Recently read an account of teen life in Malibu during the 1970’s. The author describes what is was like for his life and many of the teens in the area. There was a great lack of parental supervision and also a lack of guidance (from my observation lack of spiritual guidance as well, which affects every area of life). For many of the teen lives this resulted in promiscuity, drugs, alcohol and for some, reckless behavior and sadly tragedy.
To me, his account is a strong reminder of how much teens need Jesus. How important it is for Christians to reach out to them. To have outreaches for youth, youth groups and Bible studies. For Christian individuals to open their lives to helping and influencing youth for Christ. To reach out in love with compassion and wisdom. To offer parental guidance for teenagers whose parents are absent from their lives, whether physically or emotionally absent. Kids seek leaders and direction. They need Christian influences.
Like the Robin Jones Gunn books, which I wrote about in my recent blogpost. Similar to the real life teen account in Malibu, Robin writes about fictional teen life in Newport Beach, California, but with a complete contrast and Christian perspective. Instead of partying with drugs, sex and alcohol without spiritual truth, the lead character Christy Miller gives her life to Jesus after becoming friends with a group of Christian teens. They still enjoy hanging on the beach and surfing, but also incorporate worship time together on the beach and talking about Jesus. They still enjoy dating, but with a desire to please God, remain pure and honor one another. They live and enjoy life with friends, school, shopping and beach time, but they live knowing Jesus. Robin provides an alternative to what teen without Jesus is by showing what teen life with Jesus can be.
Robin shares on her website why she started writing the books: “While on a camping trip with their church youth group, Robin grew concerned when she saw what the girls were reading in their tent. The 13 year-old girls challenged her, saying, ‘If you don’t want us to read these books then you should write novels for us. We’ll even tell you what to write. How hard could that be?’” She then started writing captivating, intriguing stories about fascinating characters with a Christian influence and perspective to impact teens for Christ.
Yes, these books are fictional, but the truth they share are real. Just as with the characters in the books, God’s Word warns teens of danger and pitfalls to avoid, that if they will trust Him enough to listen, they can walk a safe path. The result? Avoiding unplanned pregnancies and not dying early of drugs. Direction for life when you don’t know what to do, courage to do what’s right and healthy romantic relationships that last. Girls really don’t want to be used. They really want someone to love them and not leave them. Following God’s plan helps this happen, along with hanging out with Christian friends who desire the same path and will help them to make decisions to stay on that path.
Pastor Greg Laurie shares his testimony of giving his life to Jesus in CA when he was wild, partying teen. (You can watch his testimony here at about 32 minutes in.) As a teen, noticing a cute Christian girl at his high school, he decided to eavesdrop on their high school campus Bible study. One of the things that really caught Pastor Greg’s attention is when the speaker told how Jesus said, “You are either for Me or against Me.” He thought well these teens are definitely for Jesus. Does that mean he’s not for Jesus? As he listened, he started to wonder, “What if they’re right? What if God is real? What if Jesus really died on the cross and rose from the dead and what if He could come into my life?” It was that day that Greg gave his life to Christ and God changed his life.
It is so VITAL for teens to know Jesus. To hear the Gospel. To have Christians provide guidance and direction from God’s Word and be positive role models. Teens need healthy father and mother examples and friends. They need to see Christian marriages. Christian material such as Christian books, music and TV shows are so important and such a good influence!
So I encourage Christian parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, pour into the lives of your teen relatives and teens you know. Be there for them. Reach out to them. For presents, give them Christian music and books. Take them to Christian concerts and conferences. Help them find a good youth group and Bible study. If there’s not a good one in your area, start a Bible study! Provide an outreach for youth, whether it’s an organized event at a church or park, or whether it’s just opening your garage for kids to come over, eat pizza, play pool and then talk about God and have a Bible study. If you don’t know what to teach, put in a Christian movie or watch a preacher give a message, whether you have the DVD, tape it off TV or pull it up on their website or youtube. And very importantly, pray for them!
Be there for them to answer tough questions and help them have the courage to take the right path. Give them the support and encouragement they need. If you don’t know the answers to their tough question, tell them you don’t know but that you can search out the answer from God’s Word and from Christians who have biblical answers. Don’t be afraid to tell them that God designed sex for marriage and the best way (and the way that is pleasing and in obedience to God) is to save sex for marriage. Women can helps girls dress more modestly by funding a shopping trip where they buy more modest clothes. They can teach them how to cook. Men can teach guys how to fix cars, build things and maybe even give them a paying job to do yard work or paint a fence or room in the house. Taking kids out to a wholesome movie (pluggedin.com offers movie reviews) and then treating them to lunch is another idea. Spending time with kids and giving them gifts and paying for lunch opens up their hearts to hear what you have to say.
When I was becoming a teen, my Mom started a practice of going shopping and out to lunch together on Saturdays. Seeking God herself, she offered friendship, guidance and a listening ear. I could tell her anything and still can. She became one of my best friends and still is. My Dad has always been there for me, encouraged me and has set so many good examples. With his own boldness for Christ, He has greatly encouraged me to be bold for Christ. They also have prayed for me a lot and still do.
Am so thankful for my parents’ presence, direction and protection. For pouring into my life spiritually and emotionally and providing Christian material such as music, books and Christian TV shows. For taking me to church, youth groups, Christian concerts and conferences. Thankful for my grandparents’ prayers and Christian influence. Thankful for the Holy Spirit Who reached out to me to bring me to Jesus. Thankful for the way God worked in my heart and spoke to me through Christian speakers, ministers, testimonies, books, music and TV shows. People who allowed the Spirit of God to work through them to touch people’s lives.
My parents took many lengths to help me have a relationship with God and a safe, protected, happy childhood. As an adult, I realize even more how crucial this is and what an amazing blessing. They made great effort to get me on the right path, because even if you grow up in a Christian home, it’s not a given or guarantee. (Everyone has to make the decision to follow Christ for themselves. Nobody can do it for anyone else. Learn more here.) Even for a teen who is following Christ, there are still temptations, struggles and choices to make. Choices to yield to the Holy Spirit, obey their parents, save sex for marriage, be careful who they hang out with and what they watch, say no to drugs and alcohol and continue to seek God. To follow Christ daily.
So thankful my parents made sure I knew the truth growing up and that God worked in my heart and saved me. Hope that other teens will have somebody there for them too, to show them God’s love, share the truth, pray for them, help them and be there for them.
It’s crucial. Lives hang in the balance.
Read Part 2: Use Caution and Wisdom