NEW INTERVIEW with Susan and Sarah (Teens, Parenting, Dating, Avoiding High School Mistakes)

Tell us a little about yourselves.

sarah bookout garrett bookSusan and I live in southeast Tennessee. We are twin sisters with a heart to serve God and to tell the next generation the truth of God’s word. We have both worked with teens in varying capacities for a decade. We received the same questions repeatedly and wanted a way to give Biblical and practical advice to more girls who also have the same questions and no one to ask. I started the blog, Transformed4more.com, in 2016 to attempt to reach a broader audience.

You have written a book that is about teens and dating. What are some important guidelines that you believe are important for all teens when it comes to dating?

One of the most important guidelines is that teenage dating is generally not going to last. We see many teenagers pour everything in a relationship that only lasts a few months. We try to get them to realize that if they choose to date at this stage, it is simply to find out some things you would/wouldn’t like in a future spouse and to make a few good memories.

Boundaries are another significant guideline we discuss. Many of the temptations and pitfalls of dating can actually be avoided if teens set definitive boundaries. Boundaries show that you value yourself and also help “weed out” the individuals who are not pursuing a relationship for good reasons.

What would you say to a teen that wanted to grow in their knowledge of the Bible but weren’t quite sure how to go about it?

Try your best to get a mentor. Having an older person help you in this journey is a wonderful thing.

If you don’t have access to a mentor, YM360.com has great devotionals for teenagers. One of the best is actually a year long devotional called “Tracing the Thread” that takes them through the entire story of the Bible.

Also, pay attention in church and youth group. Take notes during the sermon and then try to find out more about it. A good Bible with commentary can help with this.

What would you say to a teen that just did not feel it was all that important to be involved in youth group or the church?

I would point them to Proverbs 27:17, the verse about iron sharpening iron, and Hebrews 10:25 that states, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together…”.

God created us to be in community from each other and learn from one another. Studying the Bible on your own is good but being able to discuss it among a community of believers helps them think about it in a different way that may not have occurred to them before.

I would also tell them that they are not the center of the church or youth group. It’s about God. Sometimes in our “it’s all about me society” that fact can get lost. We go to church to learn about and honor God; it’s not about how we feel or what we “get out of it.”

What are some mistakes that you see teens making in high school that ends up having a negative impact on their lives?

I could honestly write another book on this. Essentially, much of it comes down to the relationships they make. Their friends have a profound influence on their decision making and can quickly lead them down a road that leads to destruction. Romantic relationships do this as well. Girls may think that having sex with their boyfriend is an expression of love, but it isn’t. It just destroys them when the relationship ends. Teenagers need to surround themselves with good, healthy, positive relationships.

They also believe that God isn’t enough. They think, “If I just made better grades, that would be enough,” or “If I just had a boyfriend, that would be enough.” Believing that God will supply all your needs is something that is hard for them to grasp and they search for many other things to make them happy that can never satisfy.

What are some books that you would recommend for teens to read?

The number one book I recommend to all teens is Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. It challenges teenagers to rise above the low expectations placed on them and excel.

For boys, I also recommend How to be a Man: The Pursuit of Christ Centered Masculinity (Student Version) by Andy Blanks and Rick Burgess.

For girls, Lies Young Women Believe by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth and Dannah Gresh. It discusses so many lies that girls believe about themselves and how to break free. I am also a contributing writer for their blog at LiesYoungWomenBelive.com.

Another good one is Girl Defined by Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird. It breaks down the Bible based feminine identity.

If girls are interested in dating relationships, then my book So, You Think You’re Ready to Date? is a great one. It is written in a 40 day “devotional” format and it lays a Biblical foundation for dating relationships. I did not shy away from hard topics and in the book I discuss topics like the cycle of violence, sexting, lies girls believe, and characteristics of bad boys.

We also have a “recommended resources” page on our site that discusses all of the books we recommend.

Ten Things All Teenagers Should Know

1. The pursuit of pleasure can lead you places that you do not want to go. All humans are pleasure seeking missiles. It is how God has wired us. Who in their right mind does not want to be happy? When I turned 18 I began seeking pleasure in the wrong places and it almost cost me my life. You can check THIS out if you want to learn more about my story. Here is the truth of the matter. You were made to be in a relationship with God and only he can truly satisfy the deepest cravings of your heart. There are a world of substitutes for God but all of them lead to pain and heartbreak. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” -Augustine

2. You do not need a boyfriend or girlfriend to be happy. The people who are never happy unless they have a “significant other” grow up to be people who have serious issues. Their story is all too common. Relationship after relationship and a bunch of bad stories. Don’t be the guy or the girl that believes that life is void of meaning and purpose unless they are dating someone. If you want to watch a true story of a young lady who tried to fill up the empty spaces of her life with relationships then watch THIS.

3. The most important thing about the person you date (or end up marrying one day) is that they love Jesus more than you. Common interests are good. Being able to laugh together is nice. If you become the most important thing in the life of the person you are dating then they have made you into an idol. Eventually they will discover that you can not meet their deepest needs. Which leads to disillusionment and the end of the relationship. First and foremost look for some who is passionately in love with Jesus.

4. Get to know and befriend those who seem left out and alone. In high school I spent the majority of my lunches in the high school bathroom hiding because I was terrified of going into the cafeteria. Why? I was incredibly shy and did not know anyone. It’s not hard to understood why this led me to hate high school. It would have meant the world to me to have had someone reach out to me and bring me into their circle of friends. One thing to keep in mind. Sometimes the people who are hurting or feel alone put up a facade that they are OK. It’s just how they have learned to get through the day. You will have to push past those defenses if you want to get to know them. Who can you reach out to? Your friendship could seriously change their life.

5. Forget about being cool. Instead, be remembered as a person who loved others. I don’t even know if teens use the word cool anymore. In the 1980s being cool meant that you were popular. It is way overrated. The two greatest commandments in all of scripture are to love God and to love others. Make it your ambition in high school to love others well.

6. Develop a devotional life now. Everything that I am writing about here is impossible if you are not developing a meaningful relationship with God. Your heart and life will only change as you are growing in your love for Christ. Another thing to keep in mind. There are alarming statistics about Christian high school students going off to college and walking away from the faith. Here is the number one reason that happens, a lack of love for Jesus Christ. Make it a priority now to pursue Christ with all of your heart.

7. Be involved in church now and in college. It’s great if you have and hang out with some Christian friends at school. In fact, I think that is very important. What you need to know is that Christians are part of the family of God. Being a part of a church that is passionate about Jesus Christ will help you grow in your faith. I would encourage you as you head off to college to get connected with a local church. Parachurch organizations (CRU, Intervarsity) are great, but God has called us to be in fellowship with others in the local church.

8. Your parents love you more then you will ever know. I would gladly lay down my life for my kids. No exaggeration. Your parents feel the same way about you. Work on building your relationship with your parents. Open up about how you are feeling and what you are thinking. You may be pleasantly surprised when it comes to all the wisdom they have and are willing to share with you.

9. You need to be on guard against wasting large portions of your life with your phone and social media. How many hours a day do you think you spend on your phone? Some studies say that teens spend nine hours a day looking at screens. You need to be aware that your phone and technology are shaping you more then you know. Our phones often times distract us from the real world and from real relationships. So what do you do if you sense that your phone and technology are becoming too important to you? It’s really not enough just to put your phone away. You need to replace it with something better. “True freedom from the bondage of technology comes not mainly from throwing away the smartphone, but from filling the void with the glories of Jesus that you are trying to fill with the pleasures of the device.” -Tony Reinke, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

10. Enjoy the days of your youth. Man, enjoy these days! I look back with way too many regrets about high school. Don’t worry about what others think. Discover who you are and embrace it. Laugh a ton and enjoy these days because they go by so fast.

Interview with Jaquelle Crowe (This Changes Everything)

One of the things that I like to do on my blog is talk about how the gospel relates to everyday life. So when I learned that there was a new book coming out that is gospel-centered and relates to teens I was immediately interested. Jaquelle Crowe recently published a book entitled, “This Changes Everything: How The Gospel Transforms The Teen Years”. I have already started reading and discussing the book with two of my kids. It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it for teens or parents with teenagers. Jaquelle has graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy!

1. Tell us a little about yourself. Family, what you are doing now, aspirations for the future, hobbies, etc…

Jaquelle CroweI’m 19, and I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia — which is in eastern Canada. I still live at home with my parents (my dad’s a pastor, my mom’s a homemaker), younger brother, and two adorable cats. Right now I’m writing full time, hosting a podcast for youth (Age of Minority), and running an online membership site for young writers called The Young Writers Workshop. My future is an open slate — I’m currently pursuing the opportunities the Lord has put in my path (writing, mentoring, speaking, traveling) and am completely open to wherever he leads next. I would like to go to grad school, seminary probably, and one day earn my Ph.D. As far as hobbies, I love to read, exercise, listen to music and podcasts, and eat/cook. I’m an aspiring foodie and enjoy cooking and trying new restaurants and coffee shops. I’m also a health nut so I love experimenting with healthy baking.

2. What motivated you to write “This Changes Everything”?

I wanted to write This Changes Everything for two reasons. First, because it was the book I wanted to read as a younger teen but could never find. I wanted a book that didn’t sell me short as a Christian teen, that didn’t dumb anything down for me, that taught me solid theology but was also practical and fun. But secondly, I wrote it because I met more and more teens like me who wanted this kind of resource. Someone recently called it, “The Pursuit of Holiness for teenagers,” and that’s exactly what I wanted to capture — how do you pursue holiness as a teenager? I realized if there was only one book I wrote in my entire life, this was the book I needed to write.

3. What would you say to the teen that is involved in the church but is just coasting spiritually?

I think every “church kid” needs to come to the point where they realize that church attendance, tradition, or niceness doesn’t save us. I know I did. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can give us spiritual life. I would say to this coasting teen, “Examine your heart and ask yourself whether this faith is yours or merely your parents’ faith.” Jesus has no half-hearted followers. He demands everything. And if we’re saved, we’re required to pour out our whole lives in passionate, devoted obedience to him.

4. Describe a few ways that parents can get involved in the life of their teens to encourage their spiritual growth.

Regularly read and discuss God’s Word with them (my family has a time of worship each evening where we do just this and then pray together). Carve out weekly one-on-one time with your teens to talk about their spiritual life and struggles, temptations, and joys. Read a spiritual book together.

5. Christians understand that the gospel is what saves them. But the gospel is also key for our sanctification. What are some practical ways that teens can deepen their understanding and appreciation of the gospel so that it continually transforms their lives?

Read God’s Word every day — even if it’s just a chapter or a few verses. This daily discipline will do more for your spiritual life than you can possibly imagine. Pray every day. I find it helpful to set a timer to keep me focused and on track. Also, read prayers from godly saints, like the prayers in The Valley of Vision. Finally, pay attention to and invest in the teaching of God’s Word from your church — sermons, Sunday School, youth group, every time the Word is opened.

6. Can you name 3 or 4 books that you would recommend to teens to read?

Absolutely! Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle (applicable to both young men and women), Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper.