This is part 3 in the open letter series. This series was written in June 2014 as a collaboration between Rich Andrews, Scott Foreman and myself. Enjoy.
How Are You Choosing To Disciple Your Teenager?
This is part 3 of an honest, open letter to parents of teenagers. Contributions to this series are made from Rich Andrews, director of Word of Life Florida in Hudson, FL, and Scott Foreman, director of Word of Life Canada in Owen Sound. Follow Rich on twitter here, and Scott here.
Part 3 – How Are You Choosing To Disciple Your Teenager? – Brad Smith
What is a disciple? A disciple is simply a follower or a student of a teacher or a leader. As a parent, you are a leader and a teacher, whether you want to be or not. As a parent, you are already discipling your son/daughter. You are teaching them to be who you are. I remember an anti-drug commercial from the 90’s where the dad is confronting his son with marijuana that he found in the son’s room. He demands to know where he learned how to do that. After a few seconds, the son replied, “I learned it from watching you!” Now, I’ll admit that commercial was a tad on the cheesy side, however, its message speaks volumes!
I will say this again: you are already teaching your children to become who you are. In part one, the question was asked, “What do you want your teenager to look like, not just as an adult, but all through their teenage years?” Who you are is who they will become. In part two, we talked about social media purity. We listed three things that are important not just when it comes to social media, but in every single person’s life: integrity, purity and accountability! In part three, we want to talk about how we disciple, or teach, our teenagers, and what we teach them and disciple them to be.
Lead Your Child To Jesus.
Being a pastor, our children are and have been in church almost every week of their lives. (Side note: if I was not a pastor, our children would still be in church almost every week of their lives. But we will talk more about this later.) They have been to VBS, camp, Sunday School, Children’s Church, GA’s, Mission Friends and more. However, it was my wife and I that had the privilege and honor to lead both of our girls to faith in Jesus Christ. Certainly, all of those things, and all of those teachers played a role (and continue to do so) in the spiritual lives of our children. It is not the job of anyone except my wife and I to be the spiritual leaders in our children’s lives. It is not the Sunday School teacher or Children’s Ministry Director’s job. It is mine. That means that what takes place in our house leads to regular conversations about the Word of God. Using teaching moments to explain the truths of the Bible to them. To encourage them. To exhort them. To challenge them. To be sure, we are not perfect parents, and we have missed more opportunities than I care to admit. But that does not relieve me of any responsibility in forming the spiritual lives and relationship with Jesus in their lives.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
In this passage, the responsibility for teaching young people about God and His Word lies solely with the parents. 1 – Love God, and keep His Word in your heart. 2 – Repeat these words to your children. 3 – Teach them in your house. 4 – Teach them when you are out of your house. 5 – Teach them when it’s time for bed. 6 – Teach them when it’s time to wake up. 7 – Keep them in your life. 8 – Keep them as the foundation of your home.
As one who is a Student Pastor, and teaches the Word of God to teenagers for a living, let me say this: It is not my job to teach your children about God, His love, and His Word; that’s your job. Stop making me do your job! The church exists to reinforce what you are already teaching in the home.
Model Jesus To Your Teen
The biggest influence, and also the biggest hindrance, in having your son/daughter live for and love Jesus is you! What is important to you, will be important to your children. What isn’t important to you, will not be important to your children. Choose wisely! Briefly, here are some things that are Biblical, and should be important to you:
*Daily, personal, intimate time with Jesus.
This should consist of time reading the Bible, meditating on it and figuring out how to apply it to your life; prayer time, where you are interceding on behalf of others, praying for lost friends/family to come to Jesus, adoring/ worshipping God for who He is, praising God for who He is and what He has done, and confession of sin in your own life.
*Church membership and attendance.
Is church important? Yes! And it is a Biblical command! Hebrews 10:24-25 say, “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25 not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” The church is the Bride of Christ, and it is something He loves dearly! If it is important to Jesus, should it not also be important to us?
Telling other people about Jesus – this can be done on a mission trip, at VBS, in Children’s Ministry, in Student Ministry, in Sunday School, or in your neighborhood. It is something we are commanded to do, and our children need to know that we do it. Give them opportunities to be involved as well.
Psalm 119:11 tells us, “I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.” There is a reason for Scripture memory, and it is not just to get a gold star on a chart. It is our defense against sin! Jesus modeled it in Matthew 4 when he was tempted by Satan.
When we are talking about modeling Jesus for our students, we have to realize that what we allow in moderation, they will embrace in excess. For instance, when we think our son saying “bad words” as a young boy is funny and cute, as he ages, he will have no control over his tongue. He will not know what is appropriate and what is not. James 3 talks about that. If you teach your daughter that love only comes in physical form, like the movies of today portray, and you don’t show her love of Jesus through you, she will end up going from one man to the next as she seeks love that cannot fulfill the need she has. As parents, what we do, what we allow, and what we say is extremely important.
You are already discipling your teenagers to be who you are. The question only you can answer is this: is who you are the person Jesus wants you to be?