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Jeff Strong, an associate pastor and emergent church leader in Waterdown, Ontario shares some great insight on his blog as to mistakes parents make concerning their teenager’s faith. His list includes:
10. Not spending time with your teen.
9. Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family.
8. Spoiling your teen.
7. Permissive parenting.
6. Trying to be your teen’s best friend.
5. Holding low expectations for your teen.
4. Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement.
3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.
2. Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen.
1. Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not
cultivating within yourself.
I have seen each of these in youth parents over the years. Some parents struggle exclusively with one of these “mistakes,” and other parents struggled with all ten! Jeff’s list was posted a while back, but I saw it for the first time today, and thought, “He NAILED IT!”
The list is quite overarching, but I would add one mistake to the list… 11.) Letting your teen think discipleship is all about being in a church program of some sort. Go with your family on mission projects, find service opportunities like the food bank or a soup kitchen, and teach your kids that following Christ is more than having a “quiet time” or attending church for an hour a week.
Many families in our culture are guilty of consumerism when it comes to faith. We consume faith like we consume reality TV shows, the latest smart-phones, or name brand clothing. Many families bounce from one church to the next based on who has the biggest youth program. I have heard parents come to my church and say, “we left ____________ church because they didn’t offer enough for our kids.” That may be true on both counts, but the consumer mentality underlies the frustration of the parents. For many, church is not a community of believers participating in the ushering in of God’s kingdom on earth; Church is a non-profit that provides religious goods to for consumption, like hip worship, good programs, and entertaining youth facilities.
Parents should not buy into the consumer mentality, but rather teach their kids that discipleship is finding where God is active and present, and serving in that place. Serving as family can have a powerful impact on teens. Many parents never volunteer with the youth group because they feel like they will be intruding on their teen’s “time with friends.” My experience has been that teens who see their parents model faithful discipleship are more rooted in their faith, and better equipped to live as disciples after leaving home.
Some churches provide few opportunities for parents to model Christians discipleship and service to teens, because their strategy for youth ministry is to split families apart on Sundays, offering age graded ministry from cradle to grave. Teens who experience inter-generational ministry are more likely to grow up with the understanding of church as community, rather than an understanding of “church is here to serve me.” Millennials highly value community and authenticity. Parents can disciple their teens by modeling both community and authenticity with the way they serve. Just taking the kids to church on Sunday, dropping them off in the youth building, and picking them up an hour later after “big church,” fails to model true Christian community. When teens see that the teachings of Christ do not impact, in any way, their parent’s concern for the poor, their family’s spending habits, or concern for the environment, the faith parents think they model loses a great deal of authenticity in the mind of teens. So don’t let your teen think discipleship is all about being in a church program of some sort. That may be the biggest mistake of all.