Why is influence essential, and why should you care to be a person of influence? More specifically, why should parents care to be the primary faith influencer in the life of their teenager? First, we must understand what influence is to understand why it is an essential part of our lives. Then we must realize where the power of persuasion comes from and how it can be useful. Finally, we discover the role of parents as the primary faith influencers in the life of their teenager.
We are all influenced by something. Co-workers, classmates, friends, teachers, bosses, politics, social media, television, books, among many other things all influence adults and teenagers alike. That which shapes people can come from a variety of different places and in a variety of different ways. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines influence as “the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.” The word carries with it the idea of producing power over the mind or behavior of others. Influence may apply to a force exercised and received consciously or unconsciously.
So, why should you care to be a person of influence? Positively shaping someone’s pattern of thinking is essential because it creates profitable growth in that person’s life. Positive influence is critical because, without it, negative connections can guide a person’s life down a dark and miserable road. We all have influence, but so often we neglect to utilize it. With all the varieties of ways a person can be swayed, you might be thinking, “What can my one voice do to persuade someone this way or that?” One human voice may very well not hold much influence over another.
The power of persuasion comes from something much higher than ourselves. For the Christ-follower, it is the Bible. You see, it is not our words that hold sway over anyone, but it is the power of God’s Word that changes a person. When you experience the transformation that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ, you desire to be the one to influence someone else for the better, to be a beacon of light and love. Think about all that can affect your teenager; sense the urgency that grows in the heart of the parent. This urgency motivates parents to be the individuals to show them the truth about life, love, and genuine human flourishing.
Influence doesn’t necessitate a close relationship with another person. Take watching a television show, for instance; I don’t have a kinship with any of the actors/actresses portraying the characters on the show. I can, nonetheless, be influenced by what the characters do and say as they express their views. While influence doesn’t need a close relationship to produce an effect on thinking or behavior, the most effective type of persuasion comes through a trusting relationship.
I may trust that social media provides me with the best information on current events, and so I allow it to persuade my thinking on a specific issue. I may trust a friend to share my life with and thus will enable that friend to hold sway over my beliefs, which in turn produce an effect on my behavior. But the most vital thing a person can trust in is God’s Word, the Bible. Trusting God himself is of the utmost importance. Trust is the key to powerful influence, and when we believe God, and in turn, trust the truth of His Word, he influences us into the best kind of human flourishing.
Why should you, parent of a teenager, care to be the primary influencer in your teenager’s life?
First, God has given you that role.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NLT), “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Second, as Christ-followers, our highest goal is to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, strength.
Out of that love comes the action of joining him in the work he has given us to do; to love people and bring them the good news of Christ! For the parent, the most significant task the Lord has given is influencing your teenager to love God with everything in them and to guide them to learn how to love people well. When you develop a trusting relationship with your teenager, a warm heart connection, your influence will be productive! And you will have stepped squarely into the role as the primary faith influencer in your teenagers’ life.
Third, you have the most compelling relationship out of everyone with your teenager.
You have the most considerable amount of time with your teenager. You have the most significant amount of opportunities to influence them. You have the highest number of moments to repeat the commands of scripture and the truth of scripture to them. Faith conversation moments happen while you are driving them to school, band practice, ball practice, and all the other extra-curricular activities or while sitting around the dinner table. These moments are plenty.
The Lord has given you the best chance to influence your teenager for His kingdom. However, the amount of time and having the most compelling relationship isn’t all that’s needed. You must also be intentional. You would never let a teenager leave your care without having first made sure they obtained the necessary skills to keep themselves alive. That’s because you decided to be intentional with the small moments throughout their life to teach them what they needed to know. You showed them how, through a variety of methods. You let them try it on their own while coaching them through times of failure supporting them all along the way. The same is true of influencing their faith. Be intentional with the small moments throughout their life to teach them what they need to know about loving God and loving people.