Adapted from The Best of Pro-Maker III, “To Rebuke or Not To Rebuke,” by Frank Hamrick.
In order to teach young people effectively, we need a great deal of wisdom and patience. Those qualities are put to the test most when we respond to the failures of others.
When young people disobey authority, commit sin, or fail to thrive in their relationship with the Lord, how do we respond? Should we charge in and put them in their place, or should we gently lead them back? The most effective response will depend on the type of teen we’re teaching.
Paul gives us insight on how to deal with three types of Christians. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, he teaches the leaders at Thessalonica how to respond to three types of struggling people—the disorderly, the fainthearted, and the weak.
This person can be characterized as rebellious. He’s determined to do what he wants regardless of biblical warnings. He resists, or completely disregards, those in leadership and rejects the rules they uphold.
Because a rebellious attitude spreads quickly among young people, we must address it immediately. A disorderly young person benefits most from rebuke—calling out sin without sacrificing truth or love.
Avoid giving praise or honor to this type of young person while they continue to sin. You’ll get what you honor, and if you honor disorderly behavior, other young people will become disorderly if they think you approve of it.
This type of young person is easily discouraged. She lacks confidence, both in herself and in God. She gives up easily, perhaps after repeatedly failing to obey God and grow in her relationship with Him. I’ve worked with many teens that struggle to live a consistent Christian life. They are not rebellious—in fact, many have a deep desire to live for Christ.
This young person needs encouragement, not rebuke. Disapproval and criticism would only add to her existing burden of insecurity. Emphasize her positive efforts and victories. Give her responsibilities she can handle, but not so many that she will feel shame if she fails. Take interest in her and encourage her walk with the Lord.
These are the young people who are easily led out of God’s path. They have no personal inner strength to resist sin, and they struggle to trust God.
More than rebuke, or even praise, this person needs spiritual strength. He needs the support of strong Christians who will encourage him to make godly choices when he’s faced with difficult decisions.
Respond with Patience
Paul urges believers to be patient with those who fail. We often jump in and rebuke young people without determining first if they’d benefit most from a different response. We must listen and evaluate first. With patience, we can respond truthfully and lovingly to young people when they fail, and teach them more effectively.