"How is Kurt?" I asked Carla.

"Please pray for him. He's gotten mixed up with some bad kids." There was pain in Carla's eyes as she went on to share about Kurt, who had been homeschooled since first grade. What had gone wrong? I didn't know two parents who were more committed to Jesus. Then I recognized a particular name being mentioned several times.

"We tried to reach out to Frank, but he ended up pulling Kurt into his crowd at public school," Carla continued.

"Where did Kurt meet Frank?" I asked, confused because Carla and Drew were so careful.

"At church—they were in youth group together," Carla replied. Kurt had met this friend at his youth group. At first, Kurt was "reaching out" to him, but eventually Frank led him away from the Lord and into the world.

The knot that had been forming in my stomach tightened. This was an all-too-familiar story. Homeschooled teen goes to youth group . . . homeschooled teen "reaches out" to or becomes friends with non-Christian or "delusion-ly saved" teen who leads homeschooled teen astray! This is not just happening all over America; it is happening all over the world. My friend in Spain tells the same familiar story, and her heart is breaking.

Most youth pastors have a genuine love for the Lord and desire to see teenagers walk closely with Jesus. However, there is a lot of sinning going on in many Christian teen groups around the world. Parents are often naïve when it comes to the spiritual condition of their church youth group. Or they assume that because a teen group is available, their teenagers should participate in it.

Parents Are Responsible for Their Teenagers

Scripture makes it clear that parents are responsible to train their children in the Lord and restrain evil. Both Eli and Samuel were judged for not restraining evil in their sons. If your child is up to no good or being led astray by another teen at your local church, you are the one accountable to God. You are the one with the responsibility to call your child to repentance and help him to change.

As parents who are responsible to train our teenagers to walk uprightly with the Lord, we must set standards. While other parents set their own standards, we cannot compromise the values that God has put into our hearts.

Mike and I advocate courtship, rather than dating. We have friends, parents of teenagers, who disagree. This limits the time our children will spend with their children, because we want to preserve our family's values. This is accomplished by fellowshipping with like-minded families.

While I believe that all Christians should be plugged into a local church, we cannot begin to participate in all the activities that most churches offer. When it comes to the church teen ministry, we must seek God about the participation of our own teenagers.

Not All Youth Groups Are Created Equal

Before your teens participate in the youth group, visit it first. Let the youth pastor know that you are attending to make sure it is a good place for your children to be. During the meeting, carefully observe what takes place officially and unofficially. Are the children kind? Do they greet you? Are they comfortable around adults? What about the jokes? Are they wholesome? Are the conversations before and after the meeting wholesome? Would you want your teen to be part of them?

Many Christian teenagers thrive without ever setting foot in a teen group. Age segregation is not necessarily a good thing, especially for teenagers. Teens need to fellowship with adults, learning to communicate and serve with maturity. They also thrive when interacting with younger children because it puts them in the place of being a role model. Young men think twice about compromise when they know that younger children are watching!

Our oldest daughters were never part of a church youth group. All the teens in the church were homeschooled and fully plugged into the life of the church. They played on the worship team, taught Sunday School, and attended home Bible studies. We prayed long and hard about whether we should start a teen ministry. We wanted them to fellowship with one another and spend time in Scripture about issues such as knowing God's will for the future, courtship, and growing in the Lord. But, we did not want them corrupted by the world.