I have a rebellious 17-year-old son living at home. Recently he received a speeding ticket. For punishment, he is grounded. He will turn 18 shortly and is threatening to move out. He also wants to marry his girlfriend of several months. I have tried everything to help him serve the Lord and do what is right. I am out of answers. What should I do about his disobedience and the threat of leaving home?
Also, how does this situation affect my ability to serve as a deacon?
It is a bit late to make all the changes necessary. If we started years ago, we might have made significant progress, but you have a few months, so we will do the best we can with the time available.
Number one: You can't do a thing about your son's desire to leave home. You have no legal ground. In most states, from a year before majority, children can leave when they please. What stops them is that they can't sign contractual papers until they reach majority. Having no options, they choose to stay home.
Number two: You can't stop the marriage after he turns 18, except in Nebraska where the legal age for marriage is 19. I assume the girlfriend is above the legal age or will be about the same time.
Sorry to point out the obvious, but this is the reality of the situation and, therefore, defines your boundaries and limitations.
Your son thinks he's old enough to be a man; therefore, it is long past time to give him the independence that he wants. He's going to make a huge number of mistakes. It would be nicer for him to make them while he has you there to lean on for advice, but you can't reverse time.
- The speeding ticket is his. He gets to deal with it on his own. Mom and dad are not going to help him pay for it. If he needs a ride to court, tell him you get him there if he lets you know in advance. That will be the extent of your aid.
- Not only are you no longer going to supply him a car, but he must also pay his own insurance. At the moment that means he is underneath your policy and he pays his part of the cost. If it goes up because of his driving record, that's his responsibility. If he can't pay for the insurance, he doesn't drive.
- He can pay for his own car when he turns 18. You will not cosign any loans. If you bought him his current car, sell it tomorrow. If he protests, the answer is simply that you don't supply irresponsible people with cars.
- If he chooses to move out at 18, wish him luck and let you know where to forward his bills. Once he leaves home, you will not help with housing, food, or education costs. Leaving is a declaration of adulthood, so it means he is ready to take on those responsibilities.
- For the same reason, if he decides to marry, that is a declaration of adulthood. He is to leave father and mother (Genesis 2:24). He's on his own with his bride. If he hasn't already, he moves out the day he gets married. If he wants help with any wedding expenses, you expect him to get marriage counseling prior to the marriage with someone you recommend and trust. If he thinks he knows it all, then he obviously doesn't need any help from you.
- As an adult, he is responsible for his own bills. If you are supplying him a phone, the bills are his. If he doesn't pay the bill, he doesn't have a phone.
You are hitting him where he needs it most -- in the pocketbook. Right now he doesn't realize what it means to be an adult. You only have a few months to wake him up to reality. None of the things listed above should be delivered in an angry tone. A neutral or resigned tone would be best. Make it clear that you are giving him what he wants and it isn't negotiable. Make it clear that you love him, want the best for him, and are available to help him sort through any problems he's facing, but you will not be supporting him when he does wrong, moves out of the house, or decides to do things against your better judgment.
So the answer to "I'm getting married," is: "Oh! I'm glad you made that choice and not to have sex outside of marriage. Where do you plan to live? Are the two of you making enough to pay rent, buy groceries, and pay utility bills? Have you talked about what you will be doing to survive if she becomes pregnant?" All the way through you are encouraging them to do what is righteous, but you are also helping them analyze the risks involved. In other words, you are not standing in their way, but preparing them for adulthood. You are moving aside to let him see what adulthood is really about.
In regards to serving as a deacon, the statement is, "Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well" (I Timothy 3:12). "Well" translates the Greek word kalos, which emphasizes the moral aspect, such as decently, morally, or honestly. "Ruling" translates the Greek word proistemi, which means to lead, stand before, or to practice. The qualification looks at how you handle your household, including difficult situations. There isn't a qualification for deacon's children that they are faithful (good Christians) as there is for elder's children. But it should be seen that you did your best for your children even if they didn't respond well.
In other words, if a man has unruly children and doesn't do much to correct the problem, then he isn't managing his household well. But if he is dealing with problems as they come up and for the most part keeps things in line, then he is managing well. The qualification isn't implying that problems don't happen in a well-managed household. The question is whether they are being dealt with in a timely fashion and in a good way.