4 Strategies for Discipling Your Teenager
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on this topic. I have one teenager and he is in his first year of teen-aging. Check back with me in fourteen years when my youngest exits the up-and-down teen years, and I might have some different ideas. I might retract much of what I have written. Having said that, I am am trying to be intentional and experimenting with ways to help my son think biblically and trust Jesus. With the help of my wife and church, I am taking seriously the biblical responsibility to teach my children to trust and obey Christ in all of life.
Here’s what I have been trying and thinking:
- The gospel must be ultimate in everything. For example, whether I fail or my children fail, I want to maximize the use of that failure and point them to why the gospel is so precious and why we need Jesus so much. I am a 43-year-old man who still has moments of failure and sin and Jesus is my only hope in life and death. Further, the gospel empowers me to seek forgiveness from those I fail and sin against. I don’t need to act like I am perfect because Jesus has dealt with my sins once for all. I can ask for forgiveness because I have forgiveness. As parents, we must relate to our children like the gospel is real and all-important.
- Guard against being overbearing about everything. Honestly, I don’t like the music my son listens to. Some of my reasons are preference and some are substantive. Music was an idol that redirected my affections away from God when I was a teenager. But telling him to “turn that junk off” is probably not the best tactic. Instead, I have found that thoughtful conversations about what he is listening to is a better approach. We have talked about the truth that God makes all music possible in the way he has designed the creation. We have talked about the yearning of people that is communicated in their lyrical proclamation. We have talked about the obvious deviation from God’s design when it is apparent. There are some things a parent has to be firm about with an unequivocal stance, but coming down with an iron fist on everything is not winsome. As parents, we must choose carefully which hills we are willing to die on. And perhaps just as important, we must be wise about how we fight for those hills.
- Regularly expose them to intelligent and thoughtful Christians like Albert Mohler so that they can develop a robust Christian Worldview. Recently, when in the car, I have been listening to a lot of sports-talk, a little NPR and a bit of Petra. My teenager, however, likes to try to take over the radio when he is with me and listen to the classic rock station. I am willing to accommodate him most times-if he politely asks. But for the last several weeks, we have intentionally been listening to The Briefing Podcast with Albert Mohler while we make our ten minute commute from home to the school. Mohler summarizes recent national stories and then carefully articulates a Christian worldview in response. It’s been very encouraging to observe my son listening intently and commenting thoughtfully to important issues being discussed in a biblically coherent way. Some of our best conversations have been happening as we listen together and pause to discuss or understand what is being said. As parents we must intentionally expose our children to winsome and wise people who are interacting with the most important issues of our day.
- Make every effort to be consistent. Developing sustainable patterns in life and and in the home is critically important. For instance, my wife and I strive to have a regular family worship time. It’s not easy, but it gets easier with consistency. Training takes disciplined repetition. WE try to have a regular time of abiding in Christ for our own joy, but also to model what we hope our children will eventually do. I try to consistently praise my wife in front of my children. We effort to talk to them the way we want them to talk to others. A general rule of life is: what we believe to be important is what gets done consistently. As parents, we must create convictional consistency.
I have witnessed fruit from these four strategic ideas. I am not perfect at them, but by the grace of God, I am trying to get better. As parents, our job is to be faithful, but faithfulness means we have some idea about what we are doing to be faithful. What strategies are you intentionally employing to help your children follow Jesus? As parents, we must have strategies that we are convinced will help our children follow Jesus. It’s our divinely mandated responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Psalm 78:1-8; Ephesians 6:1-2).