- Meet with your pastor to discover all of the opportunities for teen service within your church.
- Organize a field trip to a nearby Christian concert.
Fuel: 10-Minute Devotions to Ignite the Faith of Parents and Teens by Joe White