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Turning Teenagers’ Hearts toward God

Dear Family Legacy, when a kid is a teenager, if they don’t want to spend time with God, do you make them? How do you handle that without making them resent you or God?
~ Wary Mom

Dear Wary Mom,

Great question! Every Christian parent wants his/her child to have a personal relationship with the Lord, so answering this mystery is vital.

After a certain age you can’t “make” your child spend time with God. There has to be a desire on his part to do so. The old saying: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” comes to mind. You can send your kid to his room, but you can’t make him have a “quiet time,” right?

However, if your child’s relationship with the Lord IS established you actually can send him to his room or to a quiet place and ask him to hear from the Lord on a particular issue. The Lord will speak to him. Ask your child what the Lord said, it will bless you!

So start early. At a young age teach him how to spend time with the Lord. Give him an age-appropriate picture Bible, study Bible, Bible study, and/or a devotional and show him how to use these materials. Teach him to set aside a time during the day. Our son is a morning guy. Our daughter reads her Bible at night.

When our kids fought as children, were being stubborn to reconcile, or when they were not willing to repent or forgive, I (Christine) would pray for them and ask the Lord to reveal himself to their hearts. Then I would send them to their rooms to read the Bible and/or write in their journals. The Lord always spoke to their hearts.

Starting at a young age trains them for their future.

Many times parents begin getting serious about their child’s relationship with Christ when they begin to see problems. Too late! The time to get serious about your child’s relationship with Christ begins before they are born. If you’re a late-comer, don’t worry. God has grace for that, too (see below).

We, as parents, need to be serious about our own relationship with the Lord. Your kids watch everything you do and they begin to learn through our modeling, teaching, training, and most importantly praying (do they see you reading the Bible and praying?).

Deuteronomy 6:1-10 gives a good, practical example: talk about the Lord at home, when you’re out on errands, in the morning, in the evening – let his word permeate your home. It doesn’t have to be weird or super-spiritual. It should be completely natural. In our home, it is “normal” to talk about the goodness of God.

After modeling a relationship with the Lord, the second most important element is your relationship with your child.

As the normal course of events unfolds, there will be a time when your child naturally pulls away from you and begins his own relationship with the Lord. Our prayer, as parents, is that he begins walking with the Lord on his own. This can be a scary time for parents. If you and your child have forged a strong relationship, his quest for “space” doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It can be quite positive – it will just be different. Do not be afraid of it. Fear makes us hold tighter, holding tighter make your child push away harder. Relationship, relationship, relationship!

OK, that’s all fine and dandy…but what about the parent who started late? What if my child has not turned toward the Lord or has turned his back?

  • Pray and pray some more. Don’t just think about praying…really spend time praying. Pray with those who love you. Really pray! Did I say pray? The story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) mentions that the father saw his boy returning home while he was “a long way off.” I guarantee that father didn’t just happen to look up see the boy – my guess he was on his porch watching, waiting, and praying for his son’s return (and had been for a while).
  • Stay committed to your relationship with your child. Even if your child begins to pull away, stay 100% invested in his life. Enjoy what he enjoys, be there for his events, be his cheerleader even if he is doing something you don’t really enjoy. Look for the good things and cheer him on. Do not major on the minors. Stay connected.
  • Stand on God’s promises. Commit meaningful verses (like Proverbs 22:6, Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.) to memory and remind yourself often.
  • Rely on God’s grace. Parenting is a tough job. We continually need God’s grace!
  • Never give up on them! Remember God is faithful and he loves your child more than you do!
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