If I could take a long road trip with my teen, I would choose a destination that would lead us down miles of those mid-western linear highways so that I could focus on our conversations and not worry about white-knuckle driving. I wouldn’t chase after a hallmark sunset or a magnificent skyline because all I want on that trip is an undistracted sidekick. We would drive well into the night with the velvet sky all around us, and we would have those much-needed conversations while I sipped cups of gas station brand coffee, and she slurped icy, fruity drinks with quirky galactic names. As I sipped and she slurped, we would laugh, contemplate, debate, disagree, agreed, and just be. She would be my captive audience so that my heart could rest knowing that we had these conversations long before she backed out of the driveway, car-loaded and college bound. I want to weave these words with her before she gets married and has long into the night talks with her God-appointed spouse before life grabs her time and attention and we are left with mere snippets of conversation as we pass the dishes around the table during her holiday visits.
10 Conversations I want to have with my teen
1. The Best Aim in Life is to Know God
The highest purpose in life is the most important conversation to have with my teen because it impacts the rest of her life. J.I. Packer aptly states that “One can know a great deal about God without much knowledge of him.” To know God fulfills our primary life purpose; it answers the question, “why were we created.” When teens set their hearts in knowing God, it shapes their goals, establishes their priorities, and calibrates their values. Many teens, mine included, participate in a litany of gospel-bearing endeavors only to realize they hardly know God at all. Participation and completion of any or all Christian activities like Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, retreats, or Bible studies should serve as a supplement, not a substitute for knowing God. It is heartbreaking to acknowledge that some Christian teens learn more about the current Hollywood heartthrob or sports team idol than they know about the one, true God that they claim to love and serve.
2. Make It a Practice to Embrace Solitude
Social media fools us into believing that relationships are developed by clicks, texts, tweets, headlines, streams, hashtags, emoticons, abbreviations, and feeds. Millennials especially will need to resist the practice of texting emotions rather than communicating them via real time, with a human voice accompanied by facial expressions. God deserves and desires a slow down the speed of life, unplugged relationship with his children.
Throughout scripture, God often pulled individuals into solitude so that he could communicate solely with them. He commanded Moses to meet him in an isolated spot on Mt. Sinai. Abraham journeyed to a mountaintop to affirm his faith and receive the rescue plan for his people. Comfortable in isolation, David craved the quiet, get-away places so that he could pour out his heart to God.
In complete isolation, the apostle John’ spends his final years on a deserted island where he pens the end of the redemption story.
Encourage teens to be comfortable in a place of solitude, away from the distractions of the world so that God can pull them into quiet one on one.
3. Recognize That Your Words Can Cause Wars or Bring About Peace
The power behind words comes storming through the gates at about age 12. Heated debates at the dinner table seem disrespectful and maybe even rebellious, but this is the time in life when teens try to make sense of the world around them. They want to develop their worldview separate, not necessarily different, from the worldview of their parents. Our teens search for the answers to the “why” questions as they form their own beliefs. The key is to instruct our teens to speak tender words that bring hope.
4. Choose Friends Wisely
Bury your teen’s head in Proverbs for a month, and he will come up for air all the wiser regarding friends and associates. Before your teen forges a friendship, ask him, is this friend a Great Commission friend? A Great Commission friend is one who lives a gospel-centered life and encourages others to do the same.
5. Failure is Your Friend
“Embrace adversity and make failure a regular part of your life. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not really moving forward.” John Maxwell. Failure weeds out mediocrity and cultivates perseverance. It’s hard to watch our kids fail at something. As parents, we associate the failures of our children as a reflection or score card on our parenting. Heartbreaks and disappointments will be a part of this life, and how our teens handle the ebb and flow of failure depends on how rooted they are in their emotional and intellectual relationship with God.
6. Read About People Who Were Martyred Because of Their Faith
Narratives from church history record the suffering of our Christian forebearers. Suffering for their faith is something most teens in America rarely experience. Blandina, c. 155-177, a martyr at 22, suffered horrific physical pain because of her faith. She was pierced with daggers, crushed by the rack, hung on a wooden post left to be consumed by a beast in the arena, wrapped in a net and thrown to a wild bull, and then finally, killed by a sword all because she refused to recant her faith in God. I am ashamed to say that in spite of how many times I’ve poked my nose into the book of Isaiah, I never knew until this year that the prophet was placed inside a hollowed-out log and sawed in half.
7. Exercise Self-Control
We live in a culture that views self-control as the strangulation of self-expression. Self-control will serve them well when trying to balance biblical freedoms.
8. Develop a Rich, Deep-rooted Devotional Life
Be a disciple, a learner. There are no short-cuts in developing a rich devotional life. Students who earn stellar grades got there by applying themselves to the art of mastering the material. The same study habits can be used when pursuing God— through a time-honored reading and studying of the Word of God.
9. Avoid the Quick Fix Mentality
We want a quick fix whether it is a desire to fill our bellies or repair a dream gone awry. We often treat God like he is an item on a drive-thru menu board, and all we need to do is shout our request into the big-intercom-in-the-sky. Once our order is filled, exactly as we want, then we drive off into spiritual oblivion until our next crisis emerges. God doesn’t work that way.
10. Remind Your Teen to Grip Tightly to a Biblical Worldview
Jesus warned his disciples that raucous storms in life might try to steer them off course, but they have nothing to fear as long as they stay the course that he set for them. No new scientific or historical fact or landmark court decisions will ever change the truth of that course: Thus, “we are to think of the Bible as the ultimate standard of truth, the reference point by which every other claim to truthfulness is to be measured.”
Take a road trip with your teen and work through this list or chip away at the list one topic at a time. Don’t let time deceive you into putting off these conversations.
What are other conversation you need to have with your teen?