I recently came across a brother and sister who wanted to become members of the church but their parents said no. Their parents didn’t attend the church and they told me that the teenagers didn’t quite understand what it would really mean to become a member of the church. In these situations, students may begin to ask questions that are tough for youth leaders to answer. These questions can lead to a deeper relationship with God if handled well. However, if tough faith questions aren’t handled with grace and love it can lead students to resentment and anger toward God. One of these tough questions could be, how can I honor my father and mother if they don’t honor God?
Exodus 20:12 teaches us to honor our father and mother, and for many students, this is a fairly simple command. For other students, this command may force them to begin to ask deep thinking questions about how to truly understand the Bible and their relationship with their parents. Mark 12:30 teaches us to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Sometimes, students like those who wanted to become members of the local church may be put in situations where it may seem that they must choose between these two commands. This is where youth leaders have the opportunity to walk with students through some of the toughest of faith questions.
In cases such as this one, we must teach our students to honor their father and mother while still being sensitive to the Holy Spirit. This can be a difficult situation to navigate. As youth leaders, we must encourage our students to continue on in their faith while honoring the decisions of their parents as long as they are in line with the teenager’s safety. It can be difficult for youth leaders to understand parent’s wishes sometimes but we must model for our students what it looks like for us to honor their parent’s wishes even when it doesn’t line up with their beliefs. In my council with students in this situation, I always encourage students to try to think of the disagreement from their parent’s point of view. If the parents aren’t also following Christ, it can be difficult for them to understand the importance of joining the church to their child. We must first seek to understand the parent’s perspective and help the teen to continue to honor their parent in the difficult moments.
While honoring parents, we can still continue teenagers to push forward in their faith journey. Students can still take membership classes to learn about the church without becoming a member and you could still offer to mentor them in their daily walk with Christ. Just because a parent might make a decision that doesn’t honor the student’s relationship with God, doesn’t mean that the student always has to disobey their wishes to continue on in their walk with God. If the parent won’t be the cheerleader, encouraging students on in their faith, youth leaders have the great privilege to come alongside young people and be their greatest cheerleader. Encourage students to make the faith decisions that they can make and offer to walk with them until the day that they can celebrate a new milestone in their walk with Christ.
The most important thing that we can do is to continue to walk with our students through all of their tough faith questions. As we walk through life, we will come across challenging situations and questions such as the one discussed here. Youth leaders have the great opportunity to walk with students through these tough moments of life, showing students how to keep their faith strong in the midst of trials. These can be some of the best discipleship moments with our young people, preparing them for the God honoring decisions that they will be challenged to make throughout their lives.