By / Nov 30

I remember attending my university’s freshman orientation the summer before school began. For all of the talk of academics, the prevailing conversation among us, the prospective students, revolved around the fun we were ready to have. To us, college was one big game, a grand experiment that was just waiting for us. After all, that’s the way it’s pitched. Sure, college is the place we go to get a degree, but more importantly, it’s the place we go to have fun before entering into the real world. The underlying narrative is that every person gets four years between high school and a 9-to-5 job to do whatever he/she wants. For most freshmen, it’s viewed as four years with no parents, no curfews, no restrictions—to have the most fun possible—with no consequences.

All students eventually discover that the generally accepted narrative is unable to deliver on its promises. Though college is fun, it’s unable to produce lasting satisfaction. This realization, though disappointing, is bearable. But, the truly devastating realization for most students is that the choices they make in their quest for ultimate fun do inevitably bring consequences, sometimes life-altering.

For the past four years, I was the college pastor at the same university that I attended as a student. And each week, I sat with students who were struggling through weighty consequences. It broke my heart to see the effects of the “grand experiment” lifestyle; however, it also gave me unique opportunities to be a voice of gospel healing and hope in a hard-to-reach place.

The need for a pro-life voice on campus

One particular consequence common to university students that demands a loving, hope-filled response from the church is unplanned pregnancy. Statistics reveal that college-aged women (18-24-year-olds) experience unplanned pregnancy at a higher rate than the rest of society.1 Sadly, many of these pregnancies end in abortion. In fact, when abortion rates are broken down by age group, college-aged women account for nearly a third of all abortions (31%).2

These statistics alone are devastating, but what’s even more tragic is that many women (and men) walk through an unplanned pregnancy and the grief that follows an abortion in isolation. The “grand experiment” narrative sold to them as exhilarating—a retreat from “being tied down” by meaningful relationships—breeds a life of loneliness that only compounds with the fear of an uncertain future. Often, in these moments, a friendly voice seasoned with reason, hope, and stability acts as a salve to the fear, grief, and loneliness. 

In my experience, the college students who are suffering in this way are desperate for a place where they can share their pain and be free from shame. They just don’t know where to find that person. This is where the people of God can not only provide a listening ear and safe place to cry, but we can also apply the love, grace, and hope of the gospel to their life and circumstances.

How to be a pro-life voice

The first time I encountered the need for a pro-life voice on campus occurred when I was a student. I was discipling a guy who asked me for advice on a situation that he and his girlfriend were walking through with their friend; she was facing an unplanned pregnancy and considering abortion. Their friend, who was not a Christian, approached them, who were both Christians, because of the genuine care she felt in their relationship and asked if they would drive her to an abortion clinic. The guy I was discipling wanted to know what he should say and where he and his girlfriend could take their friend for real help. I don’t remember my exact words. I’m sure I stumbled through a response and pointed them toward church counsel, but more than anything, I remember feeling ill-equipped for the situation as a 19-year-old.

My hope is that the Lord uses our pro-life voice to protect babies in the womb, provide hope and healing to the hurting, and most importantly, to lead many to salvation through Jesus.

Years have gone by since that day and though it was difficult, I’m thankful for that experience as a student because it greatly influenced my strategy as the college pastor and continues to shape the ministry’s objectives today. It reinforced my belief in the need for a pro-life voice on campus as well as the need for a practical strategy of how to be one. As a result, here are three things I put into practice during my tenure: 

1. Introduce pregnancy resource centers to the students

On any given week, our church’s college ministry connects with hundreds of students. These interactions take place in various settings including our weekly gathering, small groups, outreach events, on-campus marketing, etc. What’s clear to me is that God has graciously given us a lot of influence on campus. I believe a practical way to faithfully steward that influence is to use it to champion the tools, resources, and mission of pregnancy resource centers. 

In an effort to do this, we’ve invited representatives of the centers to speak at our gatherings, included their promotional materials at some outreach events, and allowed representatives to have face-to-face interactions with students in various parts of campus through our small groups. In essence, we want to leverage our influence to amplify the voices of pregnancy resource centers.   

2. Provide avenues for men and women to receive post-abortive care and counseling 

I’ve already addressed some of the heartbreaking realities that the statistics regarding abortion and college-aged women indicate. What I haven’t mentioned is that I know college students within the ministry are among those included in the numbers. Namely, there are students we interact with on a weekly basis who have chosen to get an abortion and are grieving alone. Instead of ignoring this reality, we’ve begun to address it directly and now provide avenues for men and women to reach out anonymously to receive post-abortive care.

3. Partner with local pregnancy resource centers to equip students under my care  

After my experience as a college student, I was thankful to discover that pregnancy resource centers often provide training to individuals who want to develop a more effective pro-life voice. Often, in college towns, the content is specifically tailored toward students. As a pastor, I’ve encouraged students under my care to take advantage of these opportunities, and then I work hard to help the students understand the impact of their voices for the protection of human life on campus. 

This influence is most clearly felt in personal interactions with friends or acquaintances struggling with the fear associated with an unplanned pregnancy. I am convinced that the greatest weapon students carry in the fight for life in these crucial moments is not merely statistics or arguments, but a gracious ear and a loving presentation of the truth. God has given students a meaningful voice on campus, so we’ve begun to teach them how to use it.

The college campus is a segment of the nation that seems to be growing increasingly cold to the gospel and the implications it carries for the sanctity and dignity of life. The grand experiment culture appears to have a strong hold on students. However, since Jesus provides the only real answer to the let-downs of the grand experiment, I’ve found the hearts of college students to be incredibly soft when lovingly presented with the truth of their condition and its consequences. My hope is that the Lord uses our pro-life voice to protect babies in the womb, provide hope and healing to the hurting, and most importantly, to lead many to salvation through Jesus.

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By / Oct 27

At the leading edge of most cultural movements in our country’s history, you can find a single commonality, youth. The civil rights and anti-war movements were carried on the feet of passionate baby boomers; Generation X took up the mantel for the third wave of feminism; and my own generation, the millennials, made their mark during Occupy Wall Street and the #MeToo Movement. 

The current teenage generation is no different. In fact, Gen Z has already proven themselves to be a generation to watch. In March of 2018, Gen Z walked onto the cultural stage when they organized and led one of the largest youth protests to date, the March for Our Lives, in Washington, D.C. And this was only the beginning. The past two years have shown us time and time again the growing passion, power, and influence of this teenage generation.

And if history holds true, Gen Z will carry the torch of justice then pass it along to the generation following after them. This is why we cannot afford to stay silent with our teens on issues of race and racial injustice. However, before we dive into how to talk to teens about race, there is one other important note to make about this generation. 

Gen Z has not only been identified as a generation of justice warriors but it is also America’s first truly post-Christian generation. In his book Meet Generation Z, James Emery White unpacks evidence that reveals this generation’s biblical illiteracy. He describes Gen Z as a generation raised “without even a memory of the gospel.” 

When justice is found outside of the gospel, it is not true justice. And when the gospel we speak is void of justice, it is less than biblical.

So while Gen Z may be a generation consumed with the idea of justice, they are also a generation who knows little of its Author. This is why we, who know the God of righteousness, must speak about issues of justice with our teenagers. When justice is found outside of the gospel, it is not true justice. And when the gospel we speak is void of justice, it is less than biblical.

But where do we begin? 

First, we have to keep in mind that this will not be a one-and-done conversation. If we are going to  approach the conversation of race with teens, we must be willing to commit to walk the path of justice with them also. It will be a labor of love—a good and worthy labor—but a labor nonetheless. 

Second, the most common fear I hear from parents and leaders before broaching the conversation of race is their lack of knowledge. They believe they “are not the right person” to have this conversation. But this is exactly what our enemy desires us to believe. Praise God who has filled you with his Spirit and given you a stewardship. If he has placed you in a role where you have influence in a teenager’s life, then you are the right person for this conversation. 

Third, while conversations about race will necessarily involve a discussion of systems and structures, they are not primarily about those things. We should seek to do our homework so that we understand this world’s systemic brokenness. But conversations about race must always be, primarily, conversations about people—conversations about the beauty, value, and dignity of women and men made in God’s image. That’s what our students most desperately need to hear.

Finally, we must keep our conversations rooted in the Scriptures. Walking the full path of justice with our teens will mean seeking biblical, historical, cultural, and self awareness in the conversation. Each of these areas matter as we engage our teens in conversations about race, but their order matters as well. Our teens must see us view each cultural moment through the lens of the gospel, not viewing the Bible through the lens of each cultural moment. So be sure to begin there, by rooting your conversation in the storyline of Scripture. Allow God’s Word to do its intended work, revealing the dignity of humanity in light of God’s heart for his creation.

Step forward in faith. Be a learner. Focus on God’s love for people. And above all else, make certain that your conversations with your teen are anchored in the confidence you have in your own union with Christ and your belief in the gospel’s power for reconciliation. Reconciliation with God is the very message we are called to carry (1 Cor. 5:17–20). And it’s only with confidence in his redemptive work that we can freely grow in our own awareness of history, culture, and self, all the while inviting our teens to journey with us.

This post is the third in a three-part series by the family ministry staff team at Redeemer Fellowship Midtown in Kansas City, MO. Part 1 (on courageous christianity) and Part 2 (conversations about race with toddlers and preschoolers) posted at the Gospel-Centered Family website. 

By / Sep 22

I work as a biblical counselor primarily with teens and kids. Fresh in the field, I do not want to hold up my limited experience as an indicator of our culture or make overgeneralized conclusions. My observations, however, line up with evidence-based research surrounding teenage anxiety and depression. The problem of anxiety and depression in teenagers seems to have increased, and the struggle to find helpful means of coping persists. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), anxiety and depression fall under the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in young people under the age of 18 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). The research found in the Pediatric News journal also indicates that depression, suicide rates, and anxiety have increased (Swick & Jellinick, 2019). With anxiety and depression on the rise, what can we do in our spheres of influence in order to engage wisely with teens struggling in these areas?

A biblical perspective

From a biblical perspective, community and connection serve as conduits for growth. God designed us for relationships (Gen. 2). God did not intend for man to walk through life alone. We see clearly the relational aspect divinely created within us from the very beginning. Thus, it makes good sense that relationships would serve as instruments of healing. We have the opportunity, then, to relationally connect with the teens in our lives to help them navigate the murky waters of anxiety and depression. 

Oftentimes, in the midst of anxiety or depression, vision narrows. We tend to zoom in on the current troubles. Little problems turn into big problems that seem almost unbearable to endure. We begin to feel hopeless and helpless, and then the despair and anxiety kick in. Who will we point our teens to when that happens? 

As we walk with teens struggling with anxiety and depression, we have the beautiful opportunity to point them to Jesus Christ, who sees, understands, and cares.

Our greatest help and hope comes from the Lord. Throughout Scripture, we read of men and women who experienced real emotions. They dealt with significant suffering. Specifically, the Psalms give us beautiful examples of experiencing deep emotion while running to God in the midst of those heavy feelings. We are given permission to feel the hard emotions and also welcomed to bring them to our mighty yet compassionate Father. And Jesus urges us to come to him with our weariness and our burdens (Matt. 11:28). This reorientation anchors our souls back to truth that gives us the endurance to bear up under suffering that may not cease during our lifetime.

Practical steps

Here are a few practical steps that will help us point our teens to Jesus. 

  1. Perspective: Offer teens a different perspective. Reorient their gaze from the present suffering to Christ and the big picture. Ask questions like: “What feels heavy right now?” “How can I support you best right now?” “How might you see this situation from a different perspective?” 
  2. Redemption: After affirming their feelings and normalizing their experience, we can point them to Jesus. In Jesus, we have redemption, hope, and a future. If your teen’s experience reminds you of a certain story in Scripture or a specific passage, share it with them. 
  3. Awe: Jesus came to the earth to walk as a man. He sympathizes with our weaknesses, and he is the God of the universe. That reality should lead us to praise the God that would come to earth for us. Encourage your teen to keep a gratitude journal—a list of all the things they are thankful for. They can download a gratitude journal app or write it in a notebook. If your teen wants to take it a step further, encourage them to say a prayer of thanks to God, who has provided all these blessings. 
  4. Inspire: We have the opportunity to instill hope and inspire our teens to walk a different path than the world. God walks with us. He helps us. He strengthens us. He holds us. He sustains us. 
    Be honest with your teen about times you have been or currently are facing anxiety. This honesty not only builds connection, but it gives you the opportunity to model facing anxiety with courage from Jesus. Invite them into a conversation. You can say something like, “I am anxious, too. I don’t know how this situation will turn out, and that makes me afraid. Here is what I am doing to run to Jesus when I feel worried. What do you think?” 
    In addition, exploring how other men and women of faith dealt with their anxiety or depression can inspire teens, as well. Hearing others’ stories of struggle and faith lets them know that they aren’t alone and it provides a model of someone trusting Jesus in the midst of adversity. Here are some examples: David (Psas. 6, 27, 56); Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-39; Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22:39-45); Corrie ten Boom (A Hiding Place); and Joni Erickson Tada (Jonia: An Unforgettable Story).
  5. Surrender: As we walk through life, we do have a decision to make in whether or not we will surrender to Jesus. As we walk with teens, we will have the opportunity to work through moments of surrender with them. Who will they choose to follow: the world or Jesus? The battles of anxiety and depression oftentime happen in the mind. Help them evaluate: What am I tempted to believe in this moment? Is it true/untrue? How can I replace this with the truth of Scripture?
  6. Endure: When we choose Jesus, we then have strength to endure through trials, anxiety, and depression. This endurance in the midst of anxiety and depression with joy and peace tells the world that a different way exists. We act differently because Jesus has changed us. He walked a different way, which we reflect every time we respond to anxiety or depression with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus Christ. 

Although we might not be able to guarantee complete freedom from anxiety and depression, we can help our teens prepare for future moments of anxiety. Self-regulating tools are God’s grace to them in the wake of hard emotions. Here are a few examples:

  • Breathing Exercises
    • Box breathing 
    • 4-7-8: Inhale for 4 seconds. Hold for 7 seconds. Exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat at least three times. 
    • Breath counting: Take a few deep breaths. Settle into a pattern of normal breathing. Each time you exhale, count “one.” Keep counting until you reach five, and then repeat as needed. 
  • Grounding Exercise
    • Identify 5 things you see 
    • Identify 4 things you feel
    • Identify 3 things you hear
    • Identify 2 things you smell
    • Identify 1 thing you taste 


While life does not get better or easier by following Jesus, he gives us supernatural strength to walk with him faithfully. This produces character and joy in the process (Rom. 5:4-5). As we walk with teens struggling with anxiety and depression, we have the beautiful opportunity to point them to Jesus Christ, who sees, understands, and cares. 

What are we offering the teens in front of us? If it isn’t Jesus, it is a simple solution that offers the “just” remedy. “Just take care of yourself.” “Just think happy thoughts.” “Just tune out negative voices.” You get the idea. Good advice doesn’t start with “just.” It starts with Jesus. Look to Jesus. He offers himself, and in that offering, he gives peace and hope that significantly outweighs our present sufferings (2 Cor. 4:17) as we seek to fix our gaze firmly on him.


Swick, S. D., & Jellinek, M. S. (2019, June). Are anxiety, depression rates rising in kids, teens? Pediatric News, 53(6), 14+. Retrieved from

Unknown Author. (2020, March 30). Anxiety and Depression in Children. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

By / Jun 8

Growing up, I heard a lot about Joseph. His coat. His dreams. His betrayal. His plight in prison. Then there was God’s sovereign hand in Joseph’s unexpected climb up the Egyptian power ladder that resulted in incredible provision for his family. These stories were colorfully and memorably shared to us as kids and referenced as we grew, reminding us “God works all things together for good” (Rom. 8:28).

But wedged in the middle of Joseph’s redemptive narrative is a big problem: Genesis 38. This is a chapter we like to fast forward, the way Dad dives for the remote when a family movie presents an unexpectedly mature scene. This chapter is all about Judah, Joseph’s big brother (and the one who famously suggested they sell their irritating baby brother into slavery), and his interactions with a prostitute that turns out to be his daughter-in-law Tamar. In other words, yikes. Or as Kevin DeYoung says in his kids’ book, The Biggest Story, “Judah did such dumb stuff, we don’t even want to talk about it.” I love the way DeYoung handles this for kids—neither exposing kids to an unsuitable brain-pretzel nor side-stepping the acknowledgement of grievous sin.

Even still, DeYoung’s wise treatment of Genesis 38 for kids begs the question: When should we talk about the prickly passages—particularly the ones that don’t resolve as neatly as Joseph’s?

During the teen years (which is a prickly passage of another sort), engaging with the awkward, upsetting, or mind-boggling parts of Scripture is important. Shepherding teenagers through hard passages will bolster their personal discernment as they navigate awkward, upsetting, and mind-boggling scenarios in their lives, it will engage their curiosity, and it will strengthen their spiritual muscles for a lifetime of faith.

Bolster personal discernment

When I first encountered Genesis 38, I was a teenager spurred on by independent reading plans and encouragement to “stay in the Word,” which meant the Bible’s content was no longer thoughtfully curated for me. The familiar Joseph narrative featured what seemed like an R-rated commercial break, and I had no idea what to do with it besides shove the thing under the rug. Meanwhile, at school, I overheard other shocking tales of sexual exploits. These were harder to shove under the rug because they so often hung in the air around me. 

Shepherding teenagers through hard passages will bolster their personal discernment as they navigate awkward, upsetting, and mind-boggling scenarios in their lives, it will engage their curiosity, and it will strengthen their spiritual muscles for a lifetime of faith.

Many of our young people are in a similar boat, but there is good news: facing difficult texts can equip them to face difficult situations and issues. When we come alongside a high school or middle school student and help them process difficult things in the Bible, we are simultaneously discipling them to process other difficult subjects, and we are positioning ourselves as trusted advisors who are unafraid of sticky subjects. Both can contribute greatly to bolster a student’s personal discernment: they have seen hard stuff handled with integrity, and they have gained a mentor who makes it a habit to talk with them about the hard stuff.

Engage curiosity

Teenagers are notorious for both their big questions and their superhuman ability to sniff out anything phony. While an adult who dives to fast forward past the tough stuff will quickly lose credibility, an adult who is willing to tackle intense questions and cling to authenticity in the process is a great resource indeed. Instead of subverting a teenager’s curiosity about the Bible, we have an opportunity to engage it and capitalize on it by training them to interpret the Bible with integrity. As any educator knows, teaching at the point of need is the most powerful opportunity. There’s no better time to equip a believer to interpret the Bible and investigate context than when he or she is asking the biggest questions—and there are strong odds that’s during the teen years.

Strengthen spiritual muscles

However, as any seasoned believer can attest, being equipped to interpret Scripture doesn’t mean we find all the answers to our questions. Thankfully, both the Bible and our churches are filled with people who had to choose to follow the Lord in the midst of the unknown. This is likely the position from which King David is writing when he penned, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psa. 139:6). Engaging teenagers’ questions—especially the unanswered ones—lays an important foundation for longterm faith. Rather than placing their hope in answers, young believers have the opportunity to place their hope in our God of mystery.

They’ll also experience the unparalleled joy that occurs when our mysterious God makes himself known. What a treasure to dig into Genesis 38 and begin to see that this turn of events was God’s strange provision not just for Judah, but for the Lion of Judah—Jesus himself. (Jesus’s lineage in Matthew 1 demonstrates that Jesus is a descendant of Perez, one of the twins Tamar conceived with Judah.) In the more familiar Joseph narrative, God used the sin of Joseph’s brothers to preserve their family by offering grain during a time of famine. In the Judah narrative, God used the sin of Judah to preserve the family of God—by offering the Bread of Life. 

As students endure the difficulties of adolescence, we can tell them, “God works all things together for good” (Rom. 8:28)—but we can also shepherd them through prickly passages that prove it. The difficult parts of the Bible can bolster their discernment, engage their curiosity, and strengthen them in their faith, in which they can cling to the end of the story: “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” (Rev. 5:5).

By / Aug 30

Sometimes you can learn more from the life and faith of saints on the pages of biographies than from a dissertation on a topic. A theology of suffering comes into view as you read of parents losing children on the pages of From Grief to Glory. Endurance and faithfulness pours out of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Humble leadership is embodied as you read about D.E. Hoste, a man “who lived to be forgotten so that Christ might be remembered (4).” Contentment or a lack thereof is exposed, as you read about the life of Ann Judson who, when pregnant in a foreign country with her husband imprisoned had no support system, but worked diligently to bring her husband and his prison mates whatever comfort she could. In all of this she did not become bitter but wrote, “Oh! How much we owe to that Kind Being who has mingled mercy with all our afflictions (88).” 

Empowered: How God Shaped 11 Women's Lives (And Can Shape Yours Too) is written for girls between the ages of seven and 12 and tells the story of 11 Christian women from around the world and across different eras who lived faithful lives empowered by their great God. Author, Catherine Parks, in the introduction, explains her reason for writing the book:

“I wrote this book because I wanted my daughter, Sophie, and my nieces, Liya and Madelyn, to know about these women. But my greater purpose was for Sophie and you to know that God has a plan for your life right where you are and that He will empower you to accomplish your purpose each and every day.”

I’ve always loved biographies, so I was eager to read Empowered. I was so confident it would be a great tool for young women that I sent it to my niece and to the daughters of dear friends before I read it. What I had not anticipated was being so personally encouraged, challenged, and delighted while reading it.

Parks shares of becoming friends with the characters as she wrote the book, and her engaging writing feels like she is a friend introducing you to other friends. Empowered encourages the reader to imitate the faith of these faithful women, not their life circumstances or their fame. God works through ordinary and imperfect people in everyday circumstances as they are faithful with what is before them to do great things for his glory. The reader is reminded time and time again that these women were like us, and the real hero of the story is God.

This book is an excellent discipleship tool, raising important discussions, teaching messages young women need to hear, and displaying examples of faith to follow in a few ways:

Addresses difficult concepts the Bible speaks to in principle or precept. Parks covers imprisonment, brutal regimes, suffering, the Holocaust, bullying, empathy, child brides, the caste system, injustice, and abuse in age-appropriate, understandable ways that can spark further conversations on the topics.

Teaches beautiful theology and important biblical principles in accessible ways. You won’t see hamartiology or pneumatology mentioned, but you will see rich theology lived out in the lives of these women. Young readers will encounter topics such as sowing and reaping, image bearing, the work of the Holy Spirit, perfectionism, faithfulness, comparison, dependence, loving the unlovely, glory displayed in weakness, identity, and so much more. Many of the truths taught on these pages were imparted to me when I was older, but they aren’t truths beyond a young woman’s grasp.

Gives examples to follow. The heroines on the pages are not shown through rose-colored lenses. Yet, they accomplished great things despite their fears and weaknesses because of their trust in a faithful God. The reader will learn about exemplifying true strength from Esther Ahn Kim, seeking justice from Sophie Scholl, and how to use one’s talents for God’s glory from Phillis Wheatley. These and the others in the book are examples of believers who by faith believed that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Heb. 11:6).

Helps the reader apply lessons to their own lives. The reader is asked along the way to consider how she can exemplify the faith of the women in the story. Parks poses the question after the example of Scholl’s courage, “Have you ever watched someone being unkind or cruel to another person?” The reader is encouraged to fight injustices she sees in her setting. And the reader is asked to consider, after Corrie Ten Boom’s powerful story of forgiveness, “Who is someone you are struggling to love? Commit to pray and ask God to give you his perfect love for this person (44).” 

As a disciple who continues to grow in my faith and sanctification, and as a woman who desires to see women of all ages discipled in the church, I’m thankful for this resource and hope to see more resources like this developed in the years to come. May God use this book to help young women be courageous and faithful to him.

Catherine Parks has also recently released Strong: How God Equipped 11 Ordinary Men with Extraordinary Power (and Can do the Same for You)

By / Jul 17

The teenage years can be tumultuous. The constant pressure and pull of this hyperconnected society can magnify the angst some teens go through, especially girls. What these girls need most isn’t more likes on Instagram or more friends in their social circles; they need to know Jesus and grow to be more like him. That’s why Lindsey Carlson has written a new book for teen girls about discipleship. In this article, Carlson answers a few questions about Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girl's Guide to Maturing in Christ and what teenager girls need from their parents and mentors.

What led you to write this book?

As a teenager, I longed to understand what it looked like to love God and grow in godliness. While I attended church weekly and was familiar with Bible stories, I didn’t know Christ or understand the gospel. Even inside the church, I needed discipleship to help me answer questions and grow in my faith. In my own life, theologically rich books have been instrumental in my discipleship. It is a joy to have the opportunity to pour the hope and encouragement of Scripture back into others through the same methods that have so significantly shaped my own faith.  

Because I came to faith as a teenager, I am quick to recognize how pivotal these years can be in the life of a teenager. As my own daughter Madeline approached her 13th birthday, I felt a growing sense of urgency to disciple her on the process of sanctification. I felt she needed a simple primer on how the gospel gives her hope and what Christian growth can tangibly look like in the teenage years. Since my daughter is an avid reader and I’m a writer, I thought writing her a book that could serve as a platform for conversations about identity in Christ, God’s sovereignty, and the nature of Christian growth seemed like the best gift I could give her on her 13th birthday. I pray this book will serve as a gift both to teenagers joyfully following Christ and to those still figuring out what Christian growth and maturity looks like.

What are some of the most common struggles that you notice among teen girls today? 

While in many ways smartphones and social media have shaped and changed the world my daughter is growing up in, I believe many of the struggles and heart issues remain the same. While these listed struggles are not all indicative of every teenager, they are the ones I most frequently observe in my own teenager’s friends and in the teenagers I’ve discipled over the years. 

  • Teenage girls struggle to find a biblical sense of identity in Christ. Many continue to place their hope in their physical appearance and whether they have the approval, acceptance, and love of those they desire to impress. Teenagers must learn to find their identity in Christ alone, trusting that by grace, through faith they are an adopted, beloved child of God, forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Christ.  
  • Teenage girls struggle with thinking their happiness is the most important thing in life and that only they can define what’s good and right. This makes it extraordinarily important for teenagers to develop biblical literacy to know what is good and right and discern when happiness might lead them away from holiness.  
  • Teenage girls struggle with loneliness and forming meaningful relational connections. The false sense that loneliness or lack of relationships is unique to the teenager makes it challenging for teenagers to openly admit struggle and to actively pursue a rooted, biblical community. Teenagers are often uncertain and unskilled at how to find, establish, and invest in healthy peer relationships. Teenage girls need mature Christians with strong relationships to model Christian fellowship and accountability.
  • Teenage girls struggle with the desire to impress others. The constant exposure to endless streams of pictures and social media quickly accelerates the fire of this already common human struggle. Teenagers need to see adults who aren’t tied to their phones and swayed by worldly desires. They must be challenged to live life before God, not man, and taught how to face these common temptations with wisdom and accountability. 
  • Teenage girls struggle to believe contrary opinions express hatred for others. We must encourage our teens to speak boldly and compassionately, teaching them to develop a category for civil discourse. It is possible to pursue loving interaction with those we disagree with. Help your teen as they learn to articulate and share their faith and beliefs with compassion. 

What are some of the most important topics that you think parents and mentors need to be addressing with teen girls as they seek to help them grow in Christ? 

I think as parents and mentors we sometimes tend to spend so much time giving answers to particular situations and not enough time developing tools of discernment. In discipleship, the goal is not to create disciples who are dependent on us. Instead, we pray to develop followers of Christ who can sufficiently handle Scripture, trust the Holy Spirit, and lean on God in prayer. That being said, I want to challenge adults to think past the topics that easily appear to be “hot topics” and instead aim to equip teenagers to personally address those topics with discernment. 

As my own daughter seeks to grow in Christ, these are the ongoing, “not-so-hot topics” that we strive to faithfully and frequently discuss and practice applying: 

  • How can you apply the gospel to your own weakness and insufficiency? What does it look like to live with gratitude for your salvation? Does your faith express itself in a growing love for Jesus and others?
  • God speaks authoritatively to his people through his Word. Do you live as though you practically believe this? Do you regularly read, respond, and obey? Do you desire to yield quickly to the Word’s authority in your life?
  • Spiritual disciplines are not a checklist, but they will certainly fuel your growth in godliness. Do you delight in the spiritual disciplines and find them necessary and good? If you don’t, are you actively praying for God to change your heart?
  • The process of sanctification is cooperative. Are you “working out your salvation with fear and trembling” and trusting that it is God who “wills and works for his good pleasure?” Are you giving yourself grace when you stumble in the process of sanctification? 
  • Are you praying regularly for humility, teachability, wisdom, and discernment?
  • Christ loved the Church and mature Christians will strive to love it too. Are you working to connect to the body of Christ for the purpose of worship, service, and personal growth?  

Tell us a little bit about the format and what readers can expect as they go through your book. 

This is a book aimed toward discipleship. For this reason, I write not from the perspective of a know-it-all mom, or someone who has a pulse on how to be cool (I don’t.) or without addressing lots of specific culturally relevant trends. Instead, I’m just trying to level with teenagers about some basic, time-tested tools they might find helpful as they strive to grow in godliness through the awkward teen years. My goal is to encourage teen girls to joyfully pursue maturity in Christ, by making theology humorously approachable and practical.

This small book is only 120 pages and should be readable for most teens. It is divided into three sections: “Partner with God,” “Depend on His Ways,” and “Monitor Your Growth.” 

The first section, “Partner with God,” introduces the concept of sanctification, God’s purpose for the believer’s life, and the good news of God’s sovereignty. 

The second section asks readers to learn to “Depend on His Ways” by learning from God-given limitations, turning to Scripture, investing in the Church, and through the discipline of prayer. 

The last section, “Monitor Your Growth,” calls teens to examine their words, emotions, and spiritual fruit as measurable evidence of their spiritual life and health. 

Each chapter ends with a thesis statement for teens to meditate on, questions for personal reflection or group study, and a few easy action steps for practical application. The book may be read independently or studied alongside a mother or a youth discipleship group. 

What do you wish you had learned as a teenager that you hope to pass along to girls through your book? 

I wish I had understood that accepting Christ and desiring to follow him didn’t mean that I would immediately be capable of living a perfectly holy life. Being freed from the desire to sin is a slow, progressive work that takes a lifetime and isn’t complete until Jesus takes us home to Heaven. I wish I’d known that my desperate desire to please God was actually evidence of the Spirit’s ongoing work in my life. And even though I wasn’t spiritually growing and maturing as fast as I’d like to, my story was sovereignly ordained by God. I pray that Peter’s assurance of Christ’s sufficient provision in 2 Peter 1:3-4 gives teenagers the promise of hope that I longed for:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 

What encouragement would you give parents who buy this book for their teen girls?

It is my hope that this book will give teenagers a framework for understanding spiritual growth and the process of sanctification in the life of a believer. I pray that parents will use this book to encourage their teenager not to overlook the call to grow in godliness simply because their schedules are busy. Parents, use this book to connect with your daughter, a teen in your youth group, or a friend—for the purpose of discipleship. Tell her you desire to invest in her life in meaningful ways and want to have conversations about life and faith. Ask God to help your teenager establish healthy patterns of spiritual growth that will last a lifetime. Set regular times to meet and discuss what she’s read or read and answer the chapter questions together. 

By / Feb 22

Peer pressure is the feeling that one must do the same things as other people of one’s age and social group to be liked or respected by them. All of us are subjected to peer pressure in both positive and negative ways and in subtle and overt manners. The influence of our peer groups leads us to conform to social norms and ultimately helps us develop our sense of self and our place in society.

During the early adolescent through late teen years, children become more aware of a desire to fit in and find their niche in society. This makes them more susceptible to the positive and negative influences of peer pressure. But parents can play a powerful role in shaping these peer interactions.

Shaping your child’s peer interactions

Know their peer group: The most important and obvious step a parent can take is to help their child select the right group of peers. For better and for worse, your child will be influenced by the people they associate with. The Bible doesn’t use the term “peer pressure,” but it has quite a lot to say about the company we keep and avoiding negative influences:

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Prov. 13:20). “My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them” (Prov. 1:10). “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Cor.15:33). We can’t completely control whom they will be exposed to, of course, but whenever possible, a parent should know their child’s peers. And as much as we can, we should choose whom they will spend their time with.

Intergenerational influences: One of the most unfortunate realities of the modern era is that children spend too much time with children. Outside of parents and teachers, most teens and children do not associate with older people daily. Unfortunately, this is often true even in our churches, which tend to be voluntarily segregated by age groups.

Intergenerational community is part of God’s vision for the church, which is why we—and our children—need friendships that cross generational lines. Having older “peers” in their life can dilute the effect of their own age cohorts and give teens a broader perspective on life. It is also helpful for older children and teens to have an adult in the church (and outside their family) they can turn to for guidance or to talk to about their struggles.

Peer problems for parents: While helping to select our child’s friends and associates is one of the most effective steps we can take for limiting negative peer groups, we should avoid three dangers:

1. The bad-company project. In our attempt to be caring and compassionate, we may put our children in relational danger. A prime example is when we encourage our child to befriend children whom the apostle Paul would deem to be “bad company.” We justify the relationship by telling ourselves that our child will be a positive and perhaps even godly influence on their wayward neighbor. But we Christian parents tend to overestimate our children’s moral influence and leadership abilities. Instead of being a role model, our children may be the ones who are enticed to sin. 

If you encourage such friendships, try to encourage settings where other Christian adults or children are also present (such as youth group) and avoid private, one-on-one encounters.

2. The Eddie Haskell effect. The popular television sitcom Leave It to Beaver (1958 to 1965) featured a recurring character named Eddie Haskell, who “has become a cultural reference, recognized as an archetype for insincere sycophants.” When adults were around, Eddie was ingratiating and polite. But when adults were not in the room, Eddie would show his true character as a bullying, conniving jerk.

When you were a teenager, you probably knew people like Eddie. They were well-liked by parents only because parents didn’t know what horrible influences they were. How can we avoid falling for the new generation of Eddie Haskells? The easiest way is usually to spend plenty of time around our child’s peers. Teens who are two-faced often have trouble hiding their true natures for long. By being around your child’s friends in various settings and circumstances, you can often gain a better understanding of their character.

Another approach is to simply ask other children or teens what the suspected Eddie is really like. If their experience is markedly different from your own, it could be a red flag.

3. The online-only friend. You should know whom your children are associating with, which is why they should never have friends they only know from online interactions. This may seem like a harsh rule—and a difficult one to enforce—but the danger of negative peer influences rises exponentially online. If possible, set the rules for online engagement early in your child’s life so that when they are older, abstaining from online-only friendships will be the established norm.

Tips for training children

The five years prior to “no”: Peer pressure tends to be something parents address when a child reaches early or late adolescence. That’s when we begin telling them they should say no to various temptations to engage in sinful or inappropriate behavior. The problem is that this is usually the time when parental influence in on the wane and peer influence is on the rise.

Rather than waiting until they are under pressure, begin laying the groundwork about five years before they can be expected to deal with an issue. This may lead to some awkward conversations (such as talking to your 10-year-old girl about sex and drugs), but by planting the seed early, you can shape how they’ll respond later in life.

Clear signals: Your kids need you to send them clear signals about what types of behavior are inappropriate. This should be obvious, but it’s shocking how often Christian parents inadvertently encourage negative peer influences by undermining their own values. For example, some parents allow teens to drink alcohol at home, claiming, “I’d rather they drink under my roof, where I can watch them, than do it somewhere else.” The result is that these underage minors will drink alcohol at home—and anywhere else they can. This is the message they are getting from their parent: “There’s nothing wrong with underage drinking; just be safe about it.”

Instead, we should be clear and consistent in our disapproval. Sending clear signals is almost always more effective than trying to carve out exceptions. For example, a survey by Mothers Against Drunk Driving found that teens whose parents told them underage drinking is completely unacceptable are 80 percent less likely to drink, compared with those whose parents give their teens other messages about drinking.

Give them a plan: What will your child say if they are encouraged to engage in certain behaviors, such as taking drugs? The truth is, you probably don’t know. You may have given them vague suggestions or recommended the generic “just say no.” But unless you have talked to them in detail about how they’ll respond, you can’t really know what they’ll say when the time comes.

Consider role-playing common peer-pressure situations. Your teen will likely find such practice cheesy, annoying, and a bit embarrassing. But the practice will be beneficial, as they are likely to realize when they are faced with the real-life scenarios. They may not enjoy these conversations with Mom or Dad, but knowing they’re armed with the right words to say can be secretly comforting for them.

Be their backup: The risk of giving in to peer pressure can be compounded when the child has already engaged in forbidden behavior. For example, if they snuck out to go to a party and the person they rode with is pressuring them to drink, they may feel they have no other choice but to join in. Reduce that pressure by letting them know you are their means of escape. Make sure they know they can contact you whenever they are in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation and you'll always come get them. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t suffer the consequences of their misbehavior, of course. But they should understand that the repercussions will be lighter than if they hadn’t come to you to save them from further danger or harm.

Focus on Jesus: Help your child truly understand that Jesus is not just watching what they do, but that, as a believer, they are united with Christ (2 Cor. 4:10). Remind them, as Paul says, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5). And as John wrote, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). Because they are in Jesus, and Jesus is in them, they are accepted by one greater than any of their peers, and they are connected with one who has the power to overcome any pressure.

Note: This article is taken from Joe Carter’s new book, The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents: Help Your Kids Learn Practical Life Skills, Develop Essential Faith Habits, and Embrace a Biblical Worldview.

By / Feb 20

There’s a picture I keep in my dresser drawer that elicits tears every time I look at it. Cardboard columns and twisted crepe paper make up the background. The camera is focused on four middle school girls wearing wrist corsages and hot-rolled hair.

I’m the one wearing a blue flowered dress and white slingbacks. I look like I’m playing dress up, because, of course, I was. The year was 1993. It was my first junior high dance.

I had been raised in and out of the church (mostly in), but did not yet understand the gospel or know Jesus personally. That means I was navigating puberty without the Holy Spirit. It was the worst kind of combination. My parents had divorced three years earlier, and I simply couldn't stop my heart from hemorrhaging. Add in middle school drama (the worst!) and some first-born achievement hangups, and the result was a girl who checked all the boxes: Good student, good athlete, good daughter, good friend—and yet, I had no idea who I was.

But God (and others he strategically put in my life). God sought and saved me. He saw the fatherless, fearful girl and adopted me as his own. Then, he gave me the church, full of other orphans willing to tuck me under their wings. And he did it, at first, through two of my friends (more on them in a moment).

A different kind of ending

While you’re still picturing that awkward 13-year-old me, I’d like you to consider another girl. Her name is Alexandra Valoras. She ended her own life at the age of 17 last fall. Though her story is certainly jarring, my goal isn’t shock and awe. Instead, I need us to look reality in the eye when it comes to young women and refuse to blink for a moment. When she made her bed and walked to a highway overpass to end her own life, she became a poster child for a real-deal crisis happening right now among the young women you know.

I dearly love young women and consider it a calling on my life to disciple them intentionally. Through dozens of conversations in coffee shops, I’ve noticed a trend. We’re not talking about boys any more. Somewhere along the line, the anty got upped. Young women talk to me frequently about their declining mental health. They describe debilitating anxiety. More than one has confided that she often struggles to function. One college-aged woman shared that she is in counseling for the effects of PTSD. (Her words, not mine). I see a pervasive paralysis among them.

Young people are not the “future of the church.” They are the church. Right now. And these trends should put us on high alert:

  • Teen suicide is now at a 40-year high for young women.
  • It is now the second leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds of both sexes.
  • Anxiety disorders affect 25.1 percent of children between the ages of 13 and 18. Yes, you read that number right. It’s more than one in four.
  • Psychological distress in women age 16-24 is at an all-time high, with record numbers admitting to harming themselves to relieve their distress.

The reasons why a 17-year-old honor student from a happy home would choose to end her own life are complicated. I wouldn’t dare try to trace that thread back to the spool in a single blog post, but the stakes are too high not to ask: What can we know and do?

The enemy hates young women

In Genesis 3, we see the serpent slither up to young Eve, hellbent on deception. His attack on young women hasn’t stopped since.

I can tell you from personal experience and from years of discipleship, that if the enemy can deceive a woman in her teen years, he wins a great victory. It is during those years that her thoughts on marriage and home and family and ministry are formed. Even if she simply spends a few years wandering from the Truth, there are often disastrous consequences that last a lifetime.

Teen angst may be normalized, but we are wise to ask ourselves, should it be? Was it really God’s plan that the hormones that are an inevitable part of growing up result in depression, anxiety, and hostility? Should we continue to downplay young women’s (and men’s) collective struggles as “just a phase”? Or, instead, can we take up arms against the enemy who is coming at the Body of Christ by picking on our youngest members?

Let’s look at the messages that are trickling down and identify where there are toxins. Specifically, I see three alternate gospels that are strangling young women.

1. The gospel of performance

After Alexandra jumped, her family found her journals filled with pages and pages of despair. One entry stands out to me, “I am stretched too thin.”

The struggle is alarmingly real. Several years ago, I was teaching at an event for young women. During the response time, a middle schooler came down and collapsed on the altar. I scooted over and asked how I could pray for her. Through tears she sobbed, “I didn’t finish my math homework.” Sure, there was a part of me that wanted to respond wryly, “Let’s talk when you have the pressure of four kids and mortgage,” but the Spirit stopped me. The anxiety and sadness she was feeling was real. To her, an unfinished assignment equated to a wasted life.

In many ways, life for the average middle school and high school girl has started to resemble a pressure cooker. As I mentioned in my book, My Name is Erin, here’s why:

Because of the pressure to get into a good college, most girls take Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Experts say each AP class will likely result in 45 minutes of homework each school night. Many students take multiple AP classes and can expect to spend almost two and a half hours doing homework after an eight-hour school day.

  • 23 percent of young women spend two to five hours per day practicing a sport or musical instrument.
  • 21 percent of young women spend at least 10 hours per week working for pay.
  • Most young women spend two to 10 hours per week hanging out with friends.

School, sports, and friends eat up 80 hours of an average young woman’s 168-hour week. Add in time for sleep, and 133 hours are gone (though many are not sleeping well). Factor in time with family, involvement in church, and an average of seven hours a day looking at screens, and the numbers quickly start adding up.

Many young women are slowly suffocating under the weight of the idea that they have to perform in order to be loved and accepted. This false gospel has a tentacle in the church. When we teach that the Christian life is about doing certain things (reading your Bible, going to church, serving others), the enemy twists that into a message about salvation earned through performance.

2. The gospel of perfectionism

Another entry in Alexandra’s journal echoes a cry I’ve heard from many. She wrote, “I have to be perfect. Anything less is failure.”

I’ve heard high achievers have the highest rates of eating disorders. They are the most likely to battle with the two-headed beast of depression and anxiety. In Alexandra’s case, the pressure to do “all things” robbed her of the motivation to do anything at all.

This thinking cannot stand up to the true gospel which states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We are not and can never be perfect on our own. That is why we need Jesus so much. Are we proclaiming this to young women often enough? Or are we, the women of the church, polishing up an image of Christian perfectionism that is binding them in chains?

On Sunday mornings, when we get to the “shake a hand with someone” section of the service, I want to cry out, “I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. Let’s run to Jesus together.” I don’t, but in quieter settings, when I am talking with women one-on-one, I hope I am declaring the gospel of grace, not of perfectionism. They simply cannot bear the weight of my impossible expectations.

3. The gospel of reverse providence

Providence is a term that has gone out of vogue, but mercifully, it’s an attribute of God that never will. Providence is simply divine guidance. It’s God’s ability to work out our futures for our good (Rom. 8:28). Our young women, however, are being discipled through Instagram, and they’re hearing a much different message. It’s a message that screams:

You decide the outcome.

You choose your path.

You take care of you.

You must make it happen.

What sounds empowering is actually debilitating, because instead of resting in God’s divine care, young women feel the pressure to make everything work out on their own. Since they are not the God of the universe, this puts them in an impossible position. Self-sufficiency is a killer. In contrast, dependence on Christ’s sufficiency leads to life.  

It starts with hello

As I think back to that angsty, lost version of me, I know my story could have ended much differently. I too, worshipped at the altars of performance, perfection, and self-sufficiency. I felt the noose of these half-truths slowly tighten around my own neck.

But God used two people, Barry Smith and Dannah Gresh to escort me toward freedom. Barry was the youth pastor at a church my family visited. He crossed the room to introduce himself. He invited my sister and I to pizza and then youth group. Then, he faithfully taught the Bible to us. Dannah is now a well-known and loved author to young women, but 20 years ago, she held high the banner of Truth for just one girl—me. She took me to lunch. She opened her Bible. I’m forever changed by their examples.

Church, young women are on the ledge. They are poised to jump. We are their safety net. Young women need the Truth desperately—let’s give it to them faithfully and relentlessly.

By / Jan 16

Our phones allow us to convey a variety of emotions on social media. Emojis, praise hands, GIFs, and fist bumps make it easy to display feelings of happiness, excitement, pride, and even goofiness. Typing an encouraging comment on a friend’s Facebook post can be a great way to build a friendship.

On the other hand, it can be extremely easy to destroy relationships or devalue our worth on social media. Have you ever read a Tweet or Facebook status update that makes you angry? What about that picture of your friend living it up on the beach somewhere while you are stuck at home with grumpy teenagers who seem ungrateful for all the work you do for them? Do you ever feel like everyone has a better life?  It’s easy to scroll through your social media feed and feel discontent, annoyed, and unhappy.

Now, place yourself in the shoes of your teenager. What kind of emotions is he or she feeling each day as he interacts with others on social media? I imagine teens are even more prone to feel inadequate.

“That girl has prettier hair than me.”

“That guy has tons of friend.”

“I wish my parents took me on lavish vacations.”

It’s also easy for people to say unkind things to others online because most feel braver behind a screen. Your teen may not yet have the emotional maturity to know how to handle the various emotions he or she may feel while scrolling through her social media feeds.

Leading your teen

So how can you help your teen stay emotionally healthy while entrenched in the world of social media? Here are 3 things to keep in mind:

  1. It starts with a reminder about the gospel. If your son or daughter has already trusted in Christ as his or her only hope and the savior for his or her sins, remind your child of the gospel. Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we might be free of sin and holy before an almighty God!
  2. Watch for signs of depression. If you notice your teen acting more withdrawn or sad after looking at her phone, you may want to ask if she was just on her favorite social media platform. When he is feeling down about a post he read on social media, remind him that is hope is not in what people think of them on social media. No teen will feel better if her life looks like her friend’s fake Instagram life. You, as the parent, must remind him of the truth of the gospel because a lot of his social media feed will tell the lie that he can find happiness and hope in fame, popularity, followers, likes, extravagant living, or even a snarky tweet that is retweeted a hundred times.
  3. Provide boundaries. Many households have a certain time of day when no one (not even Mom and Dad) can be on their phones. We have a rule of no phones at the dinner table or in the bedroom. It’s important for your teen to have time away from her phone so that she doesn’t become addicted. This is especially important as phones become seemingly necessary for our day-to-day lives.

Check in with your teen today. Ask him to show you his Instagram Facebook feed, and see if he will tell you what he thinks about each post he sees. This will give you insight into your teen’s emotions so that you can know how to point he or she back to the gospel—the only source of true hope.

By / Jan 3

If you’ve just given your teenager a smartphone, laptop, gaming device, or iPod for Christmas, he or she is just a click away on multiple devices from finding pornography. For instance, 87 percent of university students polled have virtual sex mainly using webcam, Instant Messenger, and telephone. In addition, Covenant Eyes, a helpful site focused on protecting adults and kids from pornography, has several shocking statistics listed on their web site, including:  

  • Nine out of 10 boys and six out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography online before the age of 18.
  • The first exposure to pornography among boys is 12 years old, on average.
  • 83 percent of boys and 57 percent of girls are exposed to group sex online.
  • 69 percent of boys and 55 percent of girls are exposed to same-sex intercourse online.
  • 71 percent of teens have done something to hide their online activity from their parents.
  • 28 percent of 16-17 year olds have unintentionally been exposed to pornography online.
  • 20 percent of 16 year olds and 30 percent of 17 year olds have received a sext.

How well are you protecting your teenager from finding porn? While we likely will not stop them from ever finding porn online, there are several things any parent can do.  

Would you pass this quiz?  

Take this quiz to see how protected your teen is. While not every question may provide an answer that fits you exactly, choose the one closest to your reality.  

  1. My teenager uses a smartphone in his room alone, with the door closed.
  1. A. Yes. I think he deserves his own privacy.
  2. B. Sometimes I let him as long as I know what he’s doing on the phone.
  3. C. No.  I have a policy of no smartphone or computer use behind closed doors.
  1. I have filtering software installed on my teenager’s computer and/or smartphone.
  1. A. No, I do not have any software installed or filters set up.
  2. B. Yes. I have software that blocks adult websites when she is at home and on our Wifi network. When she leaves the house though, I’m unable to filter out websites.
  3. C. Yes. I have software installed for all devices at home and the software monitors what they do on their phones when outside of our home WiFi network.
  1. I regularly ask to look at my teenager’s phone to review search history, apps and social media usage.
  1. A. No. What he does on his phone is his business.
  2. B. When I remember to ask I just check his text messages and nothing else.
  3. C. Yes. I regularly ask to look at his phone and talk to him about what he’s been doing on his phone lately.
  1. I have adjusted my teenager’s smartphone settings so that it blocks adult content.
  1. A. No. I don’t even know how to do this.
  2. B. No. I want to learn how to do this though.
  3. C. Yes. And every device she uses (tablet, gaming console, etc) also has these settings in place.
  1. I have parental controls turned on for YouTube to block mature or adult content.
  1. A. No. I’m unaware of how to do this or I don’t think YouTube has content that is too mature for my teenager.
  2. B. I would like to know how to do this.
  3. C. Yes and I have his YouTube app connected to my Gmail account so that I can easily see what videos he’s recently watched.


  • For every A answer, give yourself 1 point each.
  • For every B answer, give yourself 3 points each.
  • For every C answer, give yourself 5 points each.  

5-10: Your teenager is not at all protected from finding online pornography. He has full access to the world of online pornography. You do not really have any precautions in place to protect him from viewing pornography. I recommend you start with some basic filtering software like Covenant Eyes.  

11-20: Your teenager is somewhat protected from finding online pornography. She is likely pretty safe while at in your house, on your own WiFi network, but once she leaves the house you cannot monitor her internet usage. I recommend you consider some software to prevent finding online pornography outside of your home and start having regular discussion with her about what you see on her phone when you ask to look it.  

21-25: Your teenager is well protected from finding online pornography. You have taken several wise precautions and are communicating with your teenager. I recommend you continue to be open and honest with your teenager. Ask hard questions. Display understanding and empathy, not judgment if he admits to finding a way to look at pornography.  

The lesson to learn from this quiz, no matter your score, is that you must be involved in your teen’s device use. This cliche has been used over and over, but it rings true: you would never hand over the keys to your car to your teenager without first teaching him how to drive it properly and safely. So, don’t hand your teenager a phone if you don’t have the time to teach him or her how to use a smartphone properly and safely.  

And it doesn’t stop there. You must also ensure that you’re aware of how your teen is using her smartphone. Keep communication flowing, ask good questions, and enforce boundaries. You will never regret asking your teenagers those hard questions about what they’re doing on the their phones.