When the Pastor’s Teen Rebels…

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There are few realities more painful for a church leader than dealing with a teenage son or daughter who is living in rebellion.

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In my years in pastoral ministry my three kids never ended up completely in the ditch, but a couple of them had their wheels skid off the road for a while. And it was during these challenging seasons that I developed a single, simple mantra that I have passed on to other ministry leaders countless times.

Always leave the front porch light on.

By that I mean no matter how far they stray let them know that you love them and that you are for them.

Here’s why.

At some point your teenage son or daughter will have an awakening; a moment of clarity when they take stock of their life and say, “What am I doing?!” In that moment they will realize the path they are on is one of emptiness and loneliness.

And at the point they are going to turn someplace. They will turn to the place where they feel loved and accepted.

Make sure that place is with you.

Here are three tangible ways you can leave the relational front porch light burning bright:

1.   Let your rebellious teen know they are more important to you than your “polished image”

Pastors are supposed to have a perfect marriage, perfect kids and a perfect family. Let your son or daughter know they are more important to you than that image.

 2.   Draw clear boundaries, but pick your battles

Never compromise on the values you have established, but don’t make everything a fight. In our home I didn’t make church attendance a hill worth dying on. But extending courtesy to family members was non-negotiable.

3.   Tell them you love them again, and again, and again, and again…

You won’t always feel like it, but say it anyways.

This is not a three-step formula. Instead, think of these ideas as simple reminders that you need to find ways to keep your relational front porch light on.

Because when your teen is in a season of rebellion it could be that nothing will be more important than letting them see that light shining brightly.

What lessons have you learned when your teen has been in a season of rebellion?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow & Olive and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.


  1. Thanks, Scott, for the post. As a pastor and a father of a young twenty’s son who is skidding, i really appreciate your words of wisdom and grace! My daily prayer is that he comes to that place of loneliness and emptiness sooner than later. And when he does, I want our porch light to be blazing!

  2. Rod, thanks so much for weighing in on this. So many church leaders find themselves in this painful place, and yet each story is unique.

    I pray that your son’s “awakening” will indeed come very soon, and that he will always see that porch light shining brightly.

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