Sometimes to teens it must sound like the only Christians who have testimonies worthy of sharing are those who have been addicts, teen parents or have been to prison. Ministers tell our teens over and over, children are expected to abandon the church when they leave home and live a period where they experiment with sin and reject God. A Protestant Rumspringa of sorts.(An Amish rite of passage when Amish teens enter the world for a time to confirm whether they want to remain Amish or prefer excommunication.)
While I understand statistics confirm many teens do reject God when they leave home, I don’t like it presented as the default option for our children. Teens who are struggling with sin may actually be convinced that it will be fine for them to experiment with a sinful lifestyle, in spite of their doubts and concerns. They assume they will have plenty of time to repent later. Unfortunately, some teens do not survive experimentation.
A child who has no intention of rebelling, may suddenly believe they are the only teenager on the planet who loves God and is trying to remain faithful to his commitment during his youth. Our ministers and leaders are merely adding to the peer pressure to live an ungodly life, at least for several years.
The teen who is actively engaged in a sinful lifestyle may feel licensed to continue in her ways until a later time. After all, the ministers and leaders are suggesting that leading an ungodly life is a normal rite of passage.
Yes, our children will make mistakes growing up – lots of them. Not all of them have to be huge nor do our children have to leave church and God for a time. There are other options available that, in spite of what many would have us believe, a substantial number of young people have taken.
Our teens and college aged children are often exposed to person after person telling stories of drug and alcohol abuse or teen pregnancy. Their testimonies are considered powerful because they made huge mistakes or totally left the church, but then repented and returned. While I admire them and appreciate them for sharing their stories, I would appreciate a steady stream of another kind of testimony for our young people as well.
We need to expose our teens to people who navigated their youth as successfully as possible. Of course they sinned, but they never turned their backs on God. Maybe they continued serving others during college or went on mission trips. They really did remain virgins until marriage and have happy, successful marriages. They attended secular colleges, but still attended church regularly. Perhaps, they shared their faith with fellow students. They can even share with our children how they made their faith their own, instead of just the faith of their parents.
A Christian life can be a powerful testimony too. I learned very early to follow the scriptures the best I could. I still sinned, but I avoided making so many of the mistakes some of my friends made by ignoring those same verses. I saw the pain, heartache and consequences they were suffering from ignoring God’s commands. Consequences I was able to avoid by obedience. I also believe God guided me and blessed me in many ways throughout my younger years. We never know for sure what would have happened if we had chosen a different path, but I believe my life may have been very different had I rejected God for a season.
Are the testimonies of those who have rejected God (or not found Him yet), suffered great consequences and made huge life changes valuable? Absolutely! Let’s just remember we also need to expose our children to those who have chosen the right paths and can help our children find them. Often children live up to our expectations. Professors spend a lot of time in teacher education programs drilling that into the heads of future teachers. Instead of assuming the worst future for our children, let’s expect the best. Let’s encourage them to follow God continually, all the days of their lives. Promise them a godly life can be a powerful testimony as well.
If your church doesn’t provide exposure to people who remained faithful in their youth, find some on your own to mentor your child. I promise you, there are plenty of young people out there who did, they may just feel like they are bragging if they offer to share their story with others. Your children need to hear that following God all the days of their lives is a very viable option – they only need to choose God. Make sure your children understand it is indeed a choice they have.P.S If you are a parent who led an ungodly life in your youth, don’t assume your child will do the same. Call your children to lead godly lives for their entire life. You may just be surprised that history does not have to repeat itself.