When you work at a boarding school for at risk teens, you’re asked a lot of great questions. One such question is, “How do I know if my son needs to be in a residential program?”
Families come in various shapes and sizes and levels of maturity, so the question cannot be answered with perfect precision. However, there are some valuable biblical guidelines you can use to determine if your son — or if your whole family — can be considered “at risk.”
I invite you to work through the following three points whether you believe your family would benefit from a residential program or not.
1. Understand what it means to be “at risk.”
“At risk” simply means to be exposed to harm or danger. Merriam-Webster takes it a step further by saying that being at risk means you are “in a state or condition marked by a high level of risk or susceptibility.”
If we’re going to apply this term in the broadest sense, every member of your family — and, therefore, your entire family — is at risk.
I Peter 5:8 tells us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Right before listing the daily necessity of putting on the Armor of God, Paul says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
If Satan had the audacity to try to tempt Jesus, we know He’s coming after us.
We are all at great spiritual risk of sinning against our Creator God. We’ve all done it, and we all will likely do it again. This means that every parent needs to be vigilant to guard his own heart as well as teach his children to do the same.
And that leads to our second consideration.
2. Determine your child’s APN (Average Parenting Needs).
According to II Timothy 3:16-17, God designed the Scriptures to accomplish four tasks: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The Bible teaches us what is right and what is wrong. The Bible reproves us by showing us when we’re wrong. The Bible corrects us by helping us turn from the wrong to the right. And the Bible trains us by helping us stay in the right and avoid the wrong.
As parents, God expects us to use His Word to accomplish those same four tasks in the lives of our family members.
But, before we can move on, it must be understood that each of those “jobs” requires participation from our children.
In the same way Truth about God can be lost on us when we’re daydreaming at church (don’t pretend it’s never happened to you!), if our children don’t participate in the learning process, our teaching falls on deaf ears and no Truth is learned.
This applies to reproof as well. You can tell your child what they did was a sin, but if they don’t believe you or care, they haven’t participated and are therefore unprepared to move into the Correcting Stage.
So, what is an Average Parenting Need? If your child refuses to learn even the most basic concepts of the faith, they need increased teaching. If your child is learning the Truth but not applying it to their lives, they need more reproof.
The degree to which your child is at risk is going to increase depending on their Average Parenting Needs. Children who regularly participate in genuine, biblical training by fleeing evil and living righteously are at a low risk of being consumed by the roaring lion.
Children who — like the James 1 double-minded man — flip-flop between sin and sanctification are unstable in all their ways. Even though they are tender and quick to apologize when they’re caught in their sin, they are far more likely to stumble and fall and suffer the spiritual consequences of their choices.
Children who reject your reproof, who refuse to accept that they are wrong, are at a much higher risk of spiritual destruction.
And children who don’t even care to hear the Truth taught to them are at the highest level of risk.
Based off that criteria, how at risk are your family members?
Lastly, since teaching, reproof, correction, and training require participation from both parents and children, there is one more vital facet to determine your family’s degree of risk.
3. Consider your level of influence.
When you teach, does your child learn? When you reprove, does your child accept it? When you correct, does your child change? When you train, does you child grow?
If the answer is, “Yes!” then you have a high level of influence in your child’s life. But the harder it is for you to influence your children for the things of God, the more at risk they become.
My friends, all of our families are at risk. We’re all tempted to ignore God and do what’s right in our own eyes. That is the single most dangerous thing anyone can do! But some of our families are at a higher risk than others. So, what’s the next step?
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