I haven’t been a teenager for several years, but I still remember those days like it was yesterday. I reflect back on junior high and high school with mixed emotions. Part of me feels joy for all the things the Lord allowed me to experience. The other part of me feels sorrow for not feeling well prepared to deal with life. Now that I’m in my late twenties, I feel like I can offer a few pieces of advice to Christian teenagers. What are they?
Here’s 12 things every Christian teenager should know:
1. Obey God
You were created by God to live for him (Colossians 1:16). You’ll only be happy if you do so. At this stage, you’re probably starting to experience peer pressure to sin in some way (e.g., drinking alcohol, premarital sex, etc). Don’t give in. It’s not worth it.
The things the world has to offer are temporarily gratifying. But the things that God has to offer are eternally satisfying. God is not a killjoy. He has your greatest interests in mind. The Bible really means it when it says that God is the only true source of satisfaction in this life.
2. Obey your parents
John Calvin puts it this way:
“ . . . we are to show them [Your parents] respect, obedience, and thankfulness, and to render to them every service possible. For it is the Lord’s will that we should act like this to those who have given us life. And it is of little importance whether they are worthy or unworthy of this honor for, whatever they may be, they have been given to us as father and mother by the Lord, who has willed that we should honor them.”
If you’re like me, Calvin’s quote convicts you.
I know that you probably think your parents are uncool, and they sometimes get on your nerves (believe me, you get on their nerves too). But God ordained that they — yes, your mother and your father — would be your parents, and he commands that you obey them. While I may sometimes disagree with my parents, I always regret it when I disobey them. Obey your mom and pops.
3. Obey the authorities
Paul says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). Paul then calls the authorities as “God’s servant” and “ministers of God” (v.4, v.6). The words in Greek that Paul uses for these two verses is the exact same words that Paul uses when speaking about Christian ministers of the church elsewhere. Here’s the point: God wants you to respect and obey them.
At your age, it may seem cool to be rebellious to authorities. But that is exactly one of the biggest problems with your generation and mine: a lack of respect for authority. Whether it’s a police officer or tax collector or pastor or grandparent, you have to understand certain people have authority over you, and you have to obey.
4. Get plugged into the local church
God’s plan A is the church, and there’s no plan B. I hope and pray your parents are going to church. If they’re not, ask them to start going. If the church has a youth group, get plugged in. Go to the summer camps. Invite your friends to youth group. Get involved right now. Give your life, time, and energy to God’s bride.
5. Develop a devotional life
When I say “devotional life” what I mean are things that you do in private to grow in godliness. Focus in on Bible reading and prayer (but journaling, worship, scripture memorization, and other disciplines are helpful too). I read the Gospels over and over again when I was a teenager, and it changed my life. It is not an exaggeration when I say that one of the best things I’ve ever implemented in my life is the regular rhythm of personal devotions. The value is incalculable.
6. You probably shouldn’t be dating anyone
Definitely not in junior high, and probably not in high school.
With that said, there are some who married their high school sweetheart. These stories can happen, but they are few and far between, especially nowadays. For every one couple that starts dating at your age and ends in success (marriage), there are hundreds that end in disaster.
Got a girl or guy you’re eyeing at school? Cool.
Tell your parents, tell your youth group leader, pray, and then proceed with great caution. I didn’t date until I was 26 (and now we’re married!) and I don’t regret it one bit. Sure, my life at times felt lonely when I was in my late teens and early twenties. But the slight sting of loneliness is a far lesser pain than permeant heartache from someone of the opposite sex. Again: you should probably wait before you date.
7. Learn to steward your singleness well
I’ve written a lot about singleness, which you can find here. Singleness is a blessing even if it sometimes feels like a curse. Allow the Lord to shape your character as you look to him in this season.
8. Re-Think Your Social Media Habits
One popular teen star quit Instagram. I’m not saying you have to follow her footsteps. But a growing concern of mine — and this is true for myself and my generation as well— is that we’re using social media to create our identity. The validation that you’re looking for, in Christ, you already have.
Have fun on social media. Tweet what you’re thinking. Share funny cat videos. Send silly snap chats. Give a few life updates on Facebook. And be sure to follow people that edify you. But don’t let it consume you.
9. Get a job (if you can)
My mom made me get my first job when I was 15. It was tough, but I quickly learned communication, social, interpersonal, and financial skills that helped shaped my character. If possible, get a job.
10. You can make a difference for Jesus right now
You don’t have to wait until you have gray hair to make a difference for Christ.
I think of Jaquelle Crowe, who just published her first book, This Changes Everything, dedicated to Christian teenagers. I think of Brett and Alex Harris, brothers and co-authors of a revolutionary book, Do Hard Things, aimed against low expectations for teens. I also think of my little brother who was a great source of godly encouragement to his youth group as a teenager. And the list goes on.
Of course, there’s a refining process that every teenager must go through. Hopefully, your most fruitful years are ahead of you. But as Paul says to Timothy: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12).
11. Don’t worry about the future
Recently, I facilitated a group discussion for two Christian youth groups. It was so encouraging to interact with them. One thing, however, stood out to me: many of the young kids are already anxious about their future.
Anxiety is a tricky thing, isn’t it? In one sense, God commands us not to be anxious (Philippians 4:4-6). In another sense, you can’t help but feel bodily reactions to seemingly fearful situations. It’s part of what makes you human. The thing that has helped me the most is growing in my understanding of God’s providential care for me. If he takes care of the birds, he’ll also take care of you. And that includes your future.
When your future arrives, Lord willing, what you need to know is that God will be right there with you— and that is more than enough.
12. Have fun
Finally, have fun. Why? Because you’re a teenager for crying out loud! Enjoy your fast metabolism, non-receding hairline, sugar-filled drinks, and life without (many) bills. It doesn’t last forever.
I hope you enjoy your teenagers years. They go by fast. And hopefully, this article helps a little. I hope the Lord blesses these years, and may you remember this quote by C.T. Studd as you continue to walk with the Lord: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
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