Let’s be honest. Friends can cause a lot of drama for kids and teens. Your kids will probably have struggles in this area from time to time. They may wonder how many friends they should have, worry about finding the “right” best friend, struggle with peer pressure or any number of other friendship issues.
They need your guidance. You can’t control their friendships, but you can influence them. The younger your kids are when you start teaching them about friendship, the easier it will be for them to handle whatever happens.
So what are some things you should be sharing with your children? There are a lot of things that may help, but these are some of our favorites.
Teach them how to find godly, supportive friends. David and Jonathan are a great example of this type of friendship. They both worshipped and trusted God. They were supportive of one another under extremely difficult situations. Situations that would have made most people enemies. Talk to your kids about ways to find out if someone will be a Jonathan type friend to them. Help them understand the value of a friendship that will make them grow in positive ways.
Teach them to be friendly to everyone, but choose close friends carefully. Kids and teens are more likely to become like the kids with whom they spend the most time. It’s a rare young person who would have the ability to convince a child who is constantly in trouble to change his or her behavior. It’s more likely your child will soon start to get in trouble with his or her trouble bound friends. That doesn’t mean however, your child should act in unkind or unloving ways to people whom they have not chosen as close friends. Their behavior should reflect God’s love to everyone – friend or not.
Teach them the types of people who can cause them to move away from God’s plan for their lives. Sometimes, those negative traits are hard for young people to see. They may only notice outward appearances or common interests – missing the warning sides this friendship could change them in negative ways. Teaching them proactively – from places like the friendship wisdom in Proverbs – can keep you from having to point out the negative traits in a new friend.
Teach them to be encouraging, kind, supportive, loving friends. Teach them by how you treat your friends. Discuss ways they can support, encourage and love their friends. Correct unkind and hurtful words and behaviors towards others. Help them correct bad habits that can annoy others and cause them to reject your children’s attempts at friendship.
Help them develop multiple friend groups. Some children only need one or two close friends to be happy. Others will have lots of casual friends. Unfortunately, for many young people, they are only in one friend group. When the drama of their friend group becomes hurtful or annoying, they are left feeling they have no friends. If they have several friend groups – school, church, activities – it’s more likely they can find friendship respite in a friend group not currently involved in drama. It also lessens the effects of peer pressure from one group – their entire social currency is not invested in making that one group happy.
When friendship blues happen, remind them of everyone who will always love them. Yes, they will quite probably roll their eyes or tell you that those people “have to love them” (so it doesn’t count). Deep down though, there is reassurance in knowing God, their family and others will love them in spite of any “mistakes” they may make.
Give them hope for future friendships. Some kids are mature for their age. Or have special needs. Or are extremely talented. They may feel like there is no one in their current environment who really “gets them” enough to be a close friend. It can become discouraging – especially in the teen years. Explain to them that as they move towards college and/or a career path, they will move or specialize more. It is often in those environments they will find those friends who are more like them. Sometimes just giving them that hope for the future is all they need to move through their current friendship woes.
Watch for serious signs of trouble and get help when needed. Falling grades, changing eating habits, lethargy, lack of interest in things they normally love, flat affect and other signs of depression are often red flags. Don’t let things go on so long serious issues like drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders or suicide become a reality. Start having conversations to try and find the roots of the changes in behavior and attitude. If you feel like the problems are serious, get professional help for your child.
Friendships are essential for your children’s health and growth. Preparing them to choose and be great friends can make it easier for them to form friendships that will encourage them to reach their godly potential. It’s worth your time and effort.
Apologetics are “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something”. In the case of Christians, apologetics usually refers to answers to questions or criticisms commonly posed by people who aren’t Christians. Many young people raised in Christian homes may hear these questions or criticisms from teachers, peers, or even in the things they read and watch.
Some Christian young people may have even wondered about these same things themselves. The problem is that if they are brave enough to voice their questions and concerns, the reaction from other Christians can be extremely negative. Many young people have learned to leave those doubts unexpressed and unfortunately unanswered.
Those who do ask them may have been told some platitude that was formed years ago when the average Christian had no access to things like primary source documents from the early church. Now with the internet, Christians have access to primary source documents, archaeological finds and more within seconds. Unfortunately, many Christians don’t know those things are available or could help provide clearer answers than a platitude that could easily be demolished by a savvy debater.
Before you start immersing your kids in apologetics though, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Apologetics aren’t a replacement for Bible knowledge. Apologetics can help your child understand why Christians believe what they do, but your child still needs to read the Bible to be personally familiar with the scriptures. Apologetics often cover topics in broad strokes, while living a Christian life requires a more detailed, nuanced knowledge and understanding of scripture.
Apologetics aren’t the best way to understand how to apply scripture to one’s life. Although there may be some application principles in an apologetics reading, they don’t attempt to cover every application principle in scripture. The focus is generally on the things that confuse or upset non-Christians.
Apologetics are only as good as the person who researched and wrote/spoke them. Someone who doesn’t understand scripture or is holding on to some false teaching or man-made doctrine may have faulty apologetics, too. It’s important to screen anything before showing it to your kids or at least watch it with them so you can discuss any areas in which you believe the Bible teaches something differently.
Apologetics can prepare and protect your kids from common arguments against Christianity they may hear or read – often in college when you aren’t there to discuss it with them. A good apologetics resource usually addresses the most common questions and criticisms. They will have already explained to your child the answers that are well thought out and researched, using scripture and its underlying principles.
Apologetics can keep your kids from allowing someone to take one or two verses out of context and use them as an argument against the correct full picture given by the Bible in its entirety. For example, some people will say the Believers’ or Sinners’ prayer is a way to become a Christian – even though it was invented in the United States a couple of hundred years ago. They will pull out a couple of verses about faith saving you, ignoring the fact that every conversion involved baptism, Jesus himself was baptized, verses in Acts and Romans connect baptism to having your sins forgiven and the early church only accepted baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins as the way of becoming a Christian. Apologetics can point out the problem with a few verses pulled out of context and point your kids back to the full picture found in the Bible.
Apologetics are not a way for your child to share his or her faith. That involves sharing the story of Creation and the Fall and God’s plan for redemption. It means your child can tell the story of Jesus – especially about his death, burial and resurrection. It involves your child being able to share how he or she has seen God working in the world today. It also means your child can tell someone the joy found in the Gospel message and how to become a Christian. Bits of that may be found in apologetics material, but is not it’s central purpose.
Apologetics can prepare your kids to answer questions others may have when they share their faith with them. When your kids begin to share their faith, some people may have questions or concerns that are answered by apologetics. Those answers will help your kids stay calm and know how to answer them. It also keeps them from giving in to the temptation to answer with a platitude or a less than kind answer out of fear or frustration.
So who are some people who are well known for producing strong apologetics materials? *Lee Strobel has plenty of “Case for” books that many have used over the years. The great thing about his materials is that most of them come in adult, teen and child versions. Sean Mcdowell has videos that can be found on RightNow Media. They are short and easy to understand. Many churches have free subscriptions you can use. J Warner Wallace is a former police detective whose apologetics use forensic science. He also has videos on RightNow Media and several books that are often on sale in the ebook format. Ravi Zacharias is also popular, although I haven’t had time to explore his materials.
Apologetics are not a substitute for teaching your kids the Bible and helping them understand and obey it. They can however, give you some important tools to help strengthen your kids’ spiritual foundations in specific areas. It’s worth exploring them with your kids.
*Please be aware that apologetics writers are human and capable of making mistakes. There is no substitute for the absolute truths found in the Bible. Compare everything they say to scripture for yourself and teach your children to do the same
According to the latest research, 47% of Millennials believe it is wrong to share their faith with anyone who is not a Christian. That’s a huge disconnect from what Jesus called us to do in the Great Commission and what we know happened in the early church.
When almost half of a generation believe it is wrong to do the very thing that is supposed to be one of their top priorities, the church is in trouble. And it may only get worse, if something doesn’t change dramatically. Why? Because Millennials are also most of today’s young parents. Which means they are teaching another generation the lies they have believed from our culture and ultimately Satan.
If you are a young parent, you can change things – even if no one else in your generation does. Don’t forget that even with those depressing statistics, 53% still understand their call to teach everyone about Jesus. They understand becoming a Christian is the only way to spend eternity in Heaven. It may not be politically correct, but it is God’s Truth – woven throughout scripture.
So what are some things you can do with your kids to help them become courageous sharers of their faith? Here are some of our favorites:
Encourage them to invite their friends to Church and Church events. Sounds old school, but that’s how many of us started. We were encouraged by our parents to invite friends to come with us to anything we did at Church. It’s amazing how many kids and teens will agree to come to church if asked. They probably won’t bring it up, but are often quick to agree when asked.
Take brownies to new neighbors and invite them to Church. Get your kids to help with the baking. Take the brownies over as a family. Not only may your kids meet some new friends, but you can also help your neighbors find their new Church home.
Challenge your kids to find the opportunities God gives them to tell others something about Him. Often we totally miss openings others give us to talk about our faith, God, church, etc. Have your kids help you notice opportunities and give you a secret signal so you don’t miss them. Afterwards, talk about what you shared and why you decided to share that particular piece of your faith with the person. Eventually, they will be able to do the same when they aren’t with you.
Role play common scenarios. What are some of the things that might happen during their normal day that would give them a great chance to share their faith? Role play some of the things they could say, while you pretend to be the other person and respond in various ways. They need to become comfortable when people are interested and when they aren’t.
Teach older kids apologetics. There are a lot of great videos and books that deal with answering the common questions seekers have about God and Christianity. Apologetics will give them well worded responses that are possibly more effective than how they might answer those questions in the moment.
Go on a mission trip. Most churches have local and foreign mission opportunities. The younger your children are when they go on mission trips and the more often they go, the more likely they are to become more comfortable telling others about Jesus.
There are plenty of ways to encourage your kids to become Christians who share their faith regularly. The key is making sure they have a heart for helping others spend eternity in Heaven. When they realize on a deep level the wonderful gift they are truly sharing when they share their faith, the lies Satan has told them about variable truth will usually begin to fade away. It’s definitely worth your time and effort to raise a generation who is comfortable and passionate about sharing their faith.
You’ve probably seen many articles about kids and social media. Maybe you are worried about even allowing your children access. Or perhaps you think it’s overblown hype that won’t touch your kids because they are different from others their age.
Your teens may want to use social media as a platform for the things that are important to them. Yet, few have adult led conversations about the positive ways they can use social media to serve others and share their faith.
If your teen is getting ready to join social media or has been on it for several years, it’s great to have a family discussion about the many ways they can use their social media platform for God’s glory. It’s also important though to help them think through the ways people often think they are making a positive difference, but may actually be making things worse or drive people away from their interest in God and Christianity.
There are a lot of things you can discuss, but these can help get the conversation started.
When our daughter was in elementary school, her girl scout leaders decided to have a “kidnap” breakfast one Saturday morning. They surprised each girl at her house, grabbed her in whatever she was wearing at the time (parents knew about it, so it was all good!) and whisked them off to breakfast and an end of year celebration.
Your family can do something similar. Think of people you know who might be lonely. They aren’t necessarily old, so don’t forget about single moms, single people in general, people new to your area and spouses of deployed military personnel.