Raising Teens Who Know and Love God

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A huge thanks to Monica Swanson, author of the upcoming Boy Mom book and homeschool mom of 4 amazing boys, for sharing her ideas on raising teens who actually love God.

I have four sons, and two of them are suddenly more man than boy. (One will be 20, the other 18 in a few short months.)  

There’s a lot I have loved about seeing my boys grow into young men, but more than anything I am grateful that they have thus far all personally chosen to follow Jesus.  

Like:  get-up-before-the-sun-to-spend-time-with-Him follow Jesus.  

Like: Lead Bible studies, share their faith with friends, and live intentionally for God’s glory kind of faith. 

3 John 1:4 resonates with me now, more than ever:  “I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in truth?”  Truly, there is: No Greater  Joy!

It was always my hope that my boys would grow up to love God, but there were plenty of times I wasn’t sure how much influence I might have over whether or not my boys would grow up to do this.  And, of course, there are never any guarantees.  Our kids have a free will and some of our kids may choose to turn away from God despite our greatest prayers and efforts.  Others may turn away for a season, then turn back.  We cannot force our kids at any age to seek and follow the Lord.  

However, as moms I am convinced that we have a great opportunity to help our boys build a foundation of faith, and then mentor them along as they grow into young men before our eyes.

Jonah Swanson leading worhsip
My son, Jonah, leading sunrise worship on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.  
*Photo by Emily Turner 

I will share a few things from my husband and my experience raising kids who know and love God.  (Currently, at 8, 15 and 17 and 19….)

First of all, a few things we have not done:

We have not pushed religion or a bunch of rules on them.
We have not “just prayed”, and then hoped for the best.
We have not told them to live one way, but then lived differently in front of them.

So, what have we done to raise kids that love Jesus?

  • My husband and I have tried to live out our own faith authentically in front of our boys.  (Not perfectly, but authentically.)  
  • We introduced our boys very naturally to a relationship with God from a young age.
  • We have answered some questions and let them wrestle with others.
  • We have stayed plugged into a local church and valued the community that it offers.  
  • We have remained humble and aware of our constant need for God in our lives.
  • We have tried to model after Deuteronomy 6:6-7:  “these words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts.  And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.…”

I’m pretty sure these are the things  ^^ that have had the greatest impact on our boys’ personal decision to follow Jesus.

But my husband and I also try to be intentional in teaching our boys how to grow spiritually.  

We know how much we need to spend time with God each day, and we have taught our boys the importance of doing the same.  (We’ve always called this, “doing devotions.”)  This is essentially spending time with God each day by both reading the Bible and praying.  We encourage our boys to use a Bible journal and sometimes they use a devotional book or app.  

The most important thing is that everyone in our family takes time as many days as possible to get to know God better.  There is no formula. It’s not a religion, but a relationship.

What do they actually read?

  • When they’re young, my husband or I will read a kids’ devotional book and a few verses from the Bible with our sons and say a short prayer with each of our kids.  
  • By Jr. High, the boys have all done devotions on their own.  
  • We have always encouraged them all to read a chapter of Proverbs each day.  This is a great habit (for a lifetime) because Proverbs is packed with wisdom for everyday life, and it has 31 chapters, making it perfect to read a chapter a day all month.  
  • They also read a chapter or two from another book of the Bible (The Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John– are a great place to start.)  

As they have gotten older, all of our boys have loved reading the Bible, and I have to believe that has much to do with the fact that they’ve grown up learning from it.   They realize how valuable it is to their lives.

I am convinced that my boys’ love for God’s Word has protected them from a whole lot of trouble.  

Here are two verses I remind my boys of often:

Psalm 119:9 says:  “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word.”

Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

It is never too early or too late…to encourage your kids to grow spiritually.  Giving them a Bible and a journal is a great way to begin to work on a daily habit of time with their Creator.  

Here are some of the devotional books we have loved!

For Elementary  and Jr. High age:

Devotionals For Jr. High kids

Luke (14) likes going online and using the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Devotional.He has also used Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. See on Amazon.

Devotionals For Older Teens:

My older boys prefer to read through a book of the Bible, but they have also used the Jesus Calling devotional (See on Amazon) or gone through various books with their youth group leader.  (Currently, Jonah is going through Multiply by Francis Chan. See this study on Amazon.) They have also used: My Utmost for His Highest (amazon link).

CLICK HERE to find my page with a printable prayer and Bible journaling template for kids! 

Thank you so much for taking time to read this, and I pray you are encouraged to keep pressing on in the beautiful work of raising children who will follow God all of their lives!

with Aloha, Monica
Monica Swanson, Author of Boy Mom

Monica Swanson and her husband Dave live on the North Shore of Oahu (in Hawaii) where they are raising their four sons, and a lot of tropical fruit.  Monica is passionate about faith and family, and loves to encourage parents to raise kids with intention.

Find Monica’s recipes, stories, and a lot of articles about raising boys at www.monicaswanson.com Her book, Boy Mom: What Your Son Needs Most from You, will release on August 6, 2019.” (See Boy Mom on Amazon)

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