Leading kids to repentance

Posted on August 29, 2009

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I just finished reading Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp.  Tripp’s analysis of the teenage years is both theologically precise and practically helpful.  One of my favorite chapters, “Three Strategies for Parenting Teens,” has some great advice for helping cultivate a heart of repentance in our children. Tripp notes,

“Rather than seeking to get our teenagers under our control, we want to be used of God so that they would joyfully submit to his (God).  Rather than seeing ourselves as agents of control, we need to see ourselves as ambassadors of reconciliation…It is as though God makes his personal appeal to our teenagers through us…We will not lead them to the Lord just once, but again and again and again, to receive his forgiveness and his help.”

Trip suggest four steps to the process of repentance (this is true for both adults & children!):

  1. Consideration – “What does God want my teenager to see about himself that he is not seeing? How can I help him to see these things?”  This step is really about helping teens with self-introspection.  Tripp offers five questions we can ask our children to help facilitate consideration :: A) What was going on? B) What were you thinking and feeling? C) What did you do? D) Why did you do it? E) What was the result?
  2. Confession – “I am convinced that one of the great mistakes we make when we confront our teenagers is that we tend to make their confessions for them . . . Our goal must be to lead our teenagers to make statements of confession.”
  3. Commitment – this involves the “teenager’s promise to live, act, and respond in a new way.  This commitment must be to God and to the appropriate people.”
  4. Change – “We need to help our teenagers think about particular situations and relationships, and how thye will do old things in a new, God-glorifying way” (be specific).

As parents, we have to be intentional and strategic about the ultimate goals we have for our children.  For Christian parents, that includes not just control or behavior modification, but true repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ.  We must, from an early age, build this into the DNA of our instructing and disciplining if we hope to put our kids in a position to succeed as authentic, mature Christian adults.

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