A close friend of mine sent a message this morning to more than two dozen members of his Band of Spiritual Brothers scattered across the U.S. He was asking for prayer support as he embarks with his teenage son on a Father/Son Retreat. As every parent of an adolescent will understand, his message communicated a mix of tempered hope and latent fear.

The care and spiritual feeding of teenagers can be a difficult and unnerving task.

One day every parent wakes up and wonders, “Who is this kid?” The young person that sleeps down the hall seems to have been overtaken by some evil spirit. Once wonderful adolescents often disconnect with positive influences in order to explore less-healthy influences. They push boundaries, wrestle with identity, and are tossed about by a flood of hormones.

Parents of teenagers have it tough.

I am proud of my friend, though. He is doing the dad-thing right. He is looking fear in the eye and pressing forward into tough and terrible teenage territory when so many other parents cower or run in fear.

He is doing exactly what his son needs him to do: be present.

Successful parenting of adolescents is often about simply being present. Click To Tweet

Finding time to spend with one’s teenager is not always easy. Family meals are often sacrificed on the altar of meetings and sport commitments. A drivers license gives teenagers the freedom to spend more time away from home. Friends voices take precedent over that of the parent. But,

Parents must remember that their support, affirmation, and presence are just as important now (if not more important) than at any other developmental stage.

For this reason, it is disappointing that our culture has lost so many markers of adolescent growth. If the primary questions of adolescence deal with questions of identity—such as Who am I? and Why am I here?—then it is the primary job of the parent to look into the teenage tornado and continually point the teenager toward the right answers. Parents do this best by way of Christlike love, words, actions, and presence.

Recent research into human development has shown the value of rites of passage in healthy life stage development. In their book, Looking Beyond Adolescence, Schulz and Kerig note how important it is for adolescents to receive parental affirmation and to perceive that they have successfully completed the adolescent stage. Schulz and Kerig further note the importance for adolescents to feel as though they have achieved something, gaining mastery, and that a resulting transformation in the parent-child relationship has occurred.

Rites of passage are a perfect opportunity for families to encourage young children to strive for mastery of belief and practice and then celebrate and reward older children who have achieved mastery.

Retreats with our children may be one of the best ways to accomplish this!

PRACTICE:  Consider 1 or 2 opportunities that you might have to design a Rite of Passage for your young person. If your home is without children, consider the presence or absence of Rites of Passage within your family of origin.


Kevin holds a Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics and Future Studies from Portland Seminary, where his work on Early Church spiritual formation passed with the rare honor of exemplary distinction. He is also a graduate of Cedarville University and Dallas Theological Seminary, holding degrees in Biblical Studies, Visual Communications, and Church Educational Leadership. Kevin has served on ministry staffs in some of the largest churches across the United States and is currently the Senior Minister of JupiterFIRST Church in Jupiter, Florida. His most important role, though, is husband to Sally and dad to four of Generation Z’s youngest members: Libbie, Lucy, Harris, and Matthew.