Families come in various shapes and sizes and levels of maturity, so the question cannot be answered with perfect precision. However, there are some valuable biblical guidelines you can use to determine if your son — or if your whole family — can be considered “at risk.”
1. Understand what it means to be “at risk.”
“At risk” simply means to be exposed to harm or danger. Merriam-Webster takes it a step further by saying that being at risk means you are “in a state or condition marked by a high level of risk or susceptibility.”
If we’re going to apply this term in the broadest sense, every member of your family — and, therefore, your entire family — is at risk.
I Peter 5:8 tells us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Right before listing the daily necessity of putting on the Armor of God, Paul says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
If Satan had the audacity to try to tempt Jesus, we know He’s coming after us.
We are all at great spiritual risk of sinning against our Creator God. We’ve all done it, and we all will likely do it again. This means that every parent needs to be vigilant to guard his own heart as well as teach his children to do the same.
And that leads to our second consideration.
2. Determine your child’s APN (Average Parenting Needs).
According to II Timothy 3:16-17, God designed the Scriptures to accomplish four tasks: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The Bible teaches us what is right and what is wrong. The Bible reproves us by showing us when we’re wrong. The Bible corrects us by helping us turn from the wrong to the right. And the Bible trains us by helping us stay in the right and avoid the wrong.
As parents, God expects us to use His Word to accomplish those same four tasks in the lives of our family members.
But, before we can move on, it must be understood that each of those “jobs” requires participation from our children.
In the same way Truth about God can be lost on us when we’re daydreaming at church (don’t pretend it’s never happened to you!), if our children don’t participate in the learning process, our teaching falls on deaf ears and no Truth is learned.
This applies to reproof as well. You can tell your child what they did was a sin, but if they don’t believe you or care, they haven’t participated and are therefore unprepared to move into the Correcting Stage.
So, what is an Average Parenting Need? If your child refuses to learn even the most basic concepts of the faith, they need increased teaching. If your child is learning the Truth but not applying it to their lives, they need more reproof.
The degree to which your child is at risk is going to increase depending on their Average Parenting Needs. Children who regularly participate in genuine, biblical training by fleeing evil and living righteously are at a low risk of being consumed by the roaring lion.
Children who — like the James 1 double-minded man — flip-flop between sin and sanctification are unstable in all their ways. Even though they are tender and quick to apologize when they’re caught in their sin, they are far more likely to stumble and fall and suffer the spiritual consequences of their choices.
Children who reject your reproof, who refuse to accept that they are wrong, are at a much higher risk of spiritual destruction.
And children who don’t even care to hear the Truth taught to them are at the highest level of risk.
Based off that criteria, how at risk are your family members?
Lastly, since teaching, reproof, correction, and training require participation from both parents and children, there is one more vital facet to determine your family’s degree of risk.
3. Consider your level of influence.
When you teach, does your child learn? When you reprove, does your child accept it? When you correct, does your child change? When you train, does you child grow?
If the answer is, “Yes!” then you have a high level of influence in your child’s life. But the harder it is for you to influence your children for the things of God, the more at risk they become.
My friends, all of our families are at risk. We’re all tempted to ignore God and do what’s right in our own eyes. That is the single most dangerous thing anyone can do! But some of our families are at a higher risk than others. So, what’s the next step?
Looking for Immediate Help?
In my reflections on the 25 years of ministering here at Victory, I have great memories. I remember former students who have called my cell phone and just wanted to check in with me and see how I was doing. Once, after many years, a student from my second year here visited us. He, his wife, and baby girl were such a blessing. We had lunch, talked about their ministry and walk with God. Those calls, from Chicago and Utah, and the visits from former students brought me face to face with what Victory is all about. We are building relationships that go deep, reaching the hearts. We love these guys, really. The natural product of those relationships is heart influence. As Scripture is wrapped around the daily life here at Victory, their view of life is challenged and biblical answers are found to be true. That impacts the foundation of their worldview. That reveals the cracks in their self-focused worldview and brings light to the solid foundation of the biblical worldview. That impacts the inner man, the heart, life. As they see themselves as sinners in need of a savior, we then begin to show them the value of Christ and His work on the cross. When they see that at heart level, real growth of heart begins, life changes.
We have seen such good fruit in reaching the hearts of struggling young men that as I reflect, my adrenaline begins to flow and my focus is narrowed. Deep relationships have the ability to produce long-term influence and good fruit. Why I sometimes forget the sureness of the biblical sowing and reaping principle puzzles me. It puzzles me because one would think that by now I should recognize that correctly applying the Word of God produces good fruit. After all, good fruit is what those who are in Christ were designed to produce (Eph. 2:10). That is what God is in the business of doing in us. We recognize that we don’t see that fruit in every boy we work with, which reveals that our relationships didn’t get as deep as we wanted them to get. However, even with those we often see in the later years when they do finally grow up and commit themselves afresh to God, they call back and want us to pray, and they want to visit.
I have had the opportunity to work with well over a hundred young men in my time here. Many of those have gone on to succeed in life as policemen, firemen, missionaries, faithful employees, and great husbands and fathers. Today, in the day to day struggles of ministering to the guys we see little rays of hope as the light of the Word is shined on their hearts. That is what Victory is all about. We press on, influencing, reaching into one heart at a time, and seeing God work His work of changing lives from darkness to light.
As Victory Academy opens this school year, there is one thing that bothers me. For twenty five years it seems that Victory has been a secret.
Some things are so valuable they shouldn’t be kept secret. What makes Victory so valuable? Victory value isn't due to any one person, but found in the fact that God has done His work through literally hundreds of people to make Victory what it is today. Staff members, volunteers, and donors have sacrificially worked together to build a ministry that produces eternal fruit.
This should not be kept a secret.
What do you get when you put together a staff with decades of experience working with troubled teens, a program developed over twenty-three years, and an excellent 120 acre facility protected from many of our culture’s problems? That is Victory Academy for Boys! We have a fantastic program for reaching at-risk teen boys, and people need to know about it. Victory is not a band-aid for bad behavior. Victory is about heart surgery; real inner-man change.
Victory Academy is valuable because our program answers the needs of struggling teens and their parents. As I have looked over my 25 years here and considered the several hundred teens and families we have helped, I was able to name many whose lives were radically changed right here at Victory. Overwhelmingly, our alumni have graduated high school and some have gone on to serve in our military and law enforcement. Some have gone on to further their education at college. A few have studied at Bible colleges. One is finishing up graduate school this year to become a missionary pastor. Another is a youth pastor in Michigan. Dads have changed from passive to active leaders in their families. Families have seen the principles of God’s Word work in their homes. Relationships have been restored. Victory Academy works because God’s Spirit works through God’s Word to change hearts.
Foundationally we believe that parents are the key to long-term change and growth for a boy. If dad and mom are strengthened and encouraged in their parenting, our program’s impact will be family-wide and influential in the next generation (look at Psalm 78:1-8). Our parent program does the work of encouraging and strengthening parents, while helping them get back to the place of influence for God in the lives of their children.
There are families in every church and neighborhood that could benefit from our program. Many teens and their parents are struggling with all sorts of problems, and Victory is all about providing hope and biblical counsel to these families. Every time I poll an audience an overwhelming number of them know of teens that need our program. Think for a moment, whom do you know that would benefit from our program?
Victory Academy is open, ready, and able to help struggling teens and their parents, so, go tell the secret!
Let’s see what God will do!