Originally posted on trippatkinson.com.
Parenting is really, really tough. It seems that as soon as you start figuring out a few things, your kids are grown. Because of this, some of the best lessons are found in what others have learned before us along the parenting journey. These lessons are usually conveyed as statements of regret. Having worked with parents of graduates for over 20 years, here are some of the biggest parenting regrets I have heard the most.
1) “I REGRET NOT INVESTING MORE TIME AND ENERGY IN THINGS THAT MATTER MOST.”
I typically hear this most right after high school graduation or about a semester into college. Especially when their children begin to struggle, parents ask what can be done to get their children to be committed to Christ and an active part of a supportive church. The problem for many is that they have spent years up until this point making other things a priority in their kid’s lives, and never made time for spiritual development or a commitment to church. I hear so many parents express regret over investing countless weekends and resources in things (ie. travel sports) at the expense of commitment to church.
If we have taught them for years that leisure activities are more important than church, why would they be convinced differently when they get to college or have their own family?
Challenge: Identify what matters most for your family. Once you have identified those values that are most important, let those things drive how you prioritize your time and resources. Talk about family values with your kids and let them in on how priorities drive decisions in your home. Make spiritual development a big deal. Make Jesus the biggest deal. Value family over stuff. Keep the main things, the main things.
Remember, YOU dictate what’s important.
2) “I REGRET NOT GETTING THE LEASH RIGHT.”
This one is all about freedom and discipline. If the end goal is to prepare students for responsible independence by the time they graduate, then we have to take a measured approach to freedom and discipline. We (parents) often get this backwards. The least amount of freedom should be given when they are young (think “short leash”), but as they mature, children should be given opportunities to earn more and more freedom. As they fail, we tighten the leash and use discipline and coaching to help them learn and grow. We then give them more freedom and the opportunity to prove their responsible independence.
When parents reach out to me in crisis and let me know that their kid has failed in some area, I often catch them off guard by saying “congratulations!” While I am truly sorry they are in crisis, I want to remind them of the incredible opportunity they have to help their kids fail well. These are learning opportunities that are (hopefully) rare.
Challenge: Give your kids opportunities to fail. I promise, it’s OK. As they do, coach them through it and help them grow. Measured independence and discipline should both be very intentional. Be wise in the dangers you expose your kids to, but realize the very best time in their lives to learn lessons is when they live in such close proximity to loving parents who can help them grow and learn to make wise choices.
Remember, the goal is not raising perfect kids…but prepared kids.
3) “I REGRET NOT SPENDING MORE QUALITY TIME TOGETHER.”
Every parent will one day find themselves cleaning out a closet full of broken toys and outdated electronics. While these are all things that were given out of love because their child “needed” them, eventually both children and parents realize these were not the things they needed most from their parents. I have never had a college student tell me that they regret not having more “toys” in high school. But I have had countless tell me that they regret not spending more quality time with their family. While quantity of time is important, it is the quality of time that makes the biggest impact.
I once planned a “Family Game Night” at home as a cheap alternative to taking my kids to an expensive entertainment venue they had been asking about. When I tucked my son in bed that night, I was thinking he was probably disappointed in having to stay home and play games with mom and dad. To my surprise, he gave me the biggest hug and said, “Tonight was the best night EVER!”
Challenge: Don’t buy the lie that you serve your family best by working more hours to buy them more “stuff.” Of course parents love providing nice things for their children, but let’s not lose sight of their deepest needs. Let your calendar reflect an intentionality to capture quality time with your kids.
Remember, the greatest of presents is your presence.
4) “I REGRET NOT HAVING MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION WITH MY KIDS.”
I’m amazed at the number of parents who feel like they don’t even know the person they drop off at college. In a device-age, families are struggling more and more to actually connect with each other. Many are checking social media to find out what is happening with their kids. While being attune to their social media presence is certainly good, there can be a false sense of “knowing” each other based on snapshots and carefully composed taglines. Meaningful conversation takes time and cuts beyond what they do to who they are.
Challenge: Create time and space for communication in your home. There are two environments that tend to encourage meaningful conversation in the home.
#1 Dinner Table – Reclaim the dinner table as a sacred place for intentional conversation. This starts with banning devices (absurd, I know) and asking open ended questions. (“What is one good thing and one bad thing that happened today?”)
#2 Bedside – When children are babies, parents tend to spend a ton of time by their beds talking, telling stories, and praying together. Too many stop doing this as their children get older. Commit individual time with each child each night to pray, share stories, and talk about those things that matter most. Steer the conversation towards their greatest needs. (unconditional love, acceptance & value, and significance & purpose)
Remember, at their core, children want to be known. Do the hard work of making that happen.
5) “I REGRET NOT PARENTING MY KIDS AS INDIVIDUALS.”
Great teachers and coaches know that you can run a classroom or program with defined culture and set rules, but you must teach and coach students as individuals. This concept is especially true in parenting. One-size-fits-all may work for some things, but not parenting. Each child is wonderfully complex, and truly one of a kind. While there are certain needs that every child shares, each child has their own personality, temperament, learning style, giftedness, and unique needs. To lead them and grow them, you must understand and play to those differences.
Challenge: The more you know your child, the more you understand what it takes to motivate, challenge, encourage, discipline, and coach them. Don’t get lazy by failing to parent your children as individuals. Don’t get hung up on it being “unfair” to use different parenting strategies for each kid. If the goal of parenting is to best prepare your children, use those techniques and strategies that best capture their individual heart and play to their unique originality.
Remember, one size does not fit all in parenting.
6) “I REGRET TRYING TO BE A FRIEND, WHEN THEY NEEDED A PARENT.”
It’s a shame that our kids do not realize just how cool we actually are. Because they (especially teens) struggle to see this, some parents go to great lengths to prove this to them. The temptation in this is to take on the role of their friend, and abandon the role of a parent. While your kids will have opportunity to have a lot of friends, they only have one opportunity to experience what you uniquely offer them as a parent.
Challenge: Parent them while you still have that opportunity. When your children are grown, you will have a chance to be their friend. Use this limited time in their lives to lead, love, correct, coach, and disciple…as a parent. Embrace your unique role in your child’s life. Don’t surrender the blessing of parenthood for a lesser role.
Remember, the most significant role you can have in your child’s life is PARENT.
7) “I REGRET CONFORMING TO WHAT OTHER PARENTS ARE DOING.”
Peer pressure is real in parenting, especially when coupled with the constant overture from your kids “but every other parent is doing it!” When faced with difficult decisions, it is certainly easy to look around and survey popular opinion. While a “go with the flow” approach to parenting may be easier in the moment, it certainly does not give you the best long term returns.
Challenge: You are accountable for what God has entrusted to you. When faced with difficult parenting decisions, do the work of praying through the decision, searching biblical wisdom, and seeking Godly wisdom from trusted sources. Ultimately, you must parent based on what is best for your child and what supports your parenting aim.
Remember, Godly counsel is infinitely more reliable than popular opinion.
8) “I REGRET BEING A MANAGER AND NOT A LEADER.”
Sometimes being a parent feels like you’re a scheduler, an Uber driver, an air traffic controller and a personal shopper all in one. There are days where the objective may just be to manage the chaos, get everyone where they need to be, not kill anybody, and let’s just move on to another week! Have you ever just wanted to fast forward through a day, week, season, or school grade? These feelings can be especially common when we (parents) allow ourselves to get in a managerial mindset.
Challenge: Don’t let the craziness of life rob you of the blessing and opportunities of parenting. This is all about perspective. We can either grip the steering wheel and grit our teeth as we drive to ONE MORE practice or event in rush hour traffic, or we can see that 30 minutes in the car as an opportunity to invest in our kids. We can turn the radio up and sing our guts out, roll down the windows (although not while singing, or our kids will hide), or talk to them about what their sport is teaching them. Those times of managing that crazy schedule can actually be some of the most valuable teaching moments and times of discipleship your family will ever have. We are parents, teachers, and spiritual leaders. Let’s redeem every opportunity to lead.
Remember, everything on your schedule provides an opportunity to lead.
9) “I REGRET NOT HELPING MY CHILD OWN THEIR FAITH.”
I see so many students who go off to college and spiritually crash the first time Professor Wine & Cheese challenges their faith. When they are told that their faith is a crutch, their parents are wrong, and that Christianity is for those who are weak-minded, so many students don’t even know how to respond. The absolute best thing we can do for our children is to help them own their faith in Christ. This involves not only leading them to know truth, but helping them understand why it is true.
Challenge: Put in the work to help your children know what they believe, and why they believe it. Help them discover, and allow them to question. Don’t freak out if they have doubts or ask tough questions. Now is the best possible time for them to explore their faith and “work out” what is true. So many parents don’t encourage this because they fear their kids may ask them questions they don’t know the answer to. One of the most powerful things you can say to your child is “I don’t know, but it is important enough to me that I will help you find the answer.” The most important legacy you can give your child is well tested truth. How are you helping them own their faith?
Remember, your children cannot live off of your faith.
10) “I REGRET NOT HAVING A PLAN.”
We have a plan for a lot of things in our homes… a financial plan, a retirement plan, a meal plan, a plan for extra-curricular activities. All of these plans are important because we know that “If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.” But what about a parenting plan? Do we have an actual plan for how we are going to avoid the types of regrets mentioned above, or do we plan to make it up as we go?
Having a plan is so important, it is a HUGE part of what I do in ministry to students and families through our Grounded for Life spiritual growth plan. In fact, before students graduate from Student Ministries, we lead each student through a process of writing an ACTUAL PLAN of how they are going to experience God’s best for their lives beyond graduation by living out the truth of God’s Word. (For more info on Grounded for Life, click here.) Putting a plan on paper has proven to be so much more effective than simply graduating with good intentions.
Challenge: Don’t overcomplicate this, and don’t put this off. Write down those things that matter most to you as a parent. Use these statements of regret from other parents as a guide to create intentionality in each of these areas. Once you’ve identified those things that matter most, tweak your schedule, budget, and boundaries for your home to reflect what you really want for your family. Share these things with your kids and share them with friends and family who can offer you encouragement in these areas. As you invest time in this, be encouraged that you are doing work that will shape the lives and futures of your kids, and grandkids.
Remember, most parents do not plan to have regrets; they just don’t plan NOT to.
This is an important reminder for grandparents as well. One of the blessings of being a grandparent is you get a “do-over” of sorts with those regrets you may hold on to from parenting. You get to take all the lessons you learned as a parent and pass them on to your children as they navigate the same unknowns, fears, and trials of parenting their kids.
You get to have a unique and powerful voice in the lives of your grandchildren. Embrace your special role as a grandparent, and continue your ministry of building a legacy of faith that will impact generations to come.
If these thoughts were helpful at all, please feel free to share them as an encouragement to another parent.
Originally posted on trippatkinson.com
What do you do when life gets a little crazy and you find yourself in the midst of a crisis? Pastor Tripp Atkinson and family counselor Anne Ford share some principles on how to navigate those inevitable crises and come out better on the other side.
It’s a fact. I even saw this helpful reminder on a bumper sticker recently. (Well, the message was similar to this.) But the fact remains that crises, both big and small, are a part of life. Sometimes there are warning signs that a crisis is on the horizon (drastic changes in students’ behavior, etc.), but sometimes crises are sudden and unavoidable.
Whatever the crisis, there are certain keys to navigating critical situations that will foster healthy relationships and success on the other side.
Here are 7 keys to navigating life’s inevitable crises…
1) BREATHE & PRAY. (GET STILL)
In moments of crisis, there are all kinds of things going on physiologically that can cause panic or anxiety.
The fight-or-flight-response (or acute stress response) is a physiological response in reaction to a threat. The adrenal gland produces adrenaline and noradrenaline (as well as a small amount of dopamine), that act as “messengers” to put your body into overdrive. All these messengers going crazy can lead to what Anne refers to with children as a “mud mind” (vs. a clear mind).
When your mind begins to get muddy, you need to clear it up. Start by taking a breath.
Seriously, take a breath. Just breathe.
Slowing down gives you an opportunity to physiologically settle the messages so that you can think through the emotion. It is never a good idea to make important decisions when you are in a highly emotional state (HALT – hungry, angry, lonely, tired).
As you hit the pause button to breathe, immediately take your situation (and that emotion) to God. Stop and pray. 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us of why we should pray in moments of crisis:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Jesus cares, and he offers something pretty incredible for those who would take their anxiety and troubles to him. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
The Apostle Paul speaks to the power of prayer in moments of crisis in Philippians 4:6-7. He says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
How incredible that in moments of crisis, God’s peace can guard our hearts and minds! Isn’t that worth slowing down and praying for?
In moments of crisis you have two choices: run to God or away from God.
2) REACT IN LIGHT OF THE BIG PICTURE. (GET PERSPECTIVE)
It is so important in crisis to get perspective. Sometimes the stress of a crisis can cause us to lose sight of what’s really important. We must make sure that we give value what is most valuable. For example, if your child tells you some shocking information about poor choices they have made, the temptation may be to immediately think of what others will say about this. In this scenario, we must remind ourselves that our relationship with our child is more important than our reputation among other parents.
How we relate to our child in this crisis is most important. Our reaction to this crisis sends a message to our children and shapes how they handle stressful situations.
Children will imitate your response and reaction.
Here is an unpopular exercise, but I challenge you to try it:
Go ahead and think about the most shocking thing your child could ever tell you. (Not fun, right?!) Now think through how you would handle that conversation with your child. What would you say? How would you react? What message would be most important to communicate?
That initial reaction is key. It’s ok to say, “I need time to think about this.”
Anne stresses the importance of affirming our child in this moment. Saying, “I don’t know how I’m going to handle this yet, but I know I love you and we will get through this” values and assures your child, without condoning any poor choices that may have led to the crisis.
Remember, you don’t have to condone an action to affirm a person. Even though there may be significant consequences you have to enforce, it can be done from a place of love and value. Consequences given in love are exponentially more effective, as they teach a lesson while adding value.
3) SEEK WISE COUNSEL. (GET WISDOM)
Pastor Chuck Allen strongly encourages families in crisis to MINIMIZE THE VOICES around them. In times of crisis, know that there will be a multitude that will have an opinion on your situation. While well-intentioned advice may be appreciated, it is not always helpful. Minimize the voices by identifying a small and trusted group you can turn to for counsel.
Make sure your group includes the following:
Sounds obvious, but how many times do we seek answers elsewhere first and only turn to God when things get dire. Why not go to him first?!
One of the most wonderful promises is in James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” We all love free stuff, but so many miss the most wonderful “freebie” that God offers to anyone who would ask…wisdom. If the Creator of the universe offers to not only comfort and give strength in times of need, but also give us wisdom in navigating crisis, He should always be our first source of counsel.
King David understood the power of God’s Word to guide us when he noted, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). At a time when there are countless thoughts and ideas running through your mind, come back to the truth of God’s Word, and react in light of truth.
Are you spending more time worrying about your situation, or praying and seeking divine guidance?
FAITH COMMUNITY (FRIENDS, FAMILY, MENTORS).
While we seek to minimize the voices, we should be aware of certain people that God has placed in our lives that can speak truth and offer Godly counsel. This group should be small and trusted. Ask the following questions before taking advice from this group…
Helpful questions to ask before involving friends / family:
- Does this person want God’s best for me?
- Do they love me enough to tell me the truth?
- Is this person living God’s best for their life?
If someone is trusted and wise enough to be considered in this group, listen carefully to what they say. Sometimes those who tell us what we don’t want to hear are the very ones we need in out lives (Proverbs 27:6).
OBJECTIVE COUNSEL (PASTOR, COUNSELOR).
As much as trusted family or friends may be able to speak wisdom and truth into your situation, having an objective counselor that is removed from your situation is invaluable. Pastors and professional counselors can uniquely provide insight and counsel based on their training, objectivity, and experience from others who have navigated similar situations.
Anne reminds us that you don’t have to have a major crisis to benefit from a counselor. It’s part of a healthy life. She has seen great benefit in her own life from having different objective voices speak into her life and that of her family.
She agrees with King Solomon (known for his wisdom), who said,
Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise. –Proverbs 13:10
Important: Anne also reminds us that how we handle information matters to our children. There may not be a need for social media to know every detail about your family crisis. Be wise in how you share information, especially regarding your children.
4) GAME PLAN. (GET FOCUSED)
I stressed in an earlier session the importance of having a Parenting Plan (click here for more info). This is especially important during times of crisis. This allows you to clearly define the wisdom and counsel you have prayerfully sought. It also gives you the opportunity to (literally) get on the same page with others who are navigating this crisis with you.
Based on wise counsel, Bible reading, and prayer, put the following things on paper:
Identify truth about yourself and your situation. Don’t allow your mind to dwell on things that are not true. Write down any wise counsel you have received before you lose perspective. Reflect on truth from Scripture that speaks to your identity and your crisis. Allow this to be a place from which you take action.
Make a list of actions steps, identifying the most important and immediate items first. Also use this moment as a chance to look ahead. Sometimes “beginning with the end in mind” can give great clarity on what is needed to get there. Doing this can aid you in identifying systems and healthy habits that can help avoid some similar crises again. This can also bring great clarity to ways to cope with anxiety, anger, or fear.
We all cope with stress differently. Many times, the temptation is to cope in ways that are unhealthy (substance abuse, unhealthy eating, self-harm, etc.). While such methods may provide a (false) sense of temporary relief, they only add to our problems and ultimately magnify the crisis. Game plan healthy ways to cope with stress that will benefit you, both short term and long term (exercise, hobbies, uplifting music, arts, etc.).
Make sure your game plan includes daily times of meditation, Scripture reading, and prayer. Your spiritual growth is the best investment you will make. (Fore more info on developing a good routine, click here.)
5) FACE IT. (GET MOVING)
Once we’ve identified what’s important, Pastor Chuck encourages focus on one thing: “WHAT IS THE VERY NEXT STEP?”
In times of crises, we can become paralyzed by anxiety, fear, grief and the seemingly impossible task of facing another day. In these moments, keep your eyes on the next step. Certainly you can do that one thing!
Act now. Don’t avoid having that tough conversation. I recently worked with a family that was in the midst of significant crisis, but the parents didn’t want to have a tough conversation with their teen about it. What could have been confronted and addressed immediately turned into a long, tough seasons for this family because the parents were trying to avoid a tough conversation. Don’t avoid needed conversation! It won’t get any easier, and the dread of having it will only add to your anxiety.
Deal with whatever consequences need to be dealt with. Face the facts. Do the next thing. Don’t be like so many who come to counseling repeatedly just to talk about what they need to do. You can do that one thing! And then you can do the next, and then the next.
When the big picture seems too big, don’t give up! Just do the next thing.
6) KEEP COMMUNICATION OPEN. (GET CONNECTED)
I’m amazed at the number of families that shut down communication in times of crisis. In seasons when families most need each other, we must fight the temptation to withdraw because we don’t want to talk about the crisis.
In these moments, we must remember this about communication:
THE CRISIS DOES NOT NEED TO BE THE ONLY THING YOU TALK ABOUT.
Don’t let it consume you. If children think that every time they are around you they have to talk about the crisis, you will probably see them not wanting to hang around as much.
FOCUS ON THE PERSON, NOT JUST BEHAVIOR.
If your crisis is a result of someone’s behavior, they probably already know they messed up. While behavior certainly needs to be addressed, there is more to the person than the crisis.
SOMETIMES WE JUST NEED TO LISTEN!
I can be so bad at this with my own family because I am a “fixer.” As soon as my family starts talking about a problem, I am formulating a game plan to fix it. My loving wife stopped me one day mid “game plan” and let me in on this relational secret. She said, “Tripp, I don’t need you to fix the problem right now. I just need you to listen.” She reminded me in that moment that the relationship was more important than the crisis. I was recently talking with a student in crisis who verbalized the same thing. Communication was rough with his parent and I asked him what he needed most. He replied, “Every time I try to talk to my dad, he jumps in with solutions. More than anything, I just need to be heard by my dad.”
A big part of listening is seeking understanding. Pray that your heart will be open to truly hear and understand those who are hurting with you. Anne reminds us that telling your child “I understand” is typically not as comforting or convincing as we may think. If you are truly listening, your child will know when you understand them.
COMMUNICATION IS A PROCESS.
If your family only communicates in a “family business meeting” setting, communication is probably not very organic in your home. Unless healthy communication is the norm, don’t expect conversation to be easy in times of crisis. The key to healthy communication is connection. Connect and communication will come. Anne stresses the importance of letting your child know they will have time to connect with you each day. She encourages at least 15 minutes a day for special time with your child. This is not the time to talk about behavior, but to let them direct the conversation. (I discuss what this looks like for my children here.) This time communicates value and creates an environment for ongoing connection. This connection will lead to communication, in good times and in crisis.
CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES.
So many parents make crises out of things that really don’t need to be one. As parents, if we don’t learn how to choose our battles, we will probably find our homes being in a constant state of crisis and conflict (especially during the teen years). Sometimes, instead of making a huge deal out of something you could say, “I trust you to handle this situation appropriately. I’m here if you need any help.” This not only communicates trust and value, but also leads them towards responsible independence in handling difficult situations.
7) ALLOW GOD TO USE YOUR CRISIS. (GET PEACE)
No one enjoys times of crisis, and naturally our focus can become how to get over or through the crisis as quickly as possible. When it comes to our children, most parents want to rescue their kids from any struggle or pain that comes in times of trouble. (Even if they got themselves there.) But let’s remember that times of crisis can be some of the best teaching moments in our child’s life. Perhaps the best thing we can do for them is let them feel the weight of a situation and coach them through it. Don’t be too quick to avoid conflict. Don’t be too quick to avoid crisis. See it for the unique opportunity that it is.
My family has been through a number of significant crises. During one of these crises, I remember praying day after day, “God deliver me from this! Change these circumstances!” One day I felt compelled to pray differently. Instead of focusing on deliverance, I prayed “God, I know you can deliver me in your timing, but would you choose to use me in the middle of this? Teach me, help me to grow, help me to learn. Use me to minister to other people who are going through a similar circumstance.” This prayer changed my life because it changed my perspective on my situation.
The number one question I am asked by people is crisis is “Why?” “Why am I going through this?” “Why did God allow this to happen?” While I certainly don’t know why everything happens, I am quick to point to the words of Jesus in John 16:33:
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Jesus promises trouble on this earth. The root of this trouble goes back to Genesis 1 in the Bible. When sin entered into this world, it began to destroy the perfect harmony God established in creation. Sin decays and rots. This is why we live in such a messed up world. Sin is why people die of cancer. Sin is why bad things happen to good people. The very reason we find ourselves in crisis today is the result of sin’s effect on this world. And this is the very reason Jesus came to earth… to deal with sin and to offer a way for us to not have to suffer the consequences of sin forever. (For more on this, click here.)
In times of sorrow, pain, and crisis we need to remember that this world is not our home. Jesus said to “take heart” for he has overcome the world. Put your hope and trust in him. Let him carry you, teach you, refine you, and use you in a dark and broken world to be a light to those who are hurting.
You are not defined by your crisis and you are not defined by your circumstances. Stop buying that lie and live in truth!
YOU ARE NOT DEFINED BY YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES Stop buying the lie and live in truth!
It is now part of your story and your story is a part of God’s story. Anne reminds us that “there is power in brokenness.” Use this trial as a time to grow. Let God teach you, empower you, and use you for his glory. Run to God. Rest in his embrace.
Chuck Allen closes each service at Sugar Hill Church with this beautiful reminder:
Would you let the Lord go before you and make a way? Would you allow him to make your crooked path straight? This is what he does. Would you allow the Lord to go within you and bring you peace, joy, fulfillment and contentment, because he is always good and you are always loved? Would you allow the Lord to come behind you in days that are difficult and pick you up and carry you, not around whatever problem you’re in, but right through the middle of it, so he can set you down victoriously on your two feet, wipe away your tears, kiss you on the forehead and wrap his loving arms around you as you hear your Savior, say, “My child, I love you.”
Even in times of crisis, you can walk in peace!
For a video of this breakout seminar & more resources from SHC’s “Becoming” series, click here.
Originally posted on trippatkinson.com.
Parenting is tough… but you don’t have to do it alone.
There is a jar that sits in my office that is filled with ping-pong balls, 168 to be exact. That is the number of hours in a week. 165 of the balls are white and 3 are orange. The white balls represent the average number of hours our students spend away from church. These are the hours spent doing the things students do. The three orange balls represent the average number of hours our students spend a week in our Student Ministries programs. (Sure we offer more, but not all students take advantage of everything offered.)
This jar sits in my office to remind me and my team at Sugar Hill Church of several important realities. We have to…
MAKE IT COUNT.
The first reminder is that we must make our limited time with students count. Our programming must be excellent. Every minute must count. We cannot afford to do anything halfway or without purpose. Every time students are with us, they must be encouraged, loved, and challenged. While ministry to students should be wildly fun and highly engaging, the end goal must be to help students discover and live God’s best for their lives. This is discovered in the Bible, experienced in relationship with Jesus, & expressed in serving. We must make a BIG DEAL of the things that are really a big deal.
MAKE IT PERSONAL.
Everything that matters begins and ends with relationship. Packing students in a room and “wowing” them with a program makes an impression. Getting involved with their lives and loving them with a relationship makes a difference. We must go where they are. We must understand their world. We must have the relational capital to know where students are and challenge them to something greater. Authentic relationships are the currency of accountability and a catalyst of consistent growth.
The reason small groups are such a big deal at Sugar Hill Church is that relationships matter.
BRING IT HOME.
Most importantly, the jar reminds me of the fact that I am not the primary spiritual influence in a student’s life. That role still belongs to parents. Like it or not, parents have the awesome responsibility of spiritually training and making disciples of their children. My most important role, then, is to partner with parents and support them in this process. I can offer parents relevant biblical teaching for their students each week. I can offer small group settings for their teenager to build authentic relationships with their peers under the mentorship of loving adults. I can offer numerous experiences monthly for their student to learn about and engage in worship, serving, and leadership.
Although our staff works tirelessly to ensure these things are offered with excellence, the impact of such opportunities falls short if the experiences and lessons learned are not directly tied back to the home. In order for these lessons to really “take root,” they must be reinforced and practiced at home.
For this to happen effectively, we (Student Ministries staff) must continue working intentionally to know families and be aware of their needs. Parents must work on continuously being aware of opportunities we offer students, as well as what happens at our programs and events (what is being taught, how students are being challenged, what commitment their students are making, etc.). As we partner and encourage one another, we can truly be teammates in fulfilling the most important responsibility we will ever have.
HERE FOR YOU…
Such a partnership between a Student Ministry and families can be so effective in offering the best possible opportunities for students to grow in Christ and make a difference for Him. Please know that we are here for you and your family and want to be the best support we can be! You never have to feel alone.
PARENTING IS TOUGH. THANK GOD THAT HE NEVER INTENDED FOR US TO DO IT ALONE.
Originally posted on trippatkinson.com
University of South Carolina Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Frank Martin, has made headlines recently for the following quote about expectations of kids…
You know what makes me sick to my stomach? When I hear grown people say that kids have changed. Kids haven’t changed. Kids don’t know anything about anything.
We’ve changed as adults. We demand less of kids. We expect less of kids. We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about. We’re the ones that have changed. To blame kids is a cop out.
This quote has seemed to cause quite some discussion as people consider who and what has really changed in respect to expectations of kids. While the debate is over the details, most seem to agree that things have changed.
I’d like to add to the discussion an article I wrote some time back that seems more timely today than ever.
The concept of “adolescence” is a relatively new idea, only about a century old.
A study of the history of “adolescence” certainly lends great insight into the cultural expectations and generational mindset of today’s teen culture. Nowhere in pre-twentieth century history books will you find the term “teenager” and nowhere in the Bible exists the idea of adolescence. In ancient Jewish culture, a person was either a “child” or an “adult.” (Even today in Judaism, 13 year old boys and 12 year old girls become “Bar or Bat Mitzvah”, respectively, and often have a celebration to mark this moving from childhood to adulthood.)
The concept of adolescence is widely contributed to psychologist Stanley Hall’s 1904 work in which he described a developmental stage he referred to as “adolescence”. Child labor laws and school reform laws of the early 1900s more clearly defined this concept culturally, as teens moved from being producers in society to (almost exclusively) consumers. Reader’s Digest seemed to solidify the recognition of this new sub-culture when it coined the phrase “teenager.”
The past 65 years has seen the evolution of “teenage” years and now “tween” years, that have settled between Childhood and Adulthood. With these new eras, have evolved new cultural expectations. Unfortunately, those expectations seem to be spiraling lower for each successive generation.
Although the need for an era of “adolescence” is well-debated in some fields of study (ie. Psychology), there is no doubt that the concept of adolescence has significantly affected the way society views “teenagers.”
The process of moving from childhood to adulthood in our culture seems to be taking longer and longer. “In today’s world, the assumption that the adolescent years cease and a teen becomes an adult at the age of 18 is no longer valid. New discoveries regarding the human brain, along with a host of cultural forces, like later marriage, extended college education, massive debt, living at home, and delayed maturity have fueled things like extended adolescence and emerging adulthood…”  These terms sound nice, but simply mean that our children are taking longer to grow up. I’ve even read where some think adolescence extends to the age of 30!
* Simply Youth Culture, Group Publishing, ©2011
The biggest problem with the evolution of the teenage era and the idea of extended adolescence is the fact that lower and lower expectations appear to be placed on students during “emerging adulthood.” While we have students study the lives of such great historical figures as George Washington (land surveyer for state of Virginia at 17, military major at 20) and Thomas Edison (published weekly newspaper at 15, invented light bulb), we often celebrate and reward such things as a made bed or a clean bedroom. We give shiny trophies for participation.
There is much data to be read on how our culture has lowered expectations for children/young adults in the classroom, in the home, and even in the church. As a whole, this generation is known as having an “adolescent mindset.” In his work Adolescent Culture- Where Are the Grown Ups?, John Stonestreet suggests that the marks of a culture with a dominant adolescent mindset are precisely what we have come to expect from adolescents themselves. I readily see the six characteristics he lists of our adolescent culture…
1) Demand for immediate gratification
2) Absence of long-term thinking about life and the world.
3) Motivated by feeling rather than truth
4) Wanting grown-up things without growing up.
5) Expecting bailouts rather than accepting consequences.
6) Focusing on appearance rather than depth.
Although this adolescent mindset has certainly engulfed our culture, our children do not have to be (and certainly should not be) victims of such a hopelessly situated ideology.
RAISING THE BAR
There is much we can do to raise expectations in our homes and church. We can start by being ever mindful of the following:
1) ROOT IDENTITY IN JESUS CHRIST
Students: Our culture is constantly telling you who you should be, what you should wear, and how you should think. Billions of advertising dollars are spent each year with the purpose of shaping YOUR identity. You can choose to listen to the world, with its constantly changing fads, trends, and ideologies, or you can root your identity in Jesus Christ who “is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Parents: The most important thing we can give our children is an identity that is rooted in Jesus Christ. So many parents work so hard to give their children things that will be meaningless in a few years. Training our children to have an identity in Jesus Christ should be THE priority in our homes. There is nothing greater you can do as a parent. What ways are you making spiritual discipleship a priority in your home? How are you fostering a love for and commitment to the church of Jesus Christ?
2) EXPECT THE BEST
Students: As a follower of Jesus Christ, you have the spirit of the almighty God living in you. Although God does give us the freedom to make our own choices (and face the consequences of bad choices), He wants the very best for us. We should be ever mindful that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
Parents: I agree with David Black, who in his book The Myth of Adolescence encourages parents to expect the best, not the worst from their children. “If we expect them to act like irresponsible children, they will,” Black states. “On the other hand, if we expect them to act like responsible adults, as people did for thousands of years, they will.”
3) MODEL HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Students: Raise your own bar. Remember the words of Paul to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) You be the one that encourages and challenges your peers (and your generation) to rebel against low expectations. Don’t just meet the expectations your teachers, coaches, and parents have for you… shatter them and asked that they be raised.
Parents: Change starts with us. We are not accountable for how our society is raising children. We are accountable for how we raise ours. Raising expectations in the home does not always mean being stricter. A far more effective way of raising expectations is modeling great expectations. With students, it really is true that more is “caught” than just “taught.”
4) DREAM BIG
Students: Proverbs 29:18 states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” So many students kill their future by having no vision, no dreams. Pray, and ask for a Godly vision for your life. When you have a vision, start TODAY to fulfill it. If you don’t have a clear vision for you life, put your best effort into staying in close fellowship with Christ (he will never lead you out of His will), and do all you can to prepare yourself spiritually, educationally, and physically for the time you realize that vision. Do all you can, where you are, with what you have, to fulfill what you know is his plan for your life… to make disciples. (Matthew 28:16-20)
Parents: I’ve heard many students describe their parents as “dream killers.” Never forget the power your words have with your children. Even if they are less than impressive in their work ethic and attitude now, God can take less than stellar students, and use them to change the world. Remember the rag-tag bunch of disciples that Jesus chose to start His church? Encourage your children to dream big, and constantly remind them “with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
5) DON’T FEAR FAILURE
Students: Fear of failure cripples most students (and adults too) from even trying to fulfill their dreams. However, failure is essential to success. Every time you look at a light bulb, remember that Edison failed 10,000 times before he got it right. Those who give the most to the world won’t be stopped by failure.
Parents: So many parents put their primary focus on protecting their children, and lose sight of the goal of preparing them to be disciples of Jesus Christ in this world. A big part of the preparation is allowing children to learn from failure. If children are never allowed to fail while mom and dad are there helping them learn from it, the lessons will be tougher (and carry more consequences) when parents are not there. Raising expectations, even if our children don’t initially meet them, will continue to encourage them to be all God has created them to be.
In His last words on earth, Jesus called His followers to be world-changers. Ever since then, the enemy (Satan) has done all he can to make Jesus-followers think this is impossible. Let’s remember who we serve. Let’s remember that Jesus told his followers, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) Let’s remember His words, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48b) Jesus has great expectations of us. Do we have great expectations for ourselves?
More Reading on this topic…
- The Myth of Adolescence by David Alan Black
- Raising the Bar by Alvin L. Reid
- Raising a Modern–Day Knight by Robert Lewis
- Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris
- Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ by Richard Ross
- The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization by Diana West
What other resources would you recommend on this topic? Leave a comment below with any suggestions.