Help! I’m Afraid My Teen Will Fall Away From Jesus

Help! I’m Afraid My Teen Will Fall Away From Jesus January 19, 2024

About the time your kid turns 12 or 13, the innocence and purity of their faith in Jesus can suddenly turn to skepticism, and that’s when our biggest fear sets in—will my teen fall away from Jesus? 

First, here’s the truth. They might. Yeah, I know that’s not what you wanted to hear. But the reality is that our kids should start to own their own faith by the time they enter those early teen years. It might result in them walking away, challenging the beliefs you worked so hard to instill in them, or latching on to something wholly different. 

I did. 

Over the years, I have had countless conversations with confused and worried parents losing sleep over the future of their kids’ faith. Conventional wisdom suggests that as our kids age, we should back away, let them go, and pray for the best. While in many ways, there is truth and wisdom in such an approach. It’s precisely what my mom did when I went to college. Here, the exact prayer was, “Lord, he’s yours. Good luck.” 

How Involved With Discipleship Are You As They Get Older?

Not long ago, I talked with some friends as they entered the frightening world of parenting teens. Welcome to the club! Ha!

I admit, I laughed a bit as they groaned about their 13-year-old daughter, who acted more like an 18-year-old about to be alone, and the usual drama that comes with the teenage world. I admit, I enjoyed their pain slightly, knowing that after nearly 20 years working with students, I fully expected my kids to act completely nuts. And they do. It doesn’t make it easier, but at least I’m expecting it. 

However, part of what they said bothered me. They talked about how their parenting had changed now that they were more disengaged. I didn’t quite understand. Why disengaged? 

These years are critical for parents if they hope to continue helping their kids discover what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

As parents, the most important responsibility you have to your kids and Christ is that you are the primary disciple-maker in your home. In other words, the mission Jesus gave you to go and make disciples starts in your own home.

If You’re Afraid Of Your Teens Falling Away From Jesus, Start Making the Most of Every Opportunity

Use every dinner conversation, every trip to soccer practice, every disagreement, and every “I love you” to point your teen back to Jesus. 

How can you, as a parent, make the most of the opportunities and time God has given you? How can you do everything you can to help your students know Christ at a deeper level and walk with him for a lifetime? To answer that question, I want us to take a step back and look at the big picture. I want to focus on three big ideas that will trickle down into the mundane parts of life but that can make a world of difference. 

1. Start With The Every Day Moments

Part of God’s design of the family unit is godly instruction. This has been part of the deal since the beginning. Just look at the command to the nation of Israel.

There is no secret hidden message here or the need to dig deep in context. The message is straightforward. In every season of your kid’s lives, in every moment you have—teach them. Be the source of godly wisdom. Disciple them. 

Yes, even when you don’t think they are listening. It’s true, they might not listen to you. But what they lack in hearing, they won’t miss seeing—you, leaning into their lives because you care. 

Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Make the moments you have perfect. Someone once told me the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

Life has a way of happening all around us without us ever actually realizing it. All of us say it and complain about it. Our kids grow up too fast. Make the moments that you have with your students teachable.

2. Disciple Your Kids By Being Culturally Smart

Some of you love Netflix and get goosebumps when your favorite show releases the next season for you to spend a weekend binge-watching—other’s cringe at the idea. Or maybe social media is your thing. You’re up on the latest trends and post crazy funny reels. Yet some of you want nothing to do with social. You don’t even know what a reel is. 

Like it or not, on-demand television, social media, and our students’ ever-increasing screen time are not going away. I am not saying you must like it, but you must know it. You don’t need to speak the cultural language fluently, but you need, at a minimum, a remedial understanding and, more importantly, a level of appreciation.

Some trends we see are just a bit scary, and you need to be aware. It is so easy for us, who are now a generation or more away from the students we disciple, to find ourselves criticizing their world simply because we don’t understand it. We talk about the good old days. We boast about how much better our music was than today’s or that we behaved so much better as teenagers than teenagers today.

Whether you realize it or not, times have been changing since the beginning of time. My parents didn’t understand cable TV; my mom took forever to part with her typewriter and scoffed at the first CD I bought because how could anything sound as good as a record or be as compact as a cassette? Instead of criticizing, be a student. Learn from your children. They are always smarter than we think they are. Helping your teen avoid falling away from Jesus isn’t necessarily shielding them from the online vortex–it’s about guiding them and only giving them what their minds can handle.

3. Be The Model of Discipleship

During my last few years of high school teaching, I noticed a trend that confused me. Students begged for responsibility and trust from their teachers, pastors, parents, and coaches but were pushing back anytime that responsibility came with independence. 

They wanted to be trusted with money but not the independence to make it independently.

They sought the responsibility and freedom to go anywhere and stay out later, but not the independence of driving. They couldn’t wait for the responsibility of college, a good job, and family, but not the independence from moving out of the house to attend college in a different state or country. And this trend is growing. But why?

Well, there are lots of reasons—another blog for another day. But this trend shows us that students stay close to home because they are looking for role models. But not just any role model—they are looking for you. And they are watching you. Students desperately need to see what a healthy, functioning, Christ-following adult life looks like. And they are looking to parents. So whether you realize it or not, the spotlight is on you. 

So, just when you thought you were invisible, it turns out they are looking to be just like you. If your faith is strong and evident, you will drastically reduce their propensity to fall away from Jesus.

Don’t Be Afraid To Admit It’s Hard And You Need Help

Some parents are just getting started with parenting in the world of teens. Some of you are headed to the finishing line and moving on to an entirely new adventure. Wherever you are on the journey, walk with your students, take the time to teach them, show them, have fun with them, and be human around them. Don’t be the adult they might want; be the parent they need. Take the time to learn about their world, however odd it may seem. Ask lots of questions so you can help them navigate it with the eyes of Jesus. The investment you make today has incredible eternal consequences.

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