Sheri Prescott, GFC South Tampa
When my now teenagers (18, 15, 13) were tiny, I remember several outings when a complete stranger would say, “Your little ones are so sweet, but just wait till they’re teenagers.” As if on the eve of their 13th birthdays they would turn into angry, rebellious, three headed monsters.
Why would people I had never met, speak such discouraging words over a young mama who was trying to get all the diapers changed and teach preschoolers to share their toys. Was all I had to look forward to disastrous teenage years of disrespect and turbulence?
All seasons of motherhood come with unique challenges. Being a mom is 24/7, 365 days a year of hard work and overflowing laundry baskets that won’t fold themselves. But, our Creator made every age and has great plans for our teenagers too!
“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:12
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.” ~ Psalm 119:9
Because of Christ in our teenagers, they can do all things that seem impossible in a culture of low expectations.
Here are four ways I’m learning to encourage my teenagers in their walks with Christ and are helping me to build relationships with them too. As Lisa Harper reminded us recently, “the best is yet to come!”
First, pray. FIRST. PRAY.
We cannot change our son or daughter’s heart, but God can (Ezekiel 36:26). We can’t be their salvation, Jesus is (John 14:6). We can’t make their decisions, but we can pray the Holy Spirit will guide their every step (Psalm 90:12). We can pray they would choose godly friends (Proverbs 13:20). We can pray they would obey and honor us, their parents (Ephesians 6:1). We can pray they would hunger and thirst to know God’s truth (Matthew 5:6). We can pray that the Bible becomes their road map and compass for this life (Psalm 119:105). We can pray they live a passionate life for Christ (Philippians 1:21).
Second, be available.
Our teenagers don’t need us to tie their shoes or fill sippy-cups any more, but they do need us to be available. To listen to them. To take an interest in what they enjoy. To sacrifice our time to spend time in their world, which may mean 11:00pm (when all we want to do is curl up in our comforter) becomes a holy moment of them opening up about what’s going on in their lives.
Third, be authentic.
More is caught than taught in the teenage years. If we want our young people to fall in love with reading God’s Word, they need to see it as a priority to us. What does my time with God look like? If we want our kids to respect their dad, they need to see us respect our husbands. If we want them to speak kind words to their siblings, they need to hear kind words coming out of our mouths. If we want them to spend less time on social media, we need to set the example by spending less time there.
Fourth, give them a bigger vision.
When teenagers are living for something bigger than themselves, they become like the verse in 1 Timothy, setting an example for believers with their wholehearted faith. So, take your sleepy young person with you on a Saturday morning to do a service project. Encourage them and then help them find a place to serve at your church campus. If there is a mission trip they want to go on, help them find the resources to go. Put books in their hands about missionaries and Christians who made a radical impact for God (there are some great movies that have the same purpose). Give them the job of blessing grandma by cleaning her kitchen the next time you visit, pray together for your teen’s youth pastor, or bring them with you to deliver a meal to a family you want to bless.
“What would happen to today’s younger generation if a ‘new generation’ of parents emerged who became spiritual pioneers instead of settlers. Parents who rose above the mediocrity of the culture and led their children into the endless frontier of God’s ways?” ~ Eric & Leslie Ludy