“Whoa Nelly!!!”

As a youth minister, I tend to make parents nervous. The main reason parents keep one eye on me at all times is due to the fact that I will teach on anything and everything. My philosophy has been “if a kid is dealing with it, let’s go there” and my prayer is that our conversation will be Christ honoring and transformational for the student. So every time we talk about sexuality, past mistakes, drinking, drugs, pornography and more, I can be assured that a parent will approach me. Here is what many parents who didn’t have such a squeeky clean high school experience eventually say;

” so what do I tell my kid when they come asking me if I’ve smoked pot, had sex or been in trouble with the police as a teenager?”

While my own kids aren’t teenagers, I was bombarded with such questions one week into my first youth ministry job. Four high school boys were over at my house and 10 minutes in, they asked me if I’d ever had sex, done drugs, been arrested, looked at porn, punched someone and much more. Here is a little background info on me, my pre-Jesus life was all about many of these topics. So what do I do? Do I lie to them? Do I tell them all the gory details? I honestly believe that God’s Spirit spoke for me that day. I responded by asking if any of them were struggling with those issues and if they were, I would love to share my experience one on one. If I would have dumped all my failures on them at that moment, the focus would have been on me instead of how God worked through me in those areas. Secondly, those rumors would have flown through my new church faster than lightning. The boys actually understood where I was coming from. That day a door became open for those boys that they continue to walk through to this day.

So what should parents do? I firmly believe teenagers need to know that their parents have doubted, messed up and have been wrong more than once. On the other hand, your kids don’t have to know it all. Timing is key. What can they handle and what will just mess with their heads?

I was given some good advice as I became more serious with my girlfriend (now my wife) as it pertains to my darker past. Kim needed to know the areas that I struggled with but she didn’t need to know every detail. The details have a way of causing more harm than necessary. What brought Kim peace was the fact that I named my issues and I had gone to both God and others to seek forgiveness. Maybe your child would find some peace knowing that their mom or dad had fallen on their knees asking for forgiveness too.

Think about your teenage years. Did you ever ask your parents these questions? What did they say?

What can you add to this conversation or what would you challenge?