Yesterday I finished reading the very excellent little book 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers by Walt Mueller, founder of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding. Walt does a tremendous job of offering insights that are not just cute statements but nuggets of truth filled with and grounded on solid theology. It’s a MUST-HAVE for every parent (whether your child is already a teenager or not). Click on the 10% Off Coupon at top of this blog to purchase the book at Simply Youth Ministry. Stick it in your bathroom (that’s what I do … seriously!), put it on your nightstand (that’s what my wife does), throw it in your car to read while you’re sitting waiting for your kids to finish soccer practice, whatever. Invest in yourself as a parent! Below are a few samples from the book.
1. TEENAGERS ARE A BLESSING, NOT A CURSE.
I will never forget the overwhelming wonder and amazing joy I felt when my first child (and all three since) was born. “I’m not worthy! What did I do to deserve this?” is what I cried out to God in gratitude for this great gift. Shortly thereafter, our daughter became a teenager. During my weaker moments, the challenges, confrontations, and difficulties sometimes left me asking God, “What have I done to deserve this?” Then I was reminded of Solomon’s wise and truthful words: Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior’s f istful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! (Psalm 127:3-5 The Message). Whether God graces you with easy parenting times or strengthens you during difficult parenting times, those children God gave you were gifts on the day they were born—and that hasn’t changed! They still are.
5. ADMIT IT: THE TEENAGE YEARS ARE TOUGH!
It helped us to view our teenagers as people stuck in an earthquake—the earthquake known as adolescence. Think about it. The teen years arrive swiftly, pass rather quickly, and radically alter the landscape of a child’s life. And just like real- life earthquakes, the earthquake of adolescence leaves its victims feeling all kinds of stress. They are juggling physical growth, new sexual urges, changing relationships, a host of new pressures, the quest for finding answers to a multitude of questions, and the desire to belong. Next time you’re ready to throw in the parenting towel, picture your teenager struggling to live through the onset and aftermath of an earthquake. They need you now more than ever!
9. PATIENCE IS A PRIMARY PARENTAL VIRTUE!
How easy it would be if adolescence were an overnight phenomena. But the process of moving from childhood to adulthood takes time. In today’s world, the assumption that the adolescent years cease and a teenager becomes an adult at the age of 18 is no longer valid. New discoveries regarding the biochemistry and physiology of the human brain, along with a host of cultural forces (later marriage, extended college education, massive debt, living at home, delayed maturity) have fueled things like extended adolescence and emerging adulthood. Both are nice-sounding terms that when translated simply mean that our children are taking longer to grow up. Some are even wondering if adolescence extends to the age of 30! This process can be grueling and frustrating for those parents who desperately want to see their teenagers make good choices on the road to adulthood and arrive at the destination sooner rather than later. The tables turn, and we become the ones asking over and over, “Are we there yet?!?” Remember, God is at work and the process may take some time. Be patient!
13. GOOD PARENTS DON’T ALWAYS RAISE GOD-HONORING CHILDREN.
A great amount of parental guilt has been fueled by taking the words of Proverbs 22:6 as a promise: Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. The first half of that Proverb includes an imperative that we must follow. The responsibility we have to nurture our children in the faith is non-negotiable. But the result mentioned in the second half isn’t, as we tend to think, a guarantee. Rather, it’s a general statement about the way things may end up. The reality is that history and the world around us—maybe even the world in our own home—is filled with examples of wonderful, committed, diligent God-honoring parents whose first priority in life has been to train up their children in the way they should go, only to see some of those children choose to go in the opposite direction. The first father we read about in the Bible—God, the perfect Father—saw his first two children, Adam and Eve, rebel. There are many families where good parents have raised multiple children, some who have chosen the narrow path that leads to life, and others who have eagerly pursued the wider road that leads to destruction. What we can’t forget is that ultimately, God’s Spirit is the one responsible for bringing about the change in our children’s hearts. We have no clue when that change may come. Our duty is to remain faithful and obedient in our calling as followers of Jesus who have been charged with the task of nurturing our children in the faith—regardless of their response to our efforts at any given point in time. And just as God continues to love his rebellious children, we need to do the same.
Joshua is only in 6th grade, but he already gets it. He understands that the good news of Jesus is not something to be selfishly hoarded, but generously shared with others. A few weeks ago he arrived at our middle school program with three of his friends from school. The next week he invited those three back and more. His dad was so excited and supportive of his passion that he crammed Joshua and six other kids into the car and got them all here where they have been having a blast and hearing the gospel.
Joshua’s passion for the lost is exciting. Wanting to encourage and equip him, a few weeks ago I gave him Greg Stier’s new book Reach Out Don’t Freak Out – a 30-Day devotional for students to motivate them with practical tips for sharing their faith. As he was reading it, God really deepened his understanding and gave him the boldness to do what he did. When I asked him how the book has helped him, Joshua replied, “I learned how to start spiritual conversations with my friends and ask them questions about God.”
If you are looking for simple, practical way to help your students be more effective in reaching their friends for Christ, use the 10% Off Coupon on the top of my page to purchase the book at Simply Youth Ministry. It’s listed under “Books for Students” or you can search for it by title: “Reach Out Student Devotional.”
Here’s how my best friend Ryan Swain helps his kid pull his tooth out. By the way, did I mention he’s a real dentist? LOL
An interesting and well articulated summary of the tension many young people in the church are feeling today; their aching desire for a respectful, honest, gracious conversation involving members from all parts of God’s big family pursuing truth and a spirit of love. Is their desire a utopian fantasy or a hopeful possibility? The Future of Evangelicalism: A Twenty-Something’s Perspective
If you want a youth ministry resource that you can watch weekly, the Simply Youth Ministry Podcast with Doug Fields is super fun with some good tips along the way. If you work with Jr. High, also check out Kurt Johnston’s Simply Jr. High Podcast Subscribe to their Podcast on iTunes and you can download right onto your iPod and watch or listen any time. Have fun!
Received this hopeful and exciting message from one of our middle school small group leaders yesterday:
“So one of the kids in my small group shared the gospel with one of his friends at school. His friend is now thinking of accepting the Lord and supposedly coming Sunday for service. Pleased that the message is getting through as crazy and as loud as my group may be at times.”