Category Archives: Parenting
I have a special fondness for family bluegrass bands, I suppose because it combines two of my passions — family ministry and bluegrass music. I work with families at my church and do my best to help parents stay connected to their kids so that they can pass on their faith and values, which is what I call the “First Commission” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) of the Bible. The “Great Commission” came later (Matthew 28) when Jesus told his disciples to take the Gospel to the whole world. Our first priority is to tell our kids.
Being so involved with bluegrass music as I am, I constantly hear about families like the Harris Family (The Trinity River Band) of Callahan, Florida, who play and sing together so well, and while I don’t know their whole story, they also seem to have a strong faith connection with their kids as well. They perform a lot in churches and have recorded some wonderful gospel songs. I got their new CD just this week and will be playing their new single on my radio show this week. They have a very impressive sound.
Here’s a video from a recent TV appearance.
Obviously there’s a lot of musical talent which the Harris parents have been able to encourage in their kids. I know we can’t just issue every family a bunch of musical instruments and tell them to start practicing but I do think there are some principles here that we can take away. One is that when parents are passionate about something, kids are very likely to pick up on that and want it for themselves. Most kids see their parents as role models. Another principle is that parents must be very intentional about passing their passions on to their kids. They won’t be passed on simply because you all live in the same house. The Harris parents taught their kids to play, got them the instruments they needed, and were very intentional about achieving their family goals. They are well on their way to realizing them, I think. Trinity River Band, you have a fan in San Diego!
The article below was excerpted from my book Cleared for Takeoff by HomeWord for the March edition of their parent newsletter:
Respect is obviously short in supply these days, but is absolutely something our kids need to learn for their own benefit. When kids learn to respect others, they also learn to respect themselves. You must give respect before you can get any, even from yourself. And self-respect plays a huge role in how young people mature. As parents, we can play a key role in helping our kids learn about respect and incorporate it into their lives by using consequences consistently when we discipline.
Of course, respect is a two-way street. Especially with teenagers, parents need to show respect as well as expect it. Kids who are treated respectfully are more likely to be respectful. Mutual respect doesn’t mean that parents and children have equal amounts of authority in the home. Instead, kids respect their parents by obeying them. And parents respect their kids by expecting them to obey. This kind of mutual respect results in greater trust and more freedom for both parents and kids.
So how do you teach kids to be respectful? Certainly not by demanding, begging, or pleading. Respect has to be earned. Parents earn respect by establishing their authority and being competent and consistent year in and year out. This, of course, is where hanging in there with well-defined expectations and consequences comes in.
Whenever you set limits or make agreements with your teenager regarding behavior or expectations, you also need to discuss with him or her what happens in the event there is a failure to comply. If this is done well before the fact, rather than after, it can be done without emotion, without struggle, without disagreement. If the consequence is reasonable, your teenager will likely understand the need for it and agree to it without argument. If he or she can’t agree to a consequence, then you have reason to believe that your teenager has no intention of compliance anyway.
Consequences are best understood as a way of balancing privileges with responsibility. For the privilege of using the family car, there are consequences for not coming home at the agreed-upon time. For the privilege of having a wardrobe of clothes, there are consequences for not picking them up and putting them away.
Once consequences are in place, they should be allowed to take effect without parental intervention. Once they are established, there is no need for further disciplinary action. The consequence should itself provide the discipline.
The object of consequences is to teach responsibility. Once consequences become punishment, retribution, or vengeance, they lose their effectiveness. To prevent their misuse, authors H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelson (in their book Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-indulgent World) suggest remembering the three Rs of consequences.
1. They should be related to the behavior in question. In other words, the first place to look for a suitable consequence for a behavior is the behavior itself. Rather than grounding kids for every bad thing they do or using some other one-size-fits-all consequence, try connecting the behavior with the consequence in some logical way. If your teenager can’t return the car with a full tank of gas, he or she loses driving privileges or has to wash the care the next day or get up early the next morning and get the gas tank filled at his or her own expense. It’s impossible to make every consequence logical, but that’s usually the best way to make them effective.
2. They should be reasonable. If a consequence is too severe or too harsh, teenagers are likely to become angry and resentful and rebel against it. While no consequence ever seems fair to a teenager, they will be more likely to accept them and learn from them if they make sense. Sometimes parents make the mistake of imposing consequences that are not only unreasonable but also unenforceable. “Either change your behavior or find another place to live!” They know you aren’t serious when you say something like that. On the other hand, consequences shouldn’t be so inconsequential that they don’t act as motivator or deterrent at all. If a teen’s consequence for coming home from a party with alcohol on his or her breath is a $20 fine, the teenager is likely to think that’s not a bad deal. Minor behaviors should result in minor consequences, serious behaviors in serious consequences. This will help teenagers understand values and choices in their proper perspective.
3. They should be respectful. What this means is that we implement and enforce consequences out of a desire to help our kids become capable and responsible, not out of a desire to see our kids suffer, to get revenge, or to win. Again, our objective is not to punish, but to provide adequate and effective discipline.
Teenagers care deeply about fairness and respect. Even though they cry “unfair” at ever opportunity, they do have the ability to understand why you must set limits and enforce consequences. Most kids will reluctantly admit that they respect and admire teachers at school who are clear and consistent with their requirements and rules, even though they have a hard time living up to them.
It will probably take some time for you to learn to use consequences effectively. It’s much more than a science. You’ll probably make some mistakes and have to feel your way along as you decide when to use consequences, how often you will use them, and what exactly they will be. Some kids require that you use them a lot; others won’t. Some require very severe consequences; others don’t. You’ll have to be creative and use your best judgment. Your kids need to learn that the real world operates by laws of cause and effect that can’t be suspended just because they are inconvenient. The consistent application of consequences will help teens learn this principle, which will in turn result in their growing in the areas of respect; for those in authority, for others in general, and for themselves.
Actually, I wrote these tips about twenty years ago but they were recently reprinted in HomeWord’s January 2013 Parent Newsletter. Here they are for a whole new generation of parents:
Parenting adolescents can be a scary prospect, as kids get older and begin to create some distance between them and us. Still, it doesn’t have to be as scary as it may seem. There are some simple, yet powerful steps we can take in order to ensure our influence level remains high. Here are twelve tips you can use right away that will make your responsibilities as a parent a bit easier to manage.
- When your teenager comes home from school today, smile when he or she walks through the door. Do that several days in a row and your kid will actually look forward to coming home!
- Next time your teenager tries to be funny … laugh.
- Make a list of all the things your teenager does that makes you mad. Now, go through the list and cross off all the stuff that doesn’t really matter. Save your anger only for those things which have lasting moral consequences.
- Take your teenager out for breakfast or lunch once a week. Promise yourself that you won’t use that time to lecture or nag. Just listen and talk about good stuff.
- Invite your teenager’s friends to your house for pizza, soft drinks and a movie rental. Extra points if you can secure a big-screen TV or video projector.
- Ask your teenager to play his/her favorite music on your stereo. Listen and discuss the music with him or her. Find out why he/she likes it so much. Try to avoid criticism.
- Think of something positive you can say to your teenager today … and say it.
- Put a love note (from you) in your teenager’s backpack or lunch sack.
- Before you criticize your teenager’s behavior, try remembering your own teenage years. Chances are it will help you communicate better.
- Love your spouse. A strong family provides security for teenagers.
- Respect your teenager’s privacy. Snooping without a legitimate reason is a no-no.
- Communicate your plans to your teenager frequently. Let him/her know where you are, when you’ll be home, what you’re doing. This sets a good example that will encourage them to do the same thing for you.Bonus tips:
- Be patient with your kids. Growing up takes time … but they will grow up.
- Learn to trust your kids more. The more trust you give them, the more opportunities they will have to prove themselves trustworthy.
- Keep your sense of humor. Healthy families are laughing families!
- Pray daily for your kids. Remember, God loves them even more than you do!
Do you think they still hold up after all these years? Any other tips that need to be added to this list?
Every 5th Sunday at College Avenue Baptist, we cancel all of our childrens programming during the morning worship hour so that families can worship together all in the same place. Our services are intergenerational in the sense that our youth and adults worship together, but normally our children (K through 5th grade) have a “children’s church” which they can attend if they choose to do so. Some children remain with their parents in “big church” but not all of them. To prepare parents for last Sundays inclusive service, Pastor Carlton Harris sent out the following email to our congregation, providing his excellent suggestions and insights on how to take your kids to “big church.”
At CABC we want to make more and better disciples from among the nations who honor God by worshiping Him! This Sunday, our worship service is a 5th Sunday Family Service. We will welcome our kindergarteners through 5th graders. The worship service has been planned with them in mind. We will be singing songs that they regularly sing during their group worship time on Sunday mornings. May I encourage all of you to sit as close to the front as possible (especially if your children will be worshiping with you)?
As some of you know, I began my journey as a father in 1983. God kindly gifted us with two daughters and a son within a time span of five years and four months. From the time our children were school-aged they joined us in our worship services. Wasn’t that a stressful decision? How did we do it? A better question is how did my wife do it without my help? I was preaching and leading in most of the worship services my children participated in between the start of kindergarten and the conclusion of high school. Here is some of what I remember from that season of our life together as a family:
- We would read the sermon text for the coming Sunday during the week. Our children would perk up when they heard familiar words during the sermon.
- We gave our children their own age-appropriate Bibles. They would bring them to the worship service each Sunday. They would also bring pens/pencils and paper to draw the sermon, the environment, or take sermon notes as they grew. They also watched their mother take sermon notes.
- Preparation for worship was done on Saturday night in order to reduce chaos and distractions on Sunday morning. We would select and prepare the clothes and shoes that we would be wearing to worship. We would get our Bibles and offering money ready. When our children were infants and toddlers, we would pack the diaper bag on Saturday night as well.
- Before we entered the worship service, they would use the rest room if needed so that they would not have to unnecessarily leave the worship service.
- We desired and expected our children to be respectful toward God and other worshipers around us.
- Our children would take a worship folder. Before the worship service began, my wife might point to the different elements in the order of worship, such as songs that they knew and liked. If there was something for which they needed to be prepared such as a responsive reading, she would point it out to our children who were old enough to participate.
- We would all participate as worshipers by sitting, standing, singing, closing our eyes, turning in the Bible, etc. with the rest of our church family. My wife and I wanted our children to see us sing praise to God with joy on our faces, or tears trickling down our cheeks, or hands clapping. We wanted our children to see her listen hungrily to God’s Word and watch me preach it passionately. In short, we wanted our children to feel our hearts meeting the living God during worship. We sought to model looking at the worship leader(s). So, we sat as close to the front as possible – usually on the first or second row – to reduce distractions like people-watching or clock watching. We wanted our children to see the front as well as possible. My wife would share worship folders, hymnals, and Bibles with our young children because those things are important tools for worship. We did not bring other books to the worship service for our children to read because we wanted their focus to be on worship. They could look at the pictures in their Bibles.
- When younger, our children would draw pictures of what they heard in the sermon. Individual words or names triggered individual pictures. As our children grew, their notes would involve concepts. Always remember that not everything in a worship service or sermon goes over the heads of our children!
- We would process the sermon together and the implications on how we live life in response to the Word of God.
- We would talk about unique aspects of the worship service such as a missionary speaker from a country we had been praying for.
There were times when one of our children was restless or noisy, despite our best efforts. In those times all you can do is pray for the understanding of the people around you, and try to deal with the problem discreetly. If the child is “having one of those days” and will not sit still or be quiet, you may have to take him or her out of the service. Use it as a teaching opportunity for parental training. Then decide whether you’ll reenter the worship service or not. At CABC, we have an infant cry room (with video feed) for mothers and their babies. During our worship services, we attempt to keep the foyer as a place for parents with young children who need to leave the worship service. We have video feed in the foyer during our worship services. You can help protect the foyer space for parents by not loitering or talking in the foyer during the worship service.
One of my great desires as a father has been to see my children fall in love with the worship of God both individually in private as well as corporately in public together with the body of Christ. I feel that my most important job as a parent was and is to fall in love with the worship of God and model that for my children. Why? Because worshiping God is the most valuable thing I can do in life.
My sister Mary posted this old picture of our parents on her facebook page last week. My dad was in the Seabees during World War II, building airstrips, barracks, bridges and the like in the Pacific Theatre. This photo was probably taken when he was on leave, early 1945, when I was conceived. I was born in November of that year, just a month or two after the war ended. I was an original baby boomer.
My parents grew up in a different time. Growing up I heard them say things like: “When I was your age: we didn’t have indoor toilets … we had to pump water from a well … we had to milk cows and gather eggs before breakfast … we had to walk five miles to school.” It all sounded like ancient history to me.
Now my history is ancient, too.
How many of these can you relate to? They were all true when I was growing up:
- We couldn’t drive into town for a fast food meal because there were no fast food restaurants.
- Mothers who worked outside the home were considered irresponsible.
- TV sets were considered furniture and they were available in black and white only.
- And it went off the air at midnight.
- And there were only 3 channels.
- Pizza was called “Pizza Pie.”
- And it wasn’t delivered to your house.
- But milk was.
- And milk bottles had little cardboard stoppers in them.
- Newspapers were delivered by paper boys.
- There were no movie ratings because all movies were more or less G-rated.
- But Christians still didn’t go to them because they were “worldly.”
- Christians didn’t go to bowling alleys either.
- Or to school dances.
- But we could buy candy cigarettes.
- And little bottles of Coke made out of wax.
- Coke machines dispensed glass bottles.
- Music was purchased on 45 rpm records.
- Roller skates had keys.
- There was only one phone in the house.
- And it was on a “party line” so you had to make sure a neighbor wasn’t using it.
- We saved S&H Green Stamps.
- Nobody ever asked “paper or plastic?”
- We could take toy guns to school.
- Ice trays were made of metal.
- Cameras had blue flash bulbs.
- Clothes were dried on a clothesline.
- Wash tubs had wooden rollers for rinsing clothes.
Ancient history, indeed. One of these days your life will become ancient history too. Enjoy it now … while you can!
The Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote a story about a group of very clever burglars who broke into a jewelry store one night. Rather than stealing anything, they switched the price tags so that items that were previously expensive became cheap and those that were cheap became expensive. No one noticed when the burglars came into the store the next day and purchased the items they wanted at a steal of a price!
I am reminded of this story when I listen to Pastor Carlton teach on “Killing the Seven Deadly Sins” (current sermon series). It’s safe to say that the seven deadly sins have today morphed into the seven deadly virtues. Could it be that someone has switched some price tags?
When I log on to Facebook or Twitter, for example, my tendency to be full of myself (pride) is not only affirmed but celebrated (not to mention my sloth). I turn on the TV and see a hamburger chain commercial where my lust is not only prompted but encouraged (not to mention my gluttony). I turn to a reality TV show where greed is rewarded, making me feel envious which of course leads to anger! Yikes! This is what our children are being exposed to every single day! What’s a parent to do?
Let me encourage you first to take care of yourself. Guard your heart. Spend time in God’s Word and pray daily. Kill the seven deadly sins in your own life. As you know, we lead children primarily by example.
Secondly, bring your family to church for worship each Sunday, especially during the month of May. After the service is over, talk with them about what they saw, heard and experienced. Teach them how to recognize sin for what it is, how to know right from wrong, how to think Christianly in every situation. You can give your children the tools they need to be able to faithfully follow Jesus in a world of switched price tags.
Please know that we are here to help and encourage you in your holy calling as a parent. Let us know how we can support and serve you and your family. Springtime is here and we pray that your home is filled with Easter joy. May you take take advantage of the many opportunities we have to worship and serve our risen Lord!
A few weeks ago I got a shiny blue package in the mail from Zondervan Publishing House containing a prepublication copy of Sticky Faith, the new book for parents by Kara Powell and Chap Clark. The book has a catchy title and from the looks of the fancy packaging, it’s going to be marketed pretty well by the publisher. That’s a good thing if you’re an author!
I was eager to read my copy of Sticky Faith not only because it’s a topic I’m interested in, but because of who wrote it. My package included a nice personal note from Kara who I’m proud to say was a very bright student of mine when I was teaching youth ministry classes at Bethel Seminary in San Diego about 15 years ago. She went on to Fuller Seminary, got her PhD and now heads up the Fuller Youth Institute. There’s no question that she has become one of this generation’s most respected youth ministry voices.
Chap and I go back a long way, having worked together for many years at Youth Specialties. He also teaches at Fuller Seminary and his 2004 book Hurt has established him as one of the leading authorities on adolescent culture.
Simply put, Sticky Faith is a book for parents on how to pass lasting faith on to their kids. It’s not the first on this subject of course. (Ahem, now would be a good time to plug my book Generation to Generation, right?) There are quite a few good books coming out these days to help parents raise their children up in the faith.
The unique spin that Powell and Clark give this topic is found in the word “sticky.” They express concern, as we all do, that faith just doesn’t seem to “stick” with kids who populate our youth groups. “Our conclusion is that 40 to 50 percent of kids who graduate from a church or youth group will fail to stick with their faith in college.” Some researchers have put this percentage a lot higher (anywhere from 65 to 80 percent) but Powell and Clark, while being a bit more optimistic, make it clear that “a 50 percent rate of Sticky Faith” is unacceptable.
I found their chapter titled “A Sticky Web of Relationships” to be especially good and affirming in my current ministry (Pastor to Generations at College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego.) For the past couple of years, besides working with parents I’ve been trying to help our church take some baby steps towards becoming an intergenerational church, which is what this chapter is all about. Powell and Clark write about the importance of connecting kids with ordinary adults in the church (not just the trained youth workers) and creating what they call 5:1 (a reverse in the typical ratio of adults to kids in the church).
I’ve advocated something along those same lines for many years. In my mind, the first youth group in history was the one found in Luke 2:46. That verse pictures Jesus as a 12 year old, sitting in the temple with a group of elders (“teachers” in the NIV). Rather than a bunch of kids with one adult in charge, here we have one kid with a bunch of adults. I’m not sure how many elders were actually there with Jesus at the time, but I do know he had more than one overworked, underpaid youth worker.
The basic idea behind 5:1 is to intentionally and regularly integrate young people with the adult population of the church so that faith can be passed along from one generation to the next in a natural and dynamic way. Powell and Clark offer several examples of churches that have successfully made this transition and some of them reflect our experience so far at CABC. Like this one:
“So they canceled Sunday youth group. No more Sunday meetings. Instead, kids are now fully integrated into the church on Sundays. Kids are greeters, they serve alongside adults on the worship music team, they are involved in giving testimonies, and they even give chunks of the sermon from time to time. The youth pastor described the power of this 5:1 shift: ‘We knew that this would change our kids. What has surprised us is how much this has changed our church.’”
We don’t have the teenagers preaching sermons yet, but our pastor frequently uses them as sermon illustrations.
Intergenerational churches are not new of course. What’s new is that churches over the past 50 years have intentionally and regularly segregated kids from the rest of the church. “And that segregation is causing kids to shelve their faith,” say Powell and Clark. Not the only reason, perhaps, but certainly a contributing factor.
I suppose my only nit-picky criticism of the book would be the authors’ overuse of the word sticky—sticky findings, sticky identity, sticky Gospel, sticky justice, and so on throughout the book. The book started to even feel sticky. No wait, I think that happened after our 5-year-old grandson Jack used the book as a placemat. Still, this is a good book, one that I’ll definitely be recommending to parents and youth workers.
I have often talked to parents about the importance of writing family mission statements or family creeds to help pass faith from one generation to the next. Many children grow up in Christian homes not really sure about what their parents (or they themselves) believe. Last month I wrote an article for our church’s parent newsletter on that same topic. Here it is:
In the book of Deuteronomy, parents are instructed to “impress” the commandments of God upon their children (6:7). What does this mean? The word impress in the original Hebrew means to permanently fix or brand, similar to what takes place when a farmer brands his cattle.
So how do we brand the commandments of God on our children? Obviously we aren’t supposed to tattoo them on our children’s bodies. Our goal is to brand them on our children’s hearts and minds.
Let me suggest one way to do this. We can teach the commandments to our children not as a negative list of things they shouldn’t do (“shalt not’s) but as a positive list of things they get to do as members of your family and as followers of Jesus Christ. You might even want to rewrite the Ten Commandments especially for your family as a mission statement or creed. Here’s an example:
Our Family Mission Statement
- We will love and serve God, who first loved us and gave his Son to die on the Cross for our sins.
- We will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
- We will be ambassadors for Christ and share his love with others whenever we have the opportunity.
- We will devote special time every week for worship, prayer, reading Scripture and serving others.
- We will love and respect our parents, grandparents and others who care for us, teach us and provide for us.
- We will live in peace and harmony with others, forgiving those who wrong us rather than hurting them or seeking revenge.
- We will remain sexually pure and faithful in our personal relationships.
- We will be honest and trustworthy in all that we do.
- We will be honest and trustworthy in all that we say.
- We will be thankful and content with all that God has given to us.
Of course the best way to impress these things on your children is to live them out consistently at home every single day. I guarantee you … they will be impressed indeed!