An Old Testament phrase struck a chord with me: “They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

This is a troubling statement. It incites a process of personal evaluation. Do we speak of a commitment that is not in our hearts?

The concern is not just personal.

Matters of the Heart, Because the Heart Matters

What if we raise kids who know the right things to say, avoid most of the bad, while missing a heart that is truly pursuing God? Are our teens really engaged in a relationship with Him? All of our teaching will one day come to an end.

If they are not truly engaged in a genuine growing relationship with THEIR heavenly father they risk becoming like the Israelites. They may learn to say the right things but lack a transformed heart.

Consider Judas: he walked alongside Jesus and the disciples. It seemed he was one of them. It was not apparent that he had a heart that was far from God.

This is clearly seen at the last supper. When Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray Him, they all became worried that he was talking about them. No one immediately said, “Oh, I think it is Judas!” because he was just one of them. They did not see him as different.

It is a somber subject. It is a thought process that can lead to fear. This is not the destination to which God would lead. What are some proactive measures parents can take to help their children have a heart for God and not just lip service?

Pray. Pray. Pray.

When lives become busy, prayer is often the first thing pushed to the curb. When it comes to our teens, we must PRAY…war room like prayer. They have to own their relationship with Christ. We cannot do it for them! (James 5:16)

Prioritize the Word.

It’s God’s Word that changes our lives. It is alive and active and sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel. His Word in their lives is what actually does the work. We can teach, train and guide our students from birth, but if we do not feed them physical food, they will die.

Spiritually we have to make sure they are getting fed as well. This is not a legalistic exercise.

Train them. Teach them how to read the Word and gain understanding. Teach them to come at the Bible with a pen and paper expecting to learn. Help them to develop an inquisitive mind that asks questions and really dig in to find real treasures.

Lead by example.

Let them SEE you being in God’s Word. Let them hear YOU share what God is teaching you. Be authentic. Let them know that there are hard things that you do not understand. Be real! They know you fail, be willing to talk about it.


Ask God to give you ears that can hear between the lines. Don’t be afraid of a teen that is questioning.

One of my children came to me with doubts, stating, “I am not sure I am who you are.”

It was a breathtaking moment. But I paused, took a deep breath and told him that this was a good thing. His faith cannot be my faith and be worth anything. I told him that he needed to be actively pursuing the answers himself. His relationship with God did not need to be a photocopy of mine…it needed to be HIS. Each authentic relationship is an original!

Respond with Grace.

Remember, asking questions of God is a good thing as long as they search for the answers in the right place!

Pray some more!!

It is easy to set expectations for our teens that cause them to conform to a standard just to please us. You can hold the reins very tightly leaving no room for them to mess up.

As teenagers, their time with us is short. It is preferable to see their heart being transformed than simply having their actions controlled.

Real fruit comes from a transformed heart. This transformation is God’s work, as parents, we are merely one of His tools.

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