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If the people your teen hangs out with are generally not saved, or are saved but not walking with the Lord, this should be a cause of great concern to you. Who is your young person naturally attracted to or most readily drawn to? Who do they enjoy spending most of their time with?

Most young people have two sets of friends - their church friends and their real friends at school. Most of the time they don't want to be seen with their church friends when they are around their school friends.

Most of the time their church friends are not really friends at all, they are acquaintances. They hang around them every week because their parents drag them to church, but they are not people they would choose to be around.

Parents pass it off with, "Well, these other kids may not be radical Christians, but they are good kids." The problem is, a lot of good kids get into a lot of big trouble.

The power of friendships and peer pressure among teenagers is something most parents don't remember and cannot identify with. We hear about peer pressure, but we don't understand much of the tangled web of relationships it weaves.

Peer pressure is not reserved only for teenagers. We can see the effects of peer pressure among adults. Someone gets a nice car, so the neighbor has to get a nicer one. How many are always wanting a better job, more pay, a bigger house, a bigger ring, or nicer clothes? Although it is obvious, we tend not to mention it or notice it as much among adults, but we make it a huge issue among teenagers.

Researchers have found that teenagers pick friends with a similar age, sex, sexual experience, and academic and cultural orientation. Most teenagers place great importance on their friendships.

About 62 percent of high school seniors surveyed say it's extremely important to have strong friendships. Teenagers spend more time with their friends each day than they do with their father, mother, both parents, or other adults - four hours with friends as compared to one hour with both parents.

Nine out of ten teenagers say they experience peer pressure, and fewer than half of them say they try to stop peer pressure. The TeenAge Magazine reader survey also found that 80 percent of young people give in to peer pressure at least once a week, and 60 percent admit they pressure others.

As you can see from these statistics, the opinions young people listen to most are those of their peers.

So the question is, what peers does your young person choose to be around?

Many parents feel totally helpless, as though they have no influence over their teenager's friends. This is simply not the truth.

You think, "Well, I have no control over who they meet at school." On the contrary, you do have control over where they go to school, what kind of school they go to, what extracurricular activities they do and with whom, and most importantly, what church and youth group they attend.

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. - Proverbs 13:20

If you want your young person to be wise, get them around wise young people. If you let them hang around fools, they will end up suffering harm and their life will be the worse for it.

"Just because they are not saved, does that mean they are a fool?" Psalm 53:1 says The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." If they are not Christians, or are carnal Christians, ultimately they are going to do some very foolish things with their life because they have no reason not to. They have no moral strength, and they have nothing guiding them greater than themselves.

As parents we must do everything we can to influence our kids to be around wise young people. I am not talking about those who are straight-A students. I am talking about young people who are wise in how they use their free time, how they spend money, and how they develop relationships and friendships.

Some key concepts to consider:
  1. Relationship. Become a "peer" in your young person's life. I'm not suggesting you act like a teenager and try to fit into the adolescent world - that would be foolish. But it is possible to build an open, influential relationship by doing things together, talking, listening, and accepting them as emerging adults.
  2. Dialogue. If you want to steer your kids toward the right kind of friends, you must open channels of communication. Show genuine interest in them and their activities and spend time just talking things over.
  3. Open home. Let your kids know your home is open for their friends. Instead of condemning their peers and pointing out their faults, invite them to dinner or some other social opportunity.

You are going to hear comments from your young person like, "All the Christians I meet are weird. I can trust my non-Christian friends more than I can my Christian friends." And that is probably true. Adults could say the same thing. Yet in spite of all that, there are young people who passionately love God with all their hearts. Those are the ones you need to find a way to get your teen around. The question is how.

First of all, diligently search until you find an incredible youth group or youth ministry for your young person to be a part of on a regular basis. Scour your city. Look into every church that has anything going on that is really solid. I'm not talking about a bunch of fluff and hype. I'm talking about a group of kids who are going after God with all their hearts. They are fun, they are motivated, they are excited, they are cool - and they love God with all their hearts.

I know parents who have moved to a new town and taken another job in order to go to a church with a fired-up youth group. Do not choose a church simply based on whether you like the Sunday morning service or not. This is a matter of life or death for them because of the fact that peers are such an incredibly strong influence in teenagers' lives.

Secondly, take your young person to every kind of Christian youth activity you can find. Some parents find something their child really likes and then begin to use that as a punishment if they do something wrong. "You can't go to youth group tonight because you did that," or "You can't go to that Christian concert," or "You can't go to this camp because you did such and such."

Little do parents realize that they are cutting off the spiritual growth of their young person as a penalty for what they have done wrong. There are plenty of other things you can use as a means of correction without having to take them away from the things of God.

I know it is a sacrifice to run them back and forth to church and to different activities, but we do it for the sake of sports, ballet, cheerleading, etc., and all those things will pass away. We will barely remember the scores on the scoreboard - but how they walk with God will direct the rest of their lives.

Getting your teen around a group of young people long enough to really develop friendships means letting them go on retreats, to camp, to conventions, and on mission trips. It will help their walk with God. It will help them gain real friends who really love God.

When your young person finds some real friends who are going after the Lord with all their hearts, 90 percent of the problems with your young person will be solved. They will be hanging around wise people and, therefore, they will be getting wiser. Because peers are such a great influence, they will be constantly influencing each other to seek more of God.

Do not settle for the fact you have always gone to that church, the youth group is good enough, and Pastor Joe is an okay youth pastor. For the sake of your young person, their walk with God, and their survival as a Christian, do whatever is necessary to make sure they are constantly around young people who really have the fire of God.

You might say, "Well, they have to stand strong in a secular school, so shouldn't they learn how to mix well with unsaved people?" Most of their life they are going to be around unsaved people. Right now is the time, in the formulating stages of your teen's life, for them to stay around as many on-fire young people as they possibly can. Your teen will be a teenager only once.

Source: Rescue Manual For Parents by Ron Luce.
Excerpt permission granted by Albury Publishing

Author Biography

Ron Luce
Web site: Ron Luce
Ron Luce was the co-founder's and president of Teen Mania Ministries from 1986-2015. Ron and his wife Katie dreamed to raise up young people who would change the world.

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