"A child who can't take "no" for an answer always has parents who can't say it and mean it. "

16-Year-Old Losing Interest in Friends/Activities


I’m writing about my sixteen year old son. He never publicly accepted the Lord and joined the church. When asked to say grace at meals he always said something brief. Because of losing my job and having to take one that paid less we could not afford to keep him in a private Christian school. We moved to a more modest house in the best school district in the area when he started sixth grade/middle school. He seemed to be doing fine, but after about two months he started losing interest in friends and activities he previously enjoyed. He wouldn’t open up to anyone. He also developed a severe case of cystic acne that did not respond to antibiotics and the most effective drug for acne made him sick.

One Sunday in church school his teacher asked him to lead the class in prayer and he declined, stating that for him prayer was private as in Matthew 6:6. My wife and I were embarrassed about this, but our pastor just smiled and said it was the first time in his career that someone had declined to pray and cited scripture. I think his comment was to not push the river. That summer while at the mall with my wife he ran into an older boy, “Billy” he barely knew from school, who invited him to a Saturday afternoon pool party. Billy gave my wife a business card: “William A. Smith, Esq. Lawn Care & Child Care Specialist.” We didn’t know what to do since we knew nothing about this boy or the other kids, but our son suddenly had an interest in something. He suggested that we call one of his teachers because, “Not much gets past Mrs. (favorite teacher).” My wife called her. Seems that “Billy” is known to teachers as “Business card Billy.” “Yes, he’s for real,” the teacher said. “Very good at both jobs from what I hear. Just doesn’t take himself too seriously. Good kid.” A phone call to Billy got us talking to his parents and an invitation for coffee and dessert the next night. We let him go to the party. These kids were all older than my son, but they took him in and he soon started coming out of his shell. One even suggested a diet change for his acne and it worked. Not all came from religious families, but were good kids as we learned over time when they were in our home.

One of them gave him your book “Teenproofing” and when he said, “Dad you and Mom should read this book. Did you know I should have my own checking account and I should be setting my own curfew?” “Yes, son, when donkeys fly.” We read the book. Turned out this was the norm for many of the other kids. Things kept going well. Not that he was perfect, but we had a pretty easy job of parenting. Between your book and his friends and some guidance from his mother and me he seemed to be raising himself. But he never joined the church. He never complained about going, but he never joined.

A few weeks ago our pastor came to call on us (a new pastor, the previous one had retired). He asked our son if he had not joined the church because he was reluctant to come forward at the altar call. He said that he had not felt moved by the spirit. One question led to another and it because apparent that our son was avoiding something. Finally, the pastor started asking pointed questions about just what he believes and does not believe. He said he did not want to offend anyone, but he had questions about the nature of God and doubted the divinity of Jesus. He believes that some kind of force put the universe in motion and after that he didn’t know, that he was basically a deist, but open to considering anything.

Our pastor said we should pray and walked over to our son and started to put his hands on him. At that point our son stood up and said, “Pastor if you want to pray FOR me that is your right. But I will not have you touch me or pray OVER me. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I will not allow it. I think it’s time for me to go for a walk,” and he left.

When he came back he said that maybe we should wait to discuss this until we all had some time to clear our heads. Mine still hasn’t cleared. The next Sunday he got ready for church like always. Instead of the sermon that was listed in the newsletter we got one on what happens to nonbelievers. Our son waited till everyone else had gone through the receiving line and said to the minster, “Pastor, belief base on fear is not true belief. And if you ever take anything someone in my family has said to you in private and use it in a sermon like that again I will sue you into poverty.”

On the way home he said he would not be going back to our church again unless it was for a wedding or a funeral. Every week since then he has gone to services with one of his friends, either to a church or a synagogue. I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I think I should make him apologize to our pastor. Sometimes I think he was right to stand up for himself. Friday night and Saturday night he went to a Jewish friend’s house for Passover Seders, turning some well paying child care jobs over to friends.

Although I may have missed it, I could not find anything on the web site that seems to address this. My wife and I would greatly appreciate any guidance you can give us in this matter.

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