For teens who have made poor choices, facing up to the consequences of their actions can be hard. But for those who have a church background and can look back to praying a prayer for salvation, such a scenario can be even more disheartening. For them, the hope-giving gospel can seem like bad news — for them, anyway. Of course, the gospel is good news for every person on this earth, regardless of past experience. Communicating how can be a challenge but is a necessary part of fighting for the soul of a wayward teen.
Regretting a Childhood Conversion
Even teens who haven’t defied the law or experienced major moral failures can regret a childhood conversion. One reason is due to a misunderstanding of the gospel. Yes, the point of conversion offers a change in direction; at the same point, this change will usually be less apparent for children than it is for teens or adults. Certainly, someone who has already met Christ is in a better position to grow in their relationship with Him than someone who has not yet been introduced.
Misunderstanding Spiritual Growth
The same grace that saves us produces spiritual growth. That growth process will understandably be different in a child than in a teen or adult who comes to Christ, making someone who has been following Christ for 10 years as an adult more likely to produce spiritual maturity than one who was saved at age 5 and has the same 10 years of experience. Some teens may feel as if by beginning their relationship with Christ as a child, they’ve missed the chance for a major change. While the Bible does not say much about the topic of childhood converts, neither does it ever say believers are beyond the reach of grace; in contrast, those who have the Holy Spirit within them are prime candidates for change.
Facing Shame and Judgment
Recently, I saw a plaque that read, “Home is always a soft place to land.” Kids who have grown up in a Christian environment and have made a profession of faith but then have strayed away may anticipate anything but an open-armed welcome from their family. Parents of a wayward teen need to remember that not only has their teen brought shame upon their family, but their teen’s knowledge of God’s law may well do what its highest aim was, as stated in Galatians 3:24: produce guilt and lead to a repentant dependence on Christ. The guilt and shame which teens with Christian backgrounds may experience can even make them unable to fully enjoy the short-lived pleasures of sin that their secular counterparts experience. Couple that with the knowledge of how they’ve shamed their families and the hard work that full restoration will mean, and these young people are highly at risk. When they fear harsh judgment from their families and faith communities, they can be even more reticent to return.
When we take the time and make an effort to communicate a balanced picture of the purity and forgiveness offered in the gospel, along with modeling open-armed restoration after small offenses, we can help our teens realize that the gospel really is good news — yes, even for them.