In my last post, I gave some reasons why it was important for our middle school and high school kids to be involved in church youth group and I promised some help with that in this post. So here goes.
First, we have to remember that there are no guarantees when it comes to parenting. We will be responsible for the kind of parents we are, but our kids are responsible for their own choices and the adults they become. You can do everything right as a parent and your child still stray. That’s ultimately up to them.
But how we parent does make a difference. That’s the general principle taught in Proverbs 22:6. In essence, wise parenting produces kids who make good choices.
As followers of Jesus, the most important choices we should be interested in are in their relationship with God and his family. We want our kids to become adults who love Jesus and love his church. That’s why drawing them in during the critical years of Middle and High School is crucial. I do think parents ought to require a certain level of involvement in church and youth group during those years (like we do school), but how you go about that makes a big difference.
- Build the relationship. It’s really important to understand the dynamics of those years. Teens are naturally pulling away from you to become their own person. The key to successfully transition from care-giver to mentor, is by building the relationship. Talk when they are talkative. Give them space when they are not. Plan activities as a family and as individuals. Have fun with them and laugh together. Get interested in their interests. Build the relationship. By the time they leave home, it’ll be all you’ll have.
- Be a consistent Christian and church member. You can’t expect your child to become something you are not. If you are a very different person at home than you are at church, you’re probably not going to be successful in drawing them in. Kids do as we do, not as we say. Live like what you want them to become, and let them see that it’s a worthwhile and joyful life. If you are not committed to God’s family yourself, not serving and attending infrequently, you are communicating to them that God’s family isn’t that important to you. It won’t be to them either.
- Teach love, forgiveness, commitment, and a servant’s heart. When our daughter was snubbed by girls in a youth group, we prayed with her and listened to her. But we also reminder her that as bad as it was, life will be like that, even sometimes in church world. I think the nicest and most wonderful people are in church. But you’ll also find hypocrites there, mean people, and gossips. It’s worse out in the world. But it’s something we have to face and should the way Jesus taught us to––with love, forgiveness, commitment, and service.
- Stick with your expectations with compassion. When we told Junior and Erica that they had to go to youth group, it was never with a finger pointed in their face. It was with an arm around their shoulder. It went something like this, “Mom and I know that things are not best in your high school group. I wish it were better. But this is our church and your youth group. It’s not right for us to desert something because of a few people who need more direction or for something else that seems more fun. We want you to make the most of youth group and to become an example for the others of love, forgiveness and commitment.”
Again, there are no guarantees, but with a lot of prayer and thought, you can effectively draw your teen in and pass on your values, at least to the place where they’ve given them careful consideration before making their own choices as adults.