Most parents of teenagers are looking for adult role models and mentors who can help shape the lives and futures of their children. We share our teen children with teachers and coaches, friends and family members, youth leaders and pastors. A child can never have enough people of faith, integrity, and wisdom around them. Layering up influences is the way our villages work. Filling in the gaps for each other is how we operate as a healthy body. But we can never underestimate the power of a parents influence.
We, as youth ministers, see a bright opportunity for the most socially influential people in our culture, to make an even bigger impact on the religious values of teenagers.
The stars who will lead teenagers to righteousness are their very own moms and dads.
Parents of teenagers have a special calling.
The stories of the book of Daniel found in the Bible tell of people living faithfully in obedience to God in a time of adversity. These visions and stories keep us all alert as to what is at stake in the times that we live in.
Verse 12:3 says, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”
Another translation says, “Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever.”
As I read this verse in the context of our conversation about the role of parents in the faith development and in their overall development, a few things stand out.
- Parents who make an effort to lead their children spiritually are wise
Praying over their children, modeling a life of faith, making sacrifices as a family for the cause of Christ and for the development of faith, making the Word of God a foundation of home life, having conversations about faith and how it works and how it doesn’t and how it’s hard and how it feels in our everyday lives, these are all wise parent moves.
- Wise parents will shine “brilliantly” like the brightness of the heavens.
When things shine or sparkle brilliantly, even in the darkest times and spaces, hope can be felt and light can be seen. A parents faith development and focus on influencing their children’s faith development is also a precursor to hope in harder more challenging times. It embodies a person so much that it lights them up. A parent who is lit up doesn’t trip up when the lights around them go out. Little by little, inch by inch, parents have an ability to light up any circumstance with faith.
- Parents who make an effort to put their children on paths where Jesus can be found have children who find Him.
Every human being falls short of God’s glory. Even our kids. But there is the gift of God, a forever life in Christ, that calls us to more than looking forward to heaven but gives us an ability to experience a taste of eternity here and now. Not every child finds Jesus when a parent makes these efforts, because all of us have a choice. But as we do our part, God honors our hearts and we find ourselves surrendering our children to the will and glory of God.
Mark Batterson writes in Praying Circles Around your Children,
“Prayer is the way we take our hands off and place
our children in the hands of God.”
Nothing we do as parents can be done in our own strength. We have to trust in the Lord with all of being. We can’t rely on our own understanding of things. We have to acknowledge God in our families and God will make things straight in God’s time and for God’s glory. There will be prodigals and disappointing times. We will challenge our children and they will challenge us. Our hearts will be broken and we’ll break our kids hearts. But we can’t give up on the transformative power of Christ at work in us, renewing our minds, renewing our strength, returning our lives to the image of God place where we were always meant to live.
Parents, as we trust God to work in and through us (and sometimes even despite us) will also find a source of peace and strength and hope that we’ve never known before. We find that we never walk alone and that there is a special legacy to leave in our children, a gift that can only come from us, their moms and dads. When it comes to our kids’ faith, we will find that our children are most likely to become what we are.
So let’s be what we want to see in our children.
Let’s not deny the power of our adult influence.
Let’s embrace our human instability but stand on the Rock of the Ages, Jesus Christ.
Let’s hand over our children into the hands of God.
Let’s remember that God has entrusted us to put them on paths that lead to Him.
Let us not take ourselves too seriously--swimming in the depths of grace but also realizing that life in God is also fun and wild and dangerously adventurous.
Let’s stand firm in what we believe and how we live.
Let’s not give up on our spouses or on our futures together.
Let’s partner with other parents as we pray for passion, for purity, for prodigals to come home.
Let’s be like the cloudless star-strewn night for our children and their generation.
Let’s accept the call and respond to it.
We can’t give up. Too much is at stake.
Will you say yes to being lit up to lead them?
I'd love to hear how some of you who have teen children have seen this working in your homes. I'd love to hear your struggles as well or any advice you have for those who are facing challenging times.