Hope for Parents of Troubled Teens

Think carefully about your family's relationship to the church

The church we choose to become a part of will have a vital and undeniable influence on every member of our family. The church has a tremendous capacity to help both the family and our emerging adolescent. Conversely, it is possible for the atmosphere of the church to be detrimental to the growth of the young person and the family as well.

The church can provide a place where truth can be presented across the generations. As parents and children sit together listening to the same message, they may have different responses, but if parents will seek to have conversations about what they heard in church, they may get insights into how their children are thinking. It's possible they'll hear that their children are tuned out completely. That is important to know. The parent might consider offering an incentive for "answers" to specific questions gleaned from the Sunday morning message—extra game time, television time, maybe even money! It's possible your teen might consider listening in order to pocket some change. And he may hear something that will stick.

The church can provide a supportive extension of the family's values. This may be the only place in the teenager's world (aside from the family) that he hears a message that provides a restraining check on questionable activities. The church family, including youth leaders your teen likes and respects, can provide listening ears and counsel—someone to talk to besides Mom and Dad.

The Church Provides Opportunities for Social Growth and Service to Others

The social climate the church provides can be a place for the teen to find "something to do." It is important that the church community understands their role in providing positive and safe activities for its youth. For the teenager who feels he doesn't fit in with any group at school, he may find his place of social acceptance and belonging within the church.

The church can provide young people an opportunity to serve others and find a social conscience. Many churches plan short-term mission trips where the teen can experience firsthand some of the tremendous needs of the world we live in. Sacrifice whatever you have to in order to give your teenager such an opportunity.

Difficult Choices

If the church can be such an important part of our teenager's growing up experience, what is a parent to do when their child begins rebelling against attending services or youth activities?

First, the parent needs to examine what their particular church has to offer. One author suggests parents ask the question: "Is your church still breathing?" Is there a functioning youth group? Are the youth leaders "in tune" with adolescent thinking and wants? Does the church truly preach the gospel and biblical truth? Is this church too legalistic? Too liberal? Is it a small congregation with very few young people? Are you, the parent, bored with services but still attending out of habit? Is this church alive and growing, not necessarily in numbers but in spirit? Is it a healthy environment for young people?

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May 25

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