Teenagers chatting in a group

To many of us, teenagers seem to have selective hearing and understanding. They may grudgingly walk in the obedience we call them to, but many haven’t become convicted of that standard yet.

It’s frustrating, really. They may not know the spiritual dangers they face, or understand that their souls are endangered every day by the sheer number of worldly ideas dive-bombing them and threatening their faith.

So, we try to live out the Deuteronomy 6 principle with them by teaching them diligently, in hopes that they will surrender their hearts, desires, and actions to the Lord—at times, to little avail.

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God Redeemed a People—That’s Plural

The problem is that there’s no one-size-fits-all way to parent teens outside of disciplining and instructing them in the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). While some teens may follow your lead readily, some—likely within the same family—might not.

Take heart! This is why God redeemed a people from Egypt, not just one family. This is why He established a church, not just one household. This is why we are to also diligently let our children interact with others who can teach them intentionally.

You might faithfully teach your teens a certain truth every day for a year, but it doesn’t get through to them. But when a brother or sister in church teaches them the exact same thing just once, their brain suddenly explodes with understanding.

You then try to be grateful that they even came to understand this truth at all, though you’re secretly peeved you didn’t lead them there in the first place. Yet, how blessed we are to have fellow believers support us in discipling our children!

And, there’s another way to instil truth in your teen. Not just by being discipled by people older than them—but by discipling those who come after them.

Our teens have gifts the church needs, and these should be exercised for the sake of the body and the growth of their faith. They are, after all, church members too, and future church leaders.

Teens Are Our Future Church Leaders

What I’m talking about is the Titus 2:1–8 model, which instructs older men and women to teach those who are younger to be sober-minded, self-controlled, and a model of good works.

Yes, teenagers are younger than us, so we are to teach and be models for them. But our teens have younger peers in the church as well: the children who come after them. The instruction to teach those who are younger can be applied to teenagers as well.

Our teens have gifts the church needs, and these should be exercised for the sake of the body and the growth of their faith. They are, after all, church members too, and future church leaders.

Again, Psalm 78:4 says to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord”. This is generally applied to parents with regard to their children, but what if we broadened that?

Your teen has the ability to disciple someone younger than them. Children are easily influenced by those in the life stage just ahead of them. When we think of such influence when it comes from the world, it’s easy to be frightened. But when that influence comes from within the church, it can be cause for excitement!

It works—I’ve seen it with my own daughters. A truth I taught them that once fell on deaf ears became clear and even cool, all because they heard it from and saw it in the lives of “their teenagers”.

When there’s a little one watching, copying, and even admiring them, it can become a form of accountability for the teenager.

Taking Ownership of Their Faith

I love working with teens, and the Lord has put many of them in my life over the years—I now teach English and debate to teens in school, and work with the youth in church.

I could lecture my English class on literary techniques and directly point out to them all the connections in a novel. But doing this might lead to a certain passivity in some students, who might never truly internalise what they learn.

I could, however, go one step further by teaching them how to interpret the text itself—such as descriptions of the weather, colours, and characters’ names—so that they can arrive at their own conclusion. And I could even give them opportunities to actively practice what they’ve learnt, by sharing and discussing with their classmates.

We can do this in church as well by giving teenagers the responsibility of discipling younger children. In the process, they can learn to take ownership over their own faith and learn to grow in obedience, as Deuteronomy 6 commands.

Opportunities to live out and model the things they have been taught will give teens a personal stake in another way. When there’s a little one watching, copying, and even admiring them, it can become a form of accountability for the teenager. Such “indirect”, bottom-up accountability may help complement their accountability to us as their parents.

Let “Us” Involves Teens Too

In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer uses “let us” a lot:

  • “Let us . . . make every effort to enter that rest” (4:11)
  • “Let us hold firmly to the faith” (v. 14)
  • “Let us draw near to God” (10:22)
  • “Let us consider how we may spur one another on” (v. 24)
  • “Let us run with perseverance” (12:1)
  • “Let us be thankful” (v. 28)

It’s easy to isolate these as “things for the adults in church to do”—but again, teenagers are church members too. They are a part of the us.

If you have a teen, pair them up with a family with younger children. Let your teen sit with the younger ones at church, so they can watch as your teen worships. Host a younger family so your teen can play with them, or bring your teen along as you visit them or help out with a birthday party.

If you have younger children, reach out to the teens in your church. Let them babysit, have them over for dinner, attend their sports events, or even help them financially, such as by paying for expenses such as youth camp.

Getting involved in each other’s lives in simple, organic ways is powerful. As Hebrews 10:24–25 exhorts us: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Remember: teens are part of “us”. Let’s never give up including them in the life of the church—even if some of them need more convincing to join in at times!

This article was originally published on christianparenting.org.
Adapted with permission.
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