BreakPoint: Shelterwood


There’s no magic formula to produce a well-adjusted teen. Despite our love and biblical instruction sometimes they still rebel. When they do, where do you turn?

If there were a guaranteed way for raising kids who always walked the straight and narrow, trust me, the book outlining it would never leave the bestsellers’ list. But the truth of the matter is, when we raise our children, we are raising individuals with wills of their own. And though we impress upon them the Scripture’s teachings, ultimately they will choose whether to respond to God in faith.

The psalmist, David, was truly a man after God’s own heart, but he watched his own family ripped apart by his son, Absalom. Parenting issues plagued the patriarchs too. Ishmael’s behavior was a thorn in Abraham’s side. Isaac not only lost sleep over his twins, but was swindled by one of them. And Jacob had his fair share of headaches and heartaches with his 12 boys. At least when we come across rough patches raising our children, we know we’re in good company.

I remember well from my time in law and later as Attorney General how hard it was to find Christ-centered resources for parents whose young adults had spun out of control. That’s one reason I was so encouraged to learn about a ministry called Shelterwood.

Shelterwood is a licensed Christ-centered residential home for troubled teens with two campuses in Missouri. They provide individual, group, and family therapy for teens who may be struggling with low self-esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts, oppositional defiance disorder, or addiction.

The name Shelterwood comes from a term in forestry. It is when larger, more mature, trees are used to shelter the smaller ones that cannot stand the intensity of the sun. These older trees serve this function until such time as these tender saplings have reached maturity.

Through Christ-centered counseling, mentoring, and discipleship, lives are being changed at Shelterwood.

Take for instance a girl I’ll call Mandy. When Mandy came to the campus she couldn’t even bear to sit in the same room with her mom. There were reasons. Mandy had grown up in a home with an alcoholic and abusive father. Her mom tried to hold the family together, but everything came undone when she discovered her husband had been sexually abusing Mandy and her other daughter. Mandy needed more than what was available in her own community, and by the grace of God, her mom made contact with Shelterwood.

Once at the center, Mandy initially continued her pattern of isolation, fits of rage, and lies. But soon the love of her “big sister”—the name given to the staff person assigned to Mandy—broke through. Mandy began opening her heart to the healing love of Jesus. She explained later, “For the first time I wanted change.”

Mandy found reconciliation with her mom and also with Jesus Christ. She went from failing school to graduating high school and being accepted into college. God used Shelterwood to change the course of her life.

If you are out there listening and you have an out-of-control teen on your hands, I want you to know you are not alone and there is hope. Redemption is God’s specialty. Places like Shelterwood exist across the country. Don’t be ashamed to seek out the resources you need to help your teens. And don’t give up on them. God hasn’t.


A Residential Boarding School for Trouble Teens

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