Parenting IQ: Identity by Abidan Shah, PhD

PARENTING IQ – IDENTITY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Freaky Friday is a movie about a mom and a daughter who switch bodies because of some magical fortune cookie. By the way, it’s not possible…Now, the mom is experiencing life in her daughter’s body and vice versa. Parents of teenagers – if only we could do that…Unfortunately, we can’t. In today’s message titled “Parenting IQ – Identity,” we’re going to try to understand how to parent in the adolescent years. Main point: The adolescent years can be quite stressful in a family’s life. This is the time when teenagers are searching and trying to create their own identity. By God’s grace, we can help them find their true identity in Christ and his word. The student ministry may not solve all the problems, but it can be a big source of help and encouragement.

Luke 2     48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” 49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Context: Luke 2:41 tells us “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.” Each community also had their own synagogues for every Sabbath. It is very important for parents to take their children to church. Verse 42 “And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.” Jewish parents did this to get their children accustomed to their role in keeping God’s commandments. In verse 51, he was “hupatasso” to his parents, meaning “obedient” and “submissive.” Fully man but also full God was being submissive to his earthly parents! There is a reason why the Holy Spirit guided Luke to include this account in his gospel. I believe it was to show the true humanity of Christ. He was not only human physically, but also mentally and emotionally; albeit he was sinless. The day will come when he will say to his mother in John 2:4 “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come,” but that day was not for a while. For now, he grew “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”What an encouragement to parents of adolescent children!

Nicole – Once again, on the Life Span Development (how human beings change over time, specifically children), our focus is on Adolescence (ages 12-18 or more). It can be divided into 2 sections:

Age 13-14


  • Changes are happening in them
  • Both girls & boys voices lower; boys much more


  • Questioning school & family rules
  • Concrete thinking in right or wrong, good or bad
  • Begin to think they are invincible
  • Think they are the center of attention, therefore very self-conscious


  • Begin to spend more time with friend rather than family- includes time on the phone
  • Start to form an identity through hobbies, friends, school activities, clothes, hairstyles & music, etc.
  • Moody; have mixed feelings about breaking away from parents; daughters- want nothing to do with you one day & then won’t leave your side the next
  • Push limits of adults to assert independence

Age 15-18


  • Boys – facial hair
  • Girls are very concerned with the way they look. More than 50% are dieting


  • Better at solving problems than younger teens, still inconsistent
  • Tend to make rash decisions even though they may weigh the consequences first
  • Organizational skills are improved; better at balancing school, activities, social life & work
  • Trying to answer the question of Who am I? What will I be? By exploring jobs, colleges, religion, social & political issues.
  • Challenging rules


  • More self-assured; better at resisting peer pressure
  • Spend less time with family
  • Make close friends
  • Want more control over their own lives
  • Excited but also overwhelmed by the future (college, work, military, moving away from home, marriage)
  • Strong sexual urges begin

Last year, in our Strategy Planning meetings, after much prayer, study, and discussion, we came up with a profile of what we desire in our teens (12-18 or more years of age). Keep in mind that these are desires, not goals. Goals are for self, but desires are for others. Ryan and Elizabeth will go over some of them with us and then answer deal with some of the false identities that are forced upon teenagers.

Ryan and Elizabeth about Student Profile

  • This informs every lesson, event, retreat that we do.
    • Lots of similarities with what you saw last week with Rebecca and Kelsey
    • If you missed that message, you need to go back and watch it.
    • Some key differences, however, are areas where we are able to go into more detail based on maturity
      • Wonderfully made – becomes firm on gender roles
      • Bold, yet submissive
      • Protective of sexual purity. 
        • This is not a topic we shy away from because the world is all too eager to tell our students what to believe about sexual intimacy.
    • These things play out in our curriculum, especially the mission trip
      • Mind games
    • It drives our leadership program, the Illuminate Leadership Initiative
      • 4 students going through leadership development curriculum from John Maxwell
      • They are speaking in Catalyst on June 5 as their graduate project.

Our message is titled identity for a reason; that’s the goal for students during the years of adolescence. Unfortunately, either through the influence of others or our own misunderstandings, we have some false identities that have been assigned to our students. Our goal is to debunk those and figure out how to help our students find their identity in Christ.

False Identity #1. Teenagers are free to choose

  • Don’t want to force religious views or values on your teens; they are capable of making their own decisions.
    • Healthy to give them choices as they grow up; article by Penn State University in 2016 about benefits of giving your children the opportunity to make their own choices
    • Helps develop good decision-making skills
    • Helps build autonomy; what they are moving toward
    • Some things that we don’t give options for
      • Car seats
      • Seat belts
      • School attendance
      • Dentist
    • In order to be a healthy, growing human being, you have to do certain things regularly.
    • We believe that church and attending student ministry is one of those things. This isn’t about how well-behaved or well-adjusted your teenager is. This simply is necessary for their spiritual development.
    • Parents end up relying on their teens to make the call to attend church or not, but we’ve already learned that their capacity for logic hasn’t caught up to their emotional output. If they don’t feel like going to church that day, then they’ll choose not to. 
      • That’s when it falls to you, parents, to lead and teach them the importance of spiritual things.
      • Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are commanded to pass on knowledge of God and His providence to their children and grandchildren.
      • It was intended to be an everyday conversation and a normal part of life. We are simply always talking about and being reminded of who God is.
    • Often students not wanting to go to Illuminate comes from feeling like they don’t know anyone. Listen, shyness is natural as students are growing and developing and with the awkwardness that comes along with the teenage years.
      • With the egocentrism from childhood still lingering and the increased peer awareness of adolescence, it brings about a feeling of all eyes being on them.
    • On top of that, when the world shut down, it was incredibly detrimental to our students!
      • If the teenage years are where we really learn to be social and relate to our peers, shutdowns and isolation have contributed to some impaired social skills and increased shyness, aversion to social settings etc.
      • A study that was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in November of 2021 said that in the 3000 teens surveyed, many reported increased levels of stress, anxiety, depression, difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and loneliness as a direct result of issues and circumstances related to the pandemic.
      • I say this not to keep revisiting 2020, but so that we understand that teens today are dealing with a host of different struggles than we did.
      • It takes studying teens, research, and really listening to them on those rare, golden moments that they open to you.
    • Giving them the freedom to choose whether they attend church or student ministry is actually doing the opposite. Most students will go with gut feelings of shyness and choose to stay home. By making church optional, you have communicated that it’s not important and not worth their time and energy.

False Identity #2. Teenagers are hard to understand

  • Let’s face it; if you have teenagers, you can resonate with this statement.
    • Parents of teens often feel like their student is communicating in a different language if they communicate at all.
    • Plus, by the time parents have teenaged kids, the world has changed drastically from when they were teenagers.
      • For most parents, by the time their kids are teenagers, they are more than two decades removed from the teenage years themselves. The world, culture, technology changes a lot in that amount of time.
    • It can be tempting to just drop your kids off at church and trust that they’ll get what they need.
    • Please, please, please do not do them that disservice. We are going to love them and lead them to the very best of our ability.
      • But the reality is in Illuminate, we might get 3 hours a week with them. Maybe more if something special is going on.
      • You as their parents have them the other 165 (168 hours in a week.)
      • We are your partners, not your substitutes. We were discussing this last night and John used this analogy:
        • It’s like if you as the parent are driving your family in your van and you come up to us, the police officers standing in the road saying, “The bridge is out this way, you need to take this detour.” Would you look at us and say “Wow, that’s really complicated and it’s completely unexpected. Here, you take me kids and get them to our destination.” Of course, you wouldn’t do that.
      • We count it a privilege to partner with you through the teenage years, but you can’t afford to just shrug your shoulders at your students. They are so worth knowing and leading.
    • Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
      • God has gifted these students to you, so trust in Him for the wisdom and understanding you need to lead them well.

False Identity #3. Teenagers are self-centered.

  • This is the common trope that we hear about, right? Self-absorbed teenagers glued to their phones, stuck in their rooms, with no regard for parents, siblings, etc.
    • There are times that this is actually true. Remember, they are still trying to shake the egocentrism of their childhood years. So, they may act selfishly at times.
    • However, teenagers have the capacity to develop incredible servant hearts.
    • They will copy what they see modeled. I know you might not believe me, but your teenagers are watching you much more than you think they are. They are valuing the things that you value and making your priorities their own.
    • One of the desires that we have for our Illuminate students is that they would be servants. And our students do that in so many different ways.
      • Pick a ministry here at Clearview. You’ll find Illuminate students there, serving. I mean, they are watching your babies in nursery, they are helping in Blaze Kids, even right now you were led in worship by at least 3-4 teenagers and there are even more in the back running things in the tech booth.
      • On top of that, we take regular opportunities to serve whether it’s picking up trash on our adopted section of the highway or our mission trip that’s coming up in a few weeks.
    • The bottom line is our students are shining examples of serving others. And they have developed that skill through your influence and by being in Illuminate.
    • Also, the students that are part of the Illuminate Leadership Initiative are regularly given additional opportunities to serve. We want them to understand that serving others is an integral part of effective leadership and a skill they can’t afford to neglect.
    • In Titus 2, Paul gives instructions for older women to teach younger women and older men to teach younger men, to show them what it means to serve other people.
    • Do you want to help you students look to the needs of others? Model it by serving alongside them at Clearview. Help them learn it by sending them to us.

False Identity #4. Teenagers are “just” teenagers.

  • Can I be honest for a second? I really can’t stand the phrase “they are the next generation!” I really dislike it.
    • Because it sells short what our students are capable of. Calling them the next generation diminishes their impact and importance now.
    • Think about names like Joseph and how he revolutionized Egypt, saving them from a famine; Esther, boldly approaching the king and saving her people; David, the giant-killer, king of Israel, and man after God’s own heart; Daniel, an example of faithfulness in adversity; Mary, obedient to God even when it didn’t make sense; all of these men and women were teenagers and were used by God in incredible ways in their teenage years
    • We have the most spectacular students on the entire planet. They are leading and serving in so many capacities both in church and in the community. They are asking intense theological questions like “Does God change His mind about something when we pray?” and apologetics questions like “What do we do with the Ice Age?”
    • They are not the next generation. They are the single greatest resource of the church today.
      • Remember how we were talking about students having an emotional capacity that outpaces their development for logic? The positive aspect of that is that they are naturally more passionate about the things that matter to them.
      • Set them on fire for the gospel!
    • Many of you might say, “OK, my teenager is in church. Isn’t that enough?” They need student ministry, too and here’s why. Student ministry specifically does something that regular services simply cannot do.
      • It provides an opportunity for connection with your student’s peers.
      • It contextualizes the message to their demographic.
      • It gives them opportunities to grow in their leadership and service to others.
    • Students have so many commitments today
      • Sports
      • Band
      • Extracurricular activities
      • Family obligations
      • For some older teens, dating relationships
      • Time with their peers
    • It makes sense that their schedules would be filled and that sometimes, you might have to make the hard decision to let some commitments go.
      • Church should not be on the list of things to get rid of in order to free up your schedule.
    • Also, we are filling our students lives with opportunities for their future, from athletics to academics.
      • Your child might go on to play college or professional sports.
      • Your child might go on to be an inventor or a scholar.
      • Your child will 100% stand before God at the end of their life. Why not invest more time and energy in the outcome that is certain rather than the possibility?
  • Bottom line, you set the spiritual thermostat for your students.
  • Student ministry is paramount to your student’s spiritual formation.
  • Help them understand that by teaching it and modeling it.

One more False Identity: Church teenagers will never lose their way.

You can do everything right to the best of your ability and still have moments of doubts and discouragement regarding your children. They may wander away, sort of like the Prodigal Son, but they do come to their senses. When they do, they need some flagging tapes/ribbons to help them find their way back home.

Psalm 71     5 For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth. 6 By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praiseshall be continually of You…17 O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you leading your adolescents/teens to follow Christ and his Word? Are you praying for them? Are you modelling the Christian life for them?

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