Dear Parents of Teenagers,
Thank you for all you do to invest in the life of your teenager(s). You probably feel like you are constantly juggling multiple hats. You are the taxi driver (ready to pick them up/drop them off at whatever they need to be at), coach (helping them perfect that jump shot or throw that strike), personal tutor (working with them to finally get that math concept down), guidance counselor (preparing them to have future success) and, sometimes, motivational speaker (just trying to get them to get up and do something). You are all these and so much more!
That’s why, with all the insane busyness of being the parent of a teen, it’s easy to let things like church attendance drop to the bottom of your “to-do” list. It’s easy to think, “I can just find ways to weave Scriptural principles into whatever schooling they’re doing or whatever sport they’re involved in. We’ve just got too much going on to take a night off and go to church.” It can be especially tempting to put things like going to youth group way at the bottom of your “to-do” list. After all, aren’t kids just too busy already than to spend a night hanging out with other teenagers when they could be studying for that big exam the next day?
I get it, I understand your temptations and frustrations. Teens are under a constant barrage of pressures to perform at an optimum level in a variety of different fields. Many of the teens in my youth group are taking music lessons, members of sports teams, and working jobs all while being a full time student. As parents, I’m sure you feel the same (or maybe more) pressure as your teenager does. You want your teen to succeed in everything he/she does and so if that means removing things from your calendar, then you are going to do just that. But can I encourage you to never remove church from your calendar of events?
Although the parents are most certainly the primary discipler’s of their teenagers (Deut 6:6-9; 11:18-19; Eph 6:4), God has also made it very clear that the church plays a vital role in every person’s overall spiritual growth (Matt 28:19). The church and the parents are thus in a sort of partnership ministry – neither serves to replace the other. Just as God has ordained the family for a purpose, God has also ordained the church to be “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The church isn’t just a good idea to be included in your calendar – It’s God’s idea! You can have your teen involved in all kinds of different things and plugged into all sorts of different institutions, but only the church is guaranteed to stand the test of time (Matt 16:17-19).
But can we go a step further with this whole “church” thing? Talking about a particular building on the corner of the street kind of misses the point, don’t you think? Many teenagers go to church or youth group almost out of a sense of duty. “Mom and dad said I need to come.” But God never asked for our church attendance, He asked for our church involvement. Don’t send your teenager to church so he/she can dust a pew. God wants your teenager (and yourself) to get involved at church.
Now, in order to get this message across to your teen it may take some more involvement in church on your own. How are the teens in your home being led by your example? There’s some good news and bad news about raising teenagers. The good news is, your teenagers are watching your example. They really do want to know if mom and dad really practice what they preach. The bad news is that parents can’t escape being examples to their children, either for good or for bad.
Again, I understand your busyness, but perhaps that’s why it’s always been God’s plan for mom and dad to work together on this. Getting your teens to church needs to be both parents goal. A study once disclosed that if both parents attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful. If only dad attends regularly, that number drops to 55%. If only mom comes, it plummets to 15%. If neither parent attends, but they choose to just send the kids, only 6% remain faithful (“Pulpit Helps,” 6/81). Of course, we believe that God can overcome percentages as we seek Him, but it does show the importance of both mom and dad working together as godly influences in their kids’ lives.
At the end of the day, teaching our teenagers to embrace Christ and engage in His church is more important than an “A” on a test or success in athletics. Getting your teenager involved in a healthy church is totally worth the investment of your time! There’s too much at stake for you to get this wrong.
Caleb Phelps (a current youth pastor)
Caleb Phelps graduated from BJU with a BA in Bible and an MA in Theology. After graduating from seminary Caleb traveled in evangelism which took him across the country to many different churches and camps. While he was traveling Caleb met the love of his life, Rachel. They got married and moved to Indianapolis, IN where Caleb now serves as the youth pastor at Crosspointe Baptist Church. You can check out his youth group's website at www.crosspointeyouth.com.
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