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I Lost a Teenager Today


I Lost a Teenager Today.

By Pastor-Dad Scott Thomas

Some of you want to call Child Protective Services and others want to know the secret to losing a teenager. My oldest son just turned 20 today - officially at 7:26 pm Mountain Time. It seems just like yesterday that our long awaited firstborn arrived and had to be rushed to NICU with a hole in his lung.

Jeannie and I were married during the first term of the Reagan administration. That's a long time ago. I was in college playing basketball, leading a community group, and teaching a college Bible class and working full-time at night. Jeannie was an only child now living 2,000 miles away from her parent's home, a mere 18 years old and madly in love with her new 21 year old husband. Okay, maybe not "madly." We dreamed of raising a beautiful family, serving the Lord together as a family and staying as thin as we were at that time forever. You can't have all your dreams come true.


We didn't get pregnant after seven years into our marriage. After talking about adoption, we were prepared to have me tested to see why she couldn't get pregnant. When she ran into my office after returning from seeing the doctor about her unexplained sickness, our lives changed forever.  After seven years of barrenness, we were thrilled to be expecting a child.

Parenting delayed us seven years and then this unborn child (we were told it was a girl) was two weeks late. Jeannie was pregnant 9 and a half months by this time and unless she was having an elephant, she figured she was ready to bring this kid into the world. The doctors induced her and she still struggled through the labor. Ten hours later we had a son (either that or the promised daughter had carry-on baggage).  They rushed him into NICU with a hole in his lung and put him in an oxygen tent. We were stressed, but trusting that this long-awaited child was in God's hands no matter the outcome. After three days in the hospital, his lung repaired itself and he has been healthy ever since.


Derrin_NICU - Derrin Baby

Twenty years later, he is leading a community group at Mars Hill Church, working part-time and is in his sophomore year at the University of Washington. At 16, he told his Mom about a girl he was seeing regularly. He said, "Do you know why I like her? Because she reminds me of you." Ahhh.  We couldn't be more grateful for the grace of God in his life.

How did you do it, we are asked often of young church planters. I offer five simple tips to encourage you, but push the glory to God who shaped a boy's life in spite of his parent's mistakes.


  1. Depend on the grace of God, the Spirit of God and the wisdom of God for guidance and provision every day.
  2. Love them sacrificially with your time. Dads should also be "present" for every aspect of their child's life. Your kids only have one Daddy.
  3. Enjoy the ride. Don't stress over the house or their messy clothes. Laugh often; hug more.
  4. As a couple, set clear boundaries and discipline consistently. The goal of discipline is to teach that God has standards of obedience and that He is the One who has absolute authority in our lives. Teach the gospel clearly in your discipline: a) Identity as a child belonging to a family, b) sin separates, c) sin has consequences, d) confession, e) repentance, f) reconciliation. Share this story of the Redeemer every time you exercise discipline.
  5. Make your home a place of grace where it is safe to make mistakes, be yourself, have fun, try out new dance moves and bring friend's over. Practice being a gospel community as a family. Practice confrontation, forgiveness and reconciliation.

So, I lost a teenager today, but I gained a friend. For this, I am blessed.


Laura Queen

on Mar 31, 2009 :: 7:24 am

Scott, that is so beatifully written and the five simple tips are absolutely true and proven. Sadly, too many Christian parents miss out on the joy of having teenagers by being too busy, or too critical. He was a beautiful little boy and you raised him well.

Pete Lindeman

on Mar 31, 2009 :: 11:30 am

thanks for sharing and encouraging...6 years ago this month my wife and I were in similar circumstances with our baby girl...we are now looking ahead to the next 14 years keenly aware of our own weakness and ability to mess up our kids...thankfully we serve an awesome God who works with and through broken vessels. your words of wisdom have come at a crucial time as my wife and I are going through the how's of parenting and your "tips" have strengthened our resolve in our dependence on God for us to be Godly parents...may God bless you and your family as you work together for the Kingdom!