Pastor, Dad, Shares 10 Valuable Things He’s Learned About Teenagers (+podcast)

Friday, February 16 2024 by Richard D. Hunt

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Pastor Stephen Cox
Pastor Stephen Cox

Although he’s now lead pastor at Bible Baptist Church in the Greenville, South Carolina, area, Stephen Cox is also a former youth pastor. And concern about young people remains very much top of mind. “My heart is still with teenagers,” and he continues to share his wisdom and faith at youth events in many states. 

After a youth conference in Tennessee this summer, with 5,000 teens and young adults taking part, “I just sat one night…and I just started thinking about the teens that I had prayed with that week, that I had personally spoke with, different groups, and I just started pinning down some things that God kind of put on my heart about what teenagers are needing.” Pastor Stephen crafted a list of 10 things he ‘heard and observed.’:

1. Many are hurting - Broken homes, broken relationships, disappointments 

2. Many are confused - So many voices speaking into their lives 

3. Many are distracted - social media

4. Many feel alone - isolation, abandoned, social media 

5. Many are searching - looking for someone that cares 

6. Many are empty - looking to fill a void with a relationship or substance 

7. Many want a role model or mentor - An example to pour into their lives 

8. Many would turn to Jesus if we showed them Jesus - He is the Answer, He fills the Void, He is the Friend 

9. Many need a church that cares - Camp, conferences and retreats are great but the church needs to disciple these young people. Train them and love them. 

10. Many want the truth - stop trying to be cool and just preach the Word to them. They are hungry for truth. 

Let’s determine to reach the next generation with the gospel and love them to Jesus.  (from Stephen Cox on Twitter/X)  

The 10 Things list got attention on social media and positive responses.

“If it can help a parent. If it can help a youth worker or even a pastor realize what we’re dealing with today” and what a teenagers’ viewpoint is, it could make a difference, shares Pastor Stephen. Besides what he’s experienced at youth events, he’s a father of four, including two high school students. “As a parent, I’m kind of tuned in as well. So, we’re kind of in this thing together – raising teenagers – which is a very difficult thing to do in 2023.”

One definite thing Pastor Stephen has determined: “This generation says, ‘Why do we do what we do?’ – they’re wanting to know why, and there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s nothing wrong with a kid questioning why we believe what we believe – but, when you do answer it it better be the truth – and you better have some things to back what you said, scripture, and not just ‘because, I said so.’”

What item on the 10 List particularly stands out to him? 

It’s a combination of confusion and distraction among young people. “When I say ‘confused,’ we’re living in confusing times. The world says one thing. The church says another thing. Which is right? Sometimes a teenager’s home is broken, so they turn maybe to what the world has to say. And when I say ‘world,’ I’m talking about the world’s philosophy. And they may be looking at what the church says. So, there’s a lot of distraction. There’s a lot of confusion – and then of course on top of that is what I guess has been in the major news in the last year or two, is just confusion about identity. There’s a lot of confusion and kids are just wondering where they fit in” with society, family, and school. Also, teens want to know “‘Where do I fit in in God’s family? Where do I fit in in the church?’"

"These are questions that I feel like we should be trying to answer – and they’re very complicated.”

“I mean we know who the author of confusion is and, of course, that’s Satan. We know confusion doesn’t come from God.” Pastor Stephen believes “We need to make things more clear” by deliberately sharing the message of Jesus, and “making it clear to them that ‘Hey, God’s will is not some spooky, mystical mystery’… God’s will is everyday. God’s will is waking up in the morning and spending time with him and walking with him, and doing what’s right and making good decisions – your decisions affect your destiny… It doesn’t have to be as confusing as it seems.”    

Confusion can also be associated with a desire to know what truth is. And with so much verbal competition on social media and talk shows, the concept of truth – the important truths that really matter – can be blurred. 

Pastor Stephen says if a young person is uncertain about truth, here’s where to start: 

“When the foundation is the Word of God, that is the center point, that is the compass in which we guide our lives – that is it. And that is where we start. And then we teach morals, we teach values, we teach biblical principles. These things are truth.”  

In addition to being concerned about young people as a whole, Pastor Stephen is in a rather unique situation. “I have a 17-year-old. I have a 16-year-old. I have a 10-year-old. And then, I have a one-and-a-half-year-old at home, who was a pleasant surprise that God gave us.” That means, as a dad, there will be one more round of teenage years down the road. So, his commitment to the next generation has been expanded. “I’ll be doing this for a very long time!,” he smiles.

There’s much more in our complete interview podcast just below

Some of the current teen issues date back to the recent pandemic which resulted in loneliness and problems with school. But one thing positive amid all the negative, the pandemic “caused kids to think about the afterlife” as they heard reports of so many people dying from COVID-19-related medical problems. Hear Pastor Stephen explain how hearts are now much more open to understanding, although life is uncertain, Jesus’ offer of eternal life is a promise from God himself.

You’ll also hear him explain item #10 on the List, ‘Stop Trying to Be Cool.’ 

Young people pray for one another at youth event
[Photo Credit: Provided] Young people pray for one another at youth event



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