By looking at some examples of teenagers in the Bible there are some clear messages for parents endeavouring to faithfully develop young people in God’s ways. This article focuses on five teenagers—Timothy, Joseph, Solomon, Daniel, and Jesus—to show how we should approach the development of our teenagers

When we open the Scriptures there is no particular advice about bringing up teenagers. The emphasis on parenthood is to start the spiritual development of children from the cradle and maintain consistency—of regular instruction, of parental example, and of principles. The patterns of behaviour learned from childhood need to follow into the teenage years. Sadly most teenagers in the world have no foundation upon which to build their lives.


 We know how often parents are encouraged to consistently instruct their children in the fear of Yahweh (Deut 6:6–9) at all times of the day and wherever they are. Paul came across a teenager who had been so instructed. When Timothy was much older he wrote to him to remind him that he had been taught from the scriptures almost from the day of his birth: “from a child (baby) thou hast known the holy scriptures …” (2 Tim 3:15). More remarkable is that this work had been done by his mother and his grandmother for “… his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:2), implying that he was not involved in the customs or beliefs of the Jews. It was not just the instruction of his mother and grandmother that developed faith in Timothy but their attitudes and example. Paul could see in Timothy “unfeigned (not hypocritical) faith” (2 Tim 1:5). There was in his grandmother Lois a sincere faith in her Heavenly Father which “dwelt” in her as an abiding attribute. Her daughter Eunice had learned the same faith from her mother. When Timothy listened to and watched his grandmother and mother he saw no duplicity, no hypocrisy—they lived what they believed. It was not surprising that their genuine, deep faith could be seen in Timothy. Timothy had also seen the faith of Paul who could endure great persecutions at Lystra and years later could still vividly recall the character of Paul as evidenced in trial (2 Tim 3:10–12).

When Paul met the teenager in Lystra he was therefore impressed that he “believed” (Acts 16:1)—not a shallow understanding of the prom- ises, but a faith which would sustain him through all the future trials. Timothy had not been out to impress (he had unhypocritical faith), but nevertheless he was had in good report not only in Lystra but the next city of Iconium. Here is the example for all of us bringing up teenagers—Timothy’s character was not formed by chance but by consistent teaching, consistent attitudes, and consistent practice in the home.


 By the age of seventeen Joseph had a clear perception of the ways of Yahweh. Although Joseph was favoured by Jacob because he was Rachel’s son, there was every reason to prefer him and give him the role of family priest (Gen 37:2). In particular the eldest three Reuben, Levi and Simeon had each distinguished themselves by fleshly characteristics. But Joseph had learned to love Yahweh and keep His commandments despite the intense pressure of the circumstances that he came under in both the family home and in Egypt. As we read of Joseph in Egypt we have a wonderful example of the impact of the faithful education of a teenager. Here was a young person whose mother was dead and was separated entirely from his father. Yet the things he had learned from his father Jacob and probably his grandfather Isaac had stuck in his mind. The truth was not something he conformed to just to keep his father happy, but was deeply fixed in his heart.


 David and Bath-sheba had a son Solomon, beloved of Yahweh and so named Jedidiah (2 Sam 12:24,25). By this time David no doubt had teenage sons who were showing signs of youthful folly. Perhaps that gave David and Bath-sheba even greater incentive to show special care in the instruction of the future king. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Prov 1:8). Solomon recounts:“For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments and live” (Prov 4:3–4). Particular instruction was given in matters such as diligence (Prov 4:6–11), choice of friends (Prov 1:10–17), and the things he should avoid (eg Prov 31:3–7). We cannot imagine that there was any let-up in the teenage years of sound instruction that Solomon might base his life upon the fear of Yahweh. His parents were also a great example, even though they had fallen into personal failure.


 The spiritual development of teenagers is broader than the role of parents. Daniel and his three friends were helped as teenagers by growing in a climate in Jerusalem where Josiah and Jeremiah and others were trying to lead a spiritual revival in the nation. This impressed these young men so much that they kept up their faithful adherence to Yahweh’s principles far from Jerusalem in the great capital of the Babylonian empire. Dragged from home, Daniel “purposed in his heart” (Dan 1:8) that he was going to be different. Here is the measure of a young person who has a solid foundation in his life. Daniel and his friends had a clear set of values that they would never move away from, whatever the circumstances.


 Mary and Joseph had a unique task in assisting the nurturing of the son of God. While much of Jesus’ education came from his Father they had a responsibility in developing a spiritual climate in which Jesus could flourish as the Word made flesh. It is true that Yahweh is the only perfect Father—all others fall short. As parents we learn our parenthood from God himself. Jesus then had the perfect upbringing. As a teenager he was unique—the son of God!

In Luke 2 he is presented as he is about to enter into teenage years, as a remarkable young man with a humility of attitude and a profound understanding of the scriptures (Luke 2:47). All the same he went home to Nazareth to be subject unto Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51), a wonderful example of the way all teenagers should be expected to behave. He had a positive and wholesome relationship with Mary and her husband Joseph, a teenager who in all the beauty of his character was a delight to know and be with (Luke 2:52).

Here are examples of teenagers with wonderful spiritual qualities. We may think that they are distant from the qualities of many of our children. Perhaps as parents we have become used to something less—to the disrespect, disobedience and selfishness which is endemic amongst the teenagers of the world. As parents we need to go back to the basics of spiritual development—faithful and regular instruction, consistent parental example and Godly principles carefully laid down. The Bible lays down the key to success—to involve God in the home, for Yahweh must build the house (Psa 127:1). A home built on our Father’s principles should be a happy and contented place (Psa 128:1,2). May God help us all to guide our teenagers in His ways!