My son has a disease, it’s called selective listening, it causes him to not do what I am asking of him at times. It could be cleaning his room, doing the dishes, or even stop picking on his sister. Yet he is a great boy and wants to do right but raising him has taught me a valuable lesson: In order to teach I must do more than speak.
JH Ranch, an amazing place we take our middle school students each Summer, has this motto: I heard and I forgot. I saw and remembered. I did and understood. Stop for a second and let that sink in. Early on in my ministry I spent so much time focusing on what I said. I would pour over commentaries and try and dissect each word and what it really meant. I would make my appeal for Godly living as best I could–even break a sweat doing it. I wanted to make sure that the worship music was just right so that the hearts of the teens would be open to receive the Word only to have them forget shortly after. You know what they would remember: the game they played. Ugghh.
In one of my moments of frustration I decided to go on a hike. I loved the Jefferson wilderness and would often go there for times of refreshing. I loved to go alone because my only conversations then would be with God. He seemed to speak louder out there amongst the fir trees and flower covered meadows. One morning I got up to watch the sun rise when I just asked the Lord what I could do to help kids desire Him more? I have preached to them, screamed, implored, spoken quietly, loudly, and it wasn’t enough. Then it came to me: show them Christ.
I meet so many parents that love the Lord but have kids that don’t seem to have a relationship with Christ. Usually my first question is: How are you modeling? What does that look like? Are you praying in front of them? Are you reading your Bible regularly? How important is Church to you? Now I say this as a parent myself and as a youth pastor who made the mistake of thinking my job was to preach to kids instead of being involved in their lives so they could see me live out my life for Christ. So I certainly am not standing in judgement but our teens need to see Christ in us just as much as they hear about Him.
I have had the privilege to lead quite a few teen small groups and one of them I have had for over two years now. Early last year they all slipped a little and made a mistake. All of their parents called me distraught–and rightfully so. Even I felt like I had failed them. I have been meeting with them every week and going through the Word with them and it didn’t seem to stick. Then it made sense: I had failed them by failing to give them the opportunity to see Christ. So I planned a trip with them to go share the Gospel in San Francisco. To watch those boys pray over people just broke my heart. I saw God use each of them in a mighty way and in turn they took steps closer to Him. Just yesterday one of them called me to tell me that he shared the Gospel with one of his co-workers. This morning a leader sends me a picture of one of them starting their day reading the Word–without his parents or me there!!! They have met Christ, not just heard of Him, but met Him in a real way.
So my advice to you is this: Model Christ for your teens. Let your kids see your relationship, let them see you wrestle with God, cling to Him in those dark days, praise Him openly with an unabashed love, and invite them along for the journey. I think we will all be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.