How the Church Should Respond to Parents with Rebellious Teens

I still vividly can recall that day in ministry.

“Bang, Bang, Bang!” I could almost feel the tension in the air and the noise shook me at the core of my inner being. I rushed to the church steps and burst through the doors; and there it was, chaos. It looked a war took place. It was a drive-by shooting.

I immediately recognized at the steps of our church there were two young men on the ground; The one 19-year-old boy with multiple bullet holes in his body. The other one face planted on the ground in a pool of blood; a 21-year-old boy literally dead on the church steps.

This is the definition of addition-driven, poverty-stricken families of at-risk youth. What is the effect upon the church? What about the kids running around the streets killing one another?

The church must respond in some way to the various complexities of these youth’s life. Being a pastor myself, I have sensed and seen a lot of this tension and conflict, but not necessarily resolutions. This grieves my soul and makes me weep.

The threats upon the family are implausible. The intensive addiction driven homes have led to greater poverty and local governments unable to provide services for all people. The question we as Christians must ask is this: “What should be the response of the church?”

Discipling Parents with Gospel Intentionality

The family is the number-one influence on the spiritual development of our children and teenagers.

It is a powerful reminder in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, as well as in the New Testament in Ephesians 6:4, that parents not only in Old Testament times but also those under the New Covenant realize that spiritual development starts within the home.

So, it is not the pastor’s job to raise the youth, but it is the primary task of the parents.

Voddie Baucham said it well in his book, Family Driven Faith, “We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.” [1]

Therefore, helping to position the church in family ministry is certainly God’s will. Including the parents and championing the children’s faith and mobilizing the entire team to discipleship is what the church is called to do.


The Dilemma in the Broken Society & Dysfunctional Family

The tension rises when one asks the fundamental question, “What if the children don’t have a family? What if sin has devastated to the point that the parents are out of the picture?”

There may be a mother, a single parent, who is absent the majority of time; The father is incarcerated, whether justly or unjustly.

How can the church be found faithful and follow the clear biblical instruction given to the church in the context of modern families that have been affected by poverty who can barely keep food on the table?

What ought to be the response of Christians in the rise of substance addiction that eats up the modern family from within? What can the church offer for these youths who are “at-risk” to the point of death? [2]


The Stewardship of Disciple-Making in the Family

The staggering number of 86% of evangelical youth drop out of church after graduation. Christians have found the easy way out by abandoning the biblical model of parents championing their children’s faith.[3]

Why am I so burden about this? Because I was one of those teenagers who lived in a broken home with a father who was a dogmatic atheist yet a mother who was a devout believer. I heard the gospel at age 16 through a youth pastor.

However, so much of who I am today is because of my mother who faithfully prayed for me on a regular basis.

Though my father was absent for the majority of my life and did not grow up with a biblical model of the spiritual leader in the home, my family had a significant impact upon my life up till this very day in that I am now modeling it in my home.


Correlation of Discipleship & Counseling in the Local Church

What does discipleship practically look like when happening outside of the church? And what would it look like for discipleship to take place within the church building for youth who are dealing with real life addiction and are in homelessness?

The response of Churches cannot be, “Well, we haven’t figured out a system, so hopefully you all can figure it out.”

A good strategy executed today is better than a perfect plan that may be executed next week.[4]

When a needy young adolescent comes to the church in need of counseling, as they are the verge of being sent to prison, often the response of the church is, “We are not trained in these things, so we will hand you off elsewhere.”

The question of, “How does Biblical counseling correlate with family ministry and poverty-stricken at-risk youth cases?” is perhaps the questions that will lead to practical plans for avenues to provide answers to these issues.


Counseling in Light of Sufficiency of Scripture

“We are not trained so we hand it over to someone else.” These answers are no longer an option for the church leaders.

The question then will be, “Does the Bible have enough to say, to address problems of this life in counseling? Is scripture sufficient to do the work of counseling?”

This question perhaps is the most controversial question in the context of pastoral care and counseling.

Most believe that theology is to a minister what psychology is to counselors and the two do not really have much to do with each other. The doctrine of Scripture is the foundation often for our Christian doctrine.

The sufficiency of Scripture is important not only as it speaks of our authority and trust Christians have, but even in the counseling realm.

Whatever Christians say demonstrates a reliance on some source of authority.

For many, they think the Bible is necessary for people for salvation and doctrine, but not in their everyday trouble, such as counseling.

In a sense, they are saying that the purpose of the Bible is how to get saved and walk with Jesus but is not focused on offering insights to the most serious counseling topics that people deal with.


Tremendous Need of the Forsaken Generation

Truly, some of these situations are complex and to be honest, they are horrendous. The church should be troubled by the types of sin and brokenness present in such families with at-risk teens. Those who sought counsel from me may feel inadequate and useless.

Christians are called to pray and weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15), but in the back of many believer’s heads is the thought, “There has to be more I can do for them.” It staggers the mind.

Pastoral care and counseling cannot be a mere commiseration of hanging out but navigating through people’s pain and hurt as they vulnerably seek assistance that the Lord has entrusted.



[1]Voddie Baucham Jr, Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God, Reprint edition (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2011).

[2]R. Albert Mohler Jr, We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong(Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2015).

[3]James Emery White, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2017).

[4]Daniel Im and Thom S. Rainer, No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry(B&H Books, 2017).

4 thoughts on “How the Church Should Respond to Parents with Rebellious Teens”

  1. Good thought-provoking blog Jonathan.

    As a footnote footnote #4 is a paraphrase of George S Patton “a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” He had been a hero of mine for number of years when I was younger.

  2. This was an amazing write up. God Bless you for pouring out your heart. I believe this is a very much needed subject that needs to be touched on more. I was a at-risk-teen who ran into many troubles as a young adult but God finally got a hold of me at 25. Families are suffering in silent because of embarrassment and shame. There needs to be more training within churches because like Voddie Baucham stated . You cant send your children to be taught by Romans and not come home with a Roman way of thinking.


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