Blog Parenting Hacks

I Started a Bible Study with My Teenagers. Then Wanted To Jump Off A Cliff

Raising christian teens

Similar to so many all-American Christian families, my kids have gone to church since birth, and then youth group since hitting thirteen. They know their Bible stories, rarely flinch when we say grace in public and know better than to even think of swearing. But lately I’ve had this nag in my spirit that this is all not enough. They’ll be off to college before I know it, their faith will be tested and who knows what will happ…well…you know the mental torture I speak of.

So recently, I stepped out and took the plunge. I decided I going to do a Freedom study with my 14- and 16-year-old sons, every Tuesday, after supper, smack dab on the family room couch. I’d just finished the study with an adult life group, and I was pumped to finally have a plan.

I went into it with the wide eyed, eager naivety of a first-time mom readying for birth. This. Is going to be magical.

What ensued was perhaps not as unpleasant as defecating oneself on a delivery table while screaming at medical residents, but like so many unforeseen motherhood moments, it was by all accounts, a disaster.

Where to even begin.  Let’s first talk about the toddler-grade whining, resisting and near physical refusal coming my way after declaring our newfound family activity. Neighbors within earshot could’ve easily believed I was forcing my kids into chemical shower. “MOM WHAT?!! WHYYYY?!! DUDE NO WAY MOM!! We ALREADY go to church twice a week!!!” I mean it went on and on, like a British parliament hearing. There was debating, posturing and a defeating resistance that frankly made me falter for a sec. If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit steppin’ in, I might’ve surrendered myself straight to the jacuzzi tub.

But I resisted, and overcame. Now on to the experience itself. I find it absolutely flabbergasting that when bringing my normally stoic teenage sons together for anything structured like a family meeting on chore lists, or in this case, a nice family Bible study, they transmute into middle-school aged chimpanzees on uppers.  There was nonstop laughter. Endless flatulence sounds. Absolute inability to sit still, and continual rough housing with our dog, whom on all other occasions, is left utterly ignored.

Suffice it to say, there was no magic. And certainly no Holy Spirit fire. Instead, I was legit triggered by memories of forced homeschooling during Covid and was later tempted to hit the Pinot on a Tuesday. But I digress. On to the point.

After finally getting my “group” under control, taking turns reading aloud and turning to the Bible passages marked for lookup, I was met with legit and utter shock. The first kick to the soul was realizing my younger son couldn’t “work his Bible.” Like, when I said, “turn to Matthew chapter twenty-five,” he asked if that was “after Moses.” Being a veteran Christian parent, I of course thought he was kidding, but after watching him muddle his way through the pages like Helen Keller on day number one of braille lessons, my heart kinda broke. My kid never reads his Bible. I. Have. Failed.

And the nightmare continued. Soon after the fresh revelation that I’ve been raising heathens for a decade, my older son decided to seize the moment and open up about everything he’s been questioning about the goodness God, the validity of the Bible, the divinity of Christ, and other questions I’ll not share out of respect for his privacy. Let’s just say after about an hour’s worth of full-on, Lee Strobel-grade apologetics, I found myself sitting defeated in a pool of my own sweat, panting for air and wondering where my mothering went wrong.

I managed to end our time on a high note, muttering some sort of prayer about God’s sovereignty, but like so many other faithful mamas of teens around the world each and every night, I went to bed that sobbing in salt piles of my own tears wondering about everything and anything more I could have done to raise them better.

I guess one point of sharing this mothering fail would be to highlight the clear need to disciple our own children. One youth service a week might not be cutting it, when our teens are distracted (okay addicted…the jig is up) by their phones 24/7, and everything at school and on social media is pointing them away from God. The problem is we get stuck. Lots of us were never discipled as a teen, and/or found Jesus later in life and have no idea where to even begin. So many of us are tired, and distracted, and frankly, it’s just easier to believe the youth pastor’s got it all under control.

I could of course proceed down the rabbit hole of mom guilt and regret we’re all too familiar with, but thankfully God, in his constant kindness, has stopped me in my tracks to share this sweet, MUCH-needed reassurance that I’ll share with you now.  It’s not too late.

It’s not too late to do things differently. It’s never too late to pivot, or raise our kids in different ways after we’ve had a revelation or a conviction from the Lord. God knows how hard this is, but he created and equipped us to raise these kids here and now, in this culture, in 2024. Raising a teenager feels like watching parts of our baby slip through our fingers like sand in a state of constant panic. It can feel like the world, this culture, and all its influences are winning the war for our kids’ affection and attention on a daily basis. It’s terrifying and frankly I’m ready for the rapture.

But here’s the truth that I’m always, always reminded of, whenever I quiet my soul enough to hear from the Lord. We are going to win, and they will be okay.  We may feel helpless and outnumbered in the moment, but His plan always prevails. We just need to claim God’s promises (here’s a list!), and partner with Him. I’m so glad for the sting of that painful first Bible study night and for every uncomfortable, but slightly more productive Tuesday since. Sometimes God allows little fires, or “wake-ups” in our lives, that at first feel like punishment or arbitrary pain but they’re actually quite intentional. For example, when our kid does something so outlandishly “bad” or stupid, it’s often a gift, helping us become aware of an issue before it gets worse.

Instead of feeling guilt and worry during these tween/teen years, I’m trying with all my might to feel full of faith and gratefulness. Faith that God is bigger than my mistakes and bigger than the enemy’s attack on my kids. And grateful that with Jesus, it’s never, ever too late for new mercies, new grace, and a new way out, and forward. I’ve repented for leaving my kid’s spiritual growth in the hands of strangers, and I’m not looking back. We need to focus on all we can do for these kids while we still have ‘em, instead of shaming ourselves for all we’ve done wrong. Much to my boys’ chagrin, I might even double up on Tuesdays. Surely, Moses would approve.

For more on raising teens, check out my post “5 Truths Every Mom of Teens Needs to Hear, Today.”



Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist, author and contributor to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Huff Post, God TV, Beliefnet, Crosswalk and many more. When she's not burning dinner, daydreaming about the beach, she can be found on the trampoline with her copious amount of children, wishing she'd ordered the turbo shot.

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