Some words of encouragement for your teen ... from one who is there:

When I turned 13, my head swelled with ideas of the idealistic teenage life. Have fun, be young, drink Pepsi, right? For some reason I believed that once you hit the magical one-three your sole purpose in life was to have a good time.

Why worry about a job, school, or the rest of your life. Now I look back and see how immature I was. During the years I have found that this is a critical time for spiritual growth. I have found many things that have enhanced my relationship with the Lord. Three particularly stand:

Understanding the Cross

A couple of summers ago at a retreat, our youth group re-enacted the crucifixion. The performance opened my eyes wide to what Christ endured for my sins. Before this event, I knew He had suffered, but to actually walk through Christ's final moments up to the crucifixion was very sobering. Many of the teens in my church still talk about the significance of this event. It was especially moving for me, as I was chosen to portray Christ.

If you ever have the opportunity to do this I would encourage you to make it as vivid and real as possible. Our re-enactment included whipping me, as Christ, 39 times with a rope covered with mock blood. I wore a crown of thorns, and was tied to a cross for about 15 minutes. Hanging on the Cross affected me personally because I realized how much pain Jesus endured. I was annoyed by the pain in my legs from standing and by the flies buzzing around my body. To think that Christ was actually beaten, speared and nailed to a Cross for six hours and I complained about my 15-minute stand was very humbling.

Other teens played the roles of Pilate, the Roman soldiers, the thief on the Cross, and my brother Gabe portrayed Simon of Cyrene. Those without speaking parts were part of the crowd that mocked Jesus as he made that ultimate sacrifice for us. Like never before, each one of us present realized that our sins had put Christ there. The fact that we walked through every detail of the event, line for line, lash for lash, stirred many peoples hearts.

An overwhelming experience was to worship with hymns as Jesus was on the cross. Everyone who participated was deeply affected by the reenactment and we now have a new appreciation for what the Son of God endured for each of us personally.

Getting Into the Word

This past summer I got together some teens and our youth leader at church and started a Bible study that I led on a weekly basis. We had a simple format: Gabe led worship (maybe about four songs) on his guitar and then we would read excerpts from the book of Galatians. I used Warren Wiersbe's Be Free book on Galatians as a guide. It is an easy to understand commentary that walks through Galatians section by section. Anyway, I would ask the group questions to start a discussion. For example, "What is grace? And What are areas of grace in your life?"

We would circulate that topic around the room for a while before moving onto my next question. What I found is that nothing compares to the Word of God. You can read all the commentaries and books you desire, but nothing can take the place of the Bible. That's something that I loved about the Bible study. It got us into the Word and we found out how it applied to us, word for word, line for line.

Another issue of importance that I would like to stress is making sure an adult is present. Our youth leader, a homeschool dad, faithfully attended each week (even though his own five kids were too young to come). Whenever we got off track or someone said something that was not biblically correct, he would take the wheel and drive us back onto the road.