99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

Reach Out Don’t Freak Out!

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.”

Abbot’s Tooth

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

The Future of Evangelicalism: A Twenty-Something’s Perspective

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

Simply Youth Ministry Podcast

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!

Small Groups ARE Making a Big Difference

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.”

Poll: When do you have a regular devotional time with God?

When do you have a regular devotional time with God?online surveys

Church: Why Bother?

Today was my day off and I enjoyed finishing up Surrendered and Untamed by Jason Clark and also read the short little book Church: Why Bother? by Philip Yancey. A very good book. Highly recommended. Here’s Yancey’s description of the book:

This short book addresses a question that seems more and more widespread. How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m spiritual but not religious”? Churches are morphing into new forms–emergent churches, shopping mall churches, megachurches–yet surveys show that an increasing number of believers are opting out altogether. Is involvement with a local church really that important?

I describe my own checkered history with the church (I sometimes joke that I’m “in recovery” from my childhood church), toy with some images of the ideal church, and ponder why the New Testament seems to place so much value on such a motley assembly.

Surrendered and Untamed

Eighteen years ago, in August 1993, I opened the door and walked into my first college dorm room and embarked on my Bible college experience. The number one memory of that first day was meeting the most beautiful woman I had ever seen who would 3-years later become my wife (and, yep, she’s still married to me). A distant second was meeting my two roommates Doug Cowburn and Jason Clark.

In addition to our studies, each of us had to work our way through school. Having no transportation I got the prized job as Lead Dish-Washer in the cafeteria. Actually, it was just plain old Dish Washer. The “Lead” part just sounded so much cooler.

Doug had a car and consequently the sweetest gig. He worked at Pizza Hut. When I say a sweet gig, I mean it was a sweet gig for Jason and me because each night Doug would bring us leftovers. When you’re living on a steady diet of Ramen Noodles, leftover Pizza Hut is like filet mignon. When Doug got home from work, our room would fill with the aroma of pizza and breadsticks.

When  Jason got home from work our room – check that, the entire building would be taken over by a different smell – the smell of gas. No, I’m not talking about the gas smells that fill typical male college dorm halls. Jason got a smelly gig as a gas station attendant in town. It only took about a week before there was an official petition and poor Jason had to start taking off his clothes outside and get hosed down before coming into the dorm. Did I mention this was in the winter; in the typical 10-feet of lake-effect snow of western New York? OK, I’m exaggerating – about the hosing down, not the snow.

On to the point. I recently found out through the beauty of Facebook that Jason had written a book called Surrendered and Untamed and he asked if I would give it a read and review it. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I was thinking of some killer payback for the pranks he played on me that freshman year. Oh, wait, I was the one playing the pranks. Never mind.

The book was a great read with even better content. Jason is a man who has devoted his life to passionately pursuing Jesus with reckless abandon. Anyone who has received a promise from God knows that there are days, seasons, years when you wonder if you heard God correctly. Why? Because we look around and don’t see the promises being fulfilled; at least they don’t appear to be. Jason opens the book talking about his experience as a gas station attendant (thus my opening reminiscing) along with other experiences during which He was questioning God. He doesn’t use this language, but I would say he describes what St. John of the Cross called the Dark Night of the Soul.

An incredible story-teller with a real gift for creating word-pictures, Jason takes us on a fascinating journey through his years of personally questioning and discovering God, and shares the life-changing insights into the heart of God that he has learned, and is learning, along the way. As I was reading I kept thinking, Man, Jason sounds like one of my favorite authors, Erwin McManus – they are singing songs on the same album which our generation needs to be listening to. (My suspicions were finally confirmed on p. 101.) His call to a lifestyle of surrendered and untamed worship to God is one that our generation is desperate to hear. Jason’s voice is added to the call of those of us who want to see a generation rise up and see the world as God sees it and respond in ways that honor Him. The apathy is dissipating and passion is rising because people like Clark are setting forth God’s vision and sounding the alarm that it’s time for the sleeping giant of the Church to start living in the promises of God, not for selfish gain, but to see the values of the Kingdom of God experientially lived out on earth as they are in heaven.

I also got to see a preview of the DVD which follows South African explorer Alex Harris to the South Pole and hosted by Mark Batterson. Fantastic! Totally worth obtaining for personal or group study with the accompanying Participant’s Guide by the same title.