For the Parent of a Teenager: You’re Not Alone

I am only three years in as a father, my days a mix of temper tantrums and tickle fights, and I have no qualms with making a dramatic statement: parenting is perhaps the most challenging job in the world.

As Christian parents, we bear that unique weight of not only teaching our kids to be decent human beings, but also shepherding their hearts toward faithful discipleship as they follow Jesus. We long to train up our children so solidly in gospel truth that in their old age they delight in walking this same path (Prov. 22:6). Considering the complexities that accompany adolescence, parents of teens can be especially acquainted with the difficulty of their calling to make disciples. At times it can be isolating, discouraging, and overwhelming. 

My sister, my brother: take heart. While you are the primary source of gospel instruction and demonstration in the lives of your teens, our Heavenly Father knows the weight of this task. He will not abandon you to shoulder it alone. He delights in equipping you for the good and hard work ahead, and he has provided you with a wonderful resource: the people of every age in your church. Because Jesus unites all of us together in himself, you can draw upon each generation in the church for support as you parent your teenager. 

Youngsters: Those Younger Than Your Teen 

While easily overlooked, children have a unique perspective on the kingdom of God. As those who are, for the most part, entirely dependent on others to meet their basic needs, they can be quicker to understand not only their need for God, but also his faithfulness in providing for them. This humble, childlike faith is almost certainly in Jesus’ mind when he tells his disciples that they must become like the child he holds on his lap if they hope to enter heaven (Matt. 18:1-5). Seeing the simplicity of this trust in the heart of a younger child and even an infant can bring perspective to the uncertainties and drifting that your teenager experiences

Plus, you can encourage your teens to use their gifts to care for those younger than them. Suggest volunteering in the church nursery, tutoring elementary school students, or inviting second graders to toss a frisbee with the high schoolers after church. Not only does this provide an opportunity for them to recognize their value as part of Christ’s body, but God also uses these moments to grow teenagers in compassion, patience, and an appreciation for the spiritual dimension of things like dependence (1 Pet. 2:2) and maturity (Heb. 5:11-14). 

Peers: Those Around Your Teen’s Age

The fact is, teens understand each other. There is nothing so impactful as someone who can hear what you’re going through and truthfully affirm, “Me too.” Older people can say, “I remember,” but we just can’t identify with the pain and joy and terror and thrill of adolescence the way a fellow teenager can. At its best, this mutuality develops in teens the compassion and empathy Jesus himself has for us, as our God who took on human flesh and knows our sorrows (Isa. 53:4). 

It’s true that teens can make friends with those who aren’t the same age—after all, Jesus himself is the friend of sinners, the one who showed his love for us by taking on the punishment for our sin and laying his life down on the cross so that we could be reconciled to God (Col. 1:19-20). That being said, friendships between peers supply unique graces (the “faithful wounds” and mutual sharpening of Proverbs 27 come to mind). Pursuing friendships with families whose teens take their faith seriously can provide a very real encouragement for your middle or high schooler who wants the same. 

Mentors: Those Older Than Your Teen but Younger Than You

More than perhaps any other generation, mentors are the ones your teen wants to be like. They’re young, they’re cool, and teenagers tend to flock toward them. So when the young adults in their lives are passionately following Jesus—not just going through the motions, but actually deepening their knowledge of and love for Christ—teenagers want to do the same. Like Timothy following Paul’s life of faith, love, and steadfastness (2 Tim. 3:9), middle and high schoolers see the marks of the Christian experience on their mentors and want to follow the call themselves. Plus, this generation is young enough to be relevant to teens, but old enough that their knowledge and experience have begun to mature into the wisdom that comes with living out their faith in their day-to-day lives. 

Guides: Those Your Age (but Who Definitely, Absolutely, Are Not You) 

Guides support teens without being their parent (whether or not they have children themselves). These folks are essential. The Bible is not blind to the reality of tension in child-parent relationships. Paul encourages children to obey and fathers not to exasperate and discourage their kids (Col. 3:20-21) specifically with this in mind. Teens need adults who are able to speak with the understanding and experience of parents, but don’t come with the baggage that can sometimes accompany the parent-child relationship. The wisdom that the mentors from our previous category demonstrate has, Lord willing, flourished and deepened in the following years. These guides are well-placed to offer counsel that might be identical to a teen’s parent, but is softened by a healthy detachment.

Caretakers: Those Who Feel More Like Grandparents Than Parents 

Every Christian, regardless of age, benefits from a seasoned saint pouring into their lives in one way or another. Teens are no exception. For middle and high school students who are seeking to faithfully pursue Jesus, older adults can offer genuine and inspiring encouragement. They deeply appreciate the faith of young people. Like Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, whose strong faith stirred his own (2 Tim. 1:5), these caretakers—whether biological or spiritual grandparents— have the capacity to recognize fledgling faith and fan it into brighter flame. 

This can happen in their interactions with your teen, but also through their faithful prayer. At our church we participate in the Pray for Me Campaign, which seeks to connect every young person with several adults from different generations who will commit to regularly praying for them. Our own three-year-old daughter knows that Miss Randa is praying for her, and a sweet relationship has developed between the two—I can’t wait to see what this will be like in ten years when we have a teenager! 

A Final Word 

In all of this, remember: our Savior meets the needs of both parents and their teenagers. The purpose here is not to give you a fresh to-do list, but rather to stir your imagination and see the people of your church with new eyes. Is there an older Christian who would delight in praying for you and your teenager? Is there a young family that might be blessed by your high schooler’s care and attention? Is there a recent empty-nester who might be willing to take your middle schooler out to lunch? You can trust the Lord to honor your prayerful pursuit of these opportunities. 

We’ve used a broad brush here. Not every college student is a good mentor and not every 75-year-old likes teenagers. But we can never overestimate the power of God working through his covenant people, especially in the context of the local church. Each generation of the body of Christ has a blessing to offer your teenager… and, therefore, to you. May you experience the grace of the Lord as you bear the good and beautiful burden of parenting—and may it be shared by the many shoulders, old and young, of God’s people.

For more resources to help parents disciple their children, check out Rooted Reservoir Family Discipleship.  

Brad is the Student Ministry Director at Christ Community Church in Carmel, IN, where he and his wife Jami have been working with middle and high school students since 2021. Both are passionate about coming alongside teens to help them understand the beauty of the gospel and the goodness of God. They find the greatest delight in raising their daughters, Theodora and Haddie, and the family can often be found playing games and spending time outside. Brad is currently finishing up his M.Div. at Covenant Theological Seminary.

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