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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.
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!
The December 2011 issue of Christianity Today featured an article by Anthony Baker, a theology professor at the Seminary of the Southwest titled “Learning to Read the Gospel Again” with the subtitle “How to address our anxiety about losing the next generation.” Losing the next generation (or expressed positively—hanging on to the next generation) is a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about lately in my role as Pastor to Generations at College Avenue Baptist Church. Like many churches, we are doing our best to stop the bleeding of young people leaving the church in record numbers.
Professor Baker makes a strong case in this article that the only thing capable of holding young people to their faith is the Gospel itself. He quotes the venerable theologian Stanley Hauerwas who made this comment about the emergent church movement which of course targets younger generations: “The future of the church is not found in things like this; the future is in doing the same thing Sunday after Sunday.” The “same thing” Hauerwas is referring to here is not the same failures of acculturation, but rather the continual proclamation of the good news, the Gospel about Jesus Christ, and “attending to the various classical practices that form people’s lives within the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ … The future of the church is found in doing this week in and week out, Sunday after Sunday, come rain, drought, hell or high water.”
Baker notes that one doesn’t have to look far to find churches where the “same thing” is a thing of the past and he suggests that youth & children’s ministries today are particularly prone to skipping over the gospel message in favor of more relevant fare.
For the kids, the situation is especially dire. Summer camps feature Jesus on a surfboard, or perhaps in safari gear, while Sunday morning classes tend to specialize in low-quality group counseling sessions. What we offer is anything but the simple gospel that ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ’ (2 Cor. 5:19). On good days the children humor us by pretending to enjoy themselves, all the time wondering when they get to do something more fun.
Quoting a memorable line from Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, he continues: “Young people look to the church to show them something, someone, capable of turning their lives inside out and the world upside down. Most of the time, we have offered them pizza.”
What Baker is suggesting is not that we stop using age-appropriate methods of reaching and teaching our young people, but that we consistently offer our kids a fresh and inspiring look at Jesus as revealed to us in the Scriptures. He continues,
“Of course what Matthew Mark, Luke and John offer us is a story, but not just a story. It’s also the linguistic vessel through which we encounter the loving, creating and saving God. The central character in this narrative loves us back. After asking, ‘Do you love what you are reading?’ the Christian educator ought to be able to add, ‘And are you loved by what you are reading?’… Imagine a church in which children and adults of all ages, races and classes were bound together by their common love for the words of the Gospel. If Christians can learn, week after week, to read the story of Jesus of Nazareth—to love what we read, to be loved by what we read—then surely the future of the church would look a bit more hopeful.”
I also read a new book last month by professor Scot McKnight (North Park University) titled The King Jesus Gospel which has greatly enlarged my understanding of what the Gospel is all about. McKnight begins at the beginning of the book by asking the reader to write down on a piece of paper an answer to the question “What is the Gospel?” I played along and wrote something like this: “The Gospel is the good news that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried and then rose again on the third day.” I based my explanation of the Gospel on Paul’s summary in 1 Corinthians 15:3.
As it turns out, I wasn’t too far off. McKnight in fact bases much of his book on the same verse in 1 Corinthians. But he takes issue with evangelicals who summarize the Gospel more in terms of a formula for salvation: “Christ died on the cross for your sins. If you will repent, believe and receive Christ as your personal Savior, you will be saved.” I have to admit, I have presented the Gospel that way many times.
But McKnight’s view is that such a formula is not the Gospel but “the plan of salvation.” It is, of course, an important part of the Gospel, but it’s not the Gospel. When we reduce the Gospel to the plan of salvation, writes McKnight, we tend to make the Gospel more about us and what we do than about Jesus and what he has done. The Gospel is not our story, writes McKnight, but instead it is the story of God, the story of Jesus, how he came as the Messiah of Israel, lived, died, rose again, ascended into heaven and is coming back again to rule over his Kingdom forever and ever. That’s the good news (Gospel) about which all of the four evangelists wrote and which is contained in their four accounts which are appropriately named “The Gospel (according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).” This is also the Gospel which Paul proclaimed in 1 Corinthians 15: 1-5: “Now brothers and sisters I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve.” McKnight asserts that these four crucial events in the life of Jesus Christ are the concern and the primary message of the biblical evangelists, not the “four spiritual laws” which are the concern and primary message of evangelical Chrisitanity today. The Gospel as a system of personal salvation is an incomplete Gospel, says McKnight, and is ultimately self-centered.
We are tempted to turn the story of what God is doing in this world through Israel and Jesus Christ into a story about me and my personal salvation. In other words, the plan has a way of cutting the story about God and God’s Messiah and God’s people into a story about God and one person—me—and in this the story shifts from Christ and community to individualism. We need the latter without cutting off the former.
What McKnight is saying is that the Gospel is more than what can be communicated in four bullet points. It is even more than what happened on the Cross. It is the whole story of God’s redemptive plan, from the creation story to the coming of the Messiah to the final consummation of human history when Jesus reigns forever as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The story is told of author and professor Robert Webber’s (Wheaton College) encounter with a student who asked him to explain the Gospel. He replied, “Do you have an hour?” McKnight himself takes a stab at summarizing the Gospel in his book and his summary takes six pages. He’s not saying that it’s impossible to be concise and clear about the Gospel message by using just a few words (that’s exactly what Paul did it in 1 Corinthians 15). He’s just saying that the Gospel is the entire amazing story of Jesus as Messiah, Savior, Lord and King as told in the context of God’s amazing plan to redeem all of humankind.
I remember reading a book years ago by Paul Little called Your God Is Too Small. McKnight’s book has made me think that mayber our Gospel has become too small. I agree with Baker that the Gospel, the good news about Jesus, is big enough, awesome enough and certainly powerful enough to capture the hearts of our young people and keep them connected to Christ and the church. If the Gospel is something that we want our children and young people to believe and trust for a lifetime, then we must take the time, week after week, to teach it to them.
I am an avid reader and admirer of author and Princeton professor Kenda Creasy Dean. In response to a question “What’s the biggest challenge facing youth workers today?” on the Youth Specialties blog, she says:
The biggest challenge might also be the best thing to happen to the church since the apostles and that is the fact that, even though 3/4 of American teenagers say they are Christians, most people in our culture really haven’t got a clue what the church is about, or why Jesus matters, or what on earth the Holy Spirit is doing in the world. The fastest growing religious preference among Americans—especially among young people—is “none”. And the “nones” aren’t in other people’s families or churches—they’re in ours. Churches are going to keep shrinking and the “nones” are going to keep growing, at least for another 10-15 years, mostly because churches are now so darned hard to distinguish from any other well-meaning institution in middle class American culture. It’s very hard for kids (and if we’re honest, for us) to figure out why we should follow Jesus Christ when Christians are caught up in the same rat race as everyone else. So what does that mean for youth ministry? We can either spin our wheels trying to stem the decline of any number of wobbly Christian entities or we can go out and do ministry among the “nones.” If the church depends on Jesus Christ instead of on us, I think maybe it’s time to spend less time worrying about dying and more time hanging out with young people who are dying—literally—to live. It’s never occurred to most of them that Christianity has anything to offer in the “get a life” department, much less that we might offer something that is distinct from what is offered everywhere else. I think one way youth workers will serve the church in general in the next generation is to re-weirdify Christianity, and remind young people, and the church as a whole, that we live by distinctive standards, standards of grace, humility and hope, that make no sense in a world where the primary objective is to “get ahead”.
Good stuff. If you haven’t already, you might want to check out Kenda’s book Almost Christian. It’s the best book I’ve read on youth, youth ministry and the church in years.
Last week Marci and I were finally able to take a week off and go on vacation, something we haven’t been able to do for a couple of years. Last summer we were stuck in a local hotel most of the summer (with people who were vacationing here) and I had a bout with Bells Palsy. All that to say that last summer wasn’t so great for us, vacation-wise. So we made sure to plan at least a week this summer to do something fun.
As we were considering options for our vacation week, we got the crazy idea of visiting our good friends Gary and Georgia Bell who moved to Belize (Central America) earlier this year. I checked on flights and the airfare wasn’t too bad so we decided to throw caution to the wind and just go. We had no idea what we would find in Belize (other than the Bell’s) since we had never been there before, but it sounded like an adventure.
And it was. We booked a first night hotel room on a Belize island called Caye Caulker. The island is small, reachable only by water taxi, and there are no cars on the island–only bikes and golf carts. We stayed at a nice little hotel and enjoyed the island atmosphere. We even went snorkeling with stingrays and sharks swimming all around us.
After a couple of nights on Caye Caulker, we headed to a place called Placencia which we heard had the best beaches in Belize. We took the water taxi back to Belize City, rented a car (a real clunker as it turned out) and drove about six hours to a wonderful hotel called The Inn at Roberts Grove. We stayed there for three days and just took that time to relax. We didn’t do any sightseeing at all but just stayed put and enjoyed the beach. This being the off season for tourism, we literally had the place to ourselves and it was fantastic.
After our time in Placencia, we drove our sputtering rental car to San Ignacio, an major inland city in Belize close to the Guatemalan border. Our friends the Bell’s were gracious hosts. We loved staying with them even though we found the heat and humidity somewhat suffocating. They have a very nice home by Belizean standards but it was not air conditioned. Thank God for fans.
Gary Bell has been a dear friend of mine for many many years. As a high school student, he attended a Campus Life Club that I led back in the 1960’s. Ten or fifteen years later, his graphic design firm was hired by Youth Specialties. When I started Understanding Your Teenager in the early 90’s, Gary did all of my graphic design work. He’s a talented guy and a committed Christian.
For several years, Gary has served on the board of a mission organization called Sparrows Gate and in January, he and his wife Georgia moved to Belize to work with children. They opened a children’s center in downtown San Ignacio called “Kid’s Corner” which offers homework help, tutoring and lots of fun activities for kids who need a place to hang out after school. They are also helping Sparrows Gate set up a mission home base for short term missionaries who come to serve in Belize. After visiting with them and seeing what they are doing first-hand, we are even more impressed with the work they are doing and amazed by the sacrifice they have made to pursue this call of God on their lives.
San Ignacio is also a wonderful place for tourists to visit, so the Bell’s gave us a tour of the area. We visited Mayan ruins (archaeological sites) and an Iguana preserve. We ate in some very nice restaurants and truly enjoyed spending time with our wonderful friends.
Sometimes when you plan a vacation like this one, there’s no way to predict how things are going to go. “The best laid plans …” and all that. But this trip definitely lived up to our expectations. As they like to say down there, Belize is unbelizable.
If you would like to see more photos of our trip, click here.
Each month I try to feature a live bluegrass band on my radio program–usually whoever is appearing at the local San Diego Bluegrass Society’s 4th Tuesday event at the Boll Weevil Restaurant. I heard that a group from Orange County called the Wimberly Bluegrass Band was going to be appearing at the June SDBS event, so I wasn’t real sure if they would be coming down to appear on my radio show or not. I wasn’t familiar with them and I hadn’t heard anything directly from them (or the SDBS) to confirm their appearance on my radio show. So when I arrived at the radio station Sunday night, I wasn’t absolutely sure if anyone was going to show up.
But there they were! What a surprise to find this young, good looking group at the front door of the radio station ready to play! The Wimberly’s are a family group, three brothers and a sister ranging in age from 13 to 19 who are self-taught and have already recorded two CD’s. Mom and Dad accompanied the group to the studio and unlike many “stage parents” I’ve been around, they were extremely calm and content to let the youngsters speak for themselves and do their own thing. I was very impressed with them and wasn’t surprised at all to hear that they were home schooled. That certainly explained why they were so articulate and comfortable around an old codger like me, and how they developed a fondness for bluegrass and country music rather than what’s being marketed to the teen population these days.
If you would like to hear them on my show, visit the kson.com/bluegrass web site … it will be there for a month. They will also be appearing at many Southern California bluegrass events, so keep an eye and ear out for them. This is a group with a lot of appeal and I think they will have lots of success coming their way.
Here’s a short promo video for the short term mission trips that we are doing this year at College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego. Marci and I will be leading the trip in June to Mexico (I talk about it a little on this video) and if you would like to go, we’d love to have you.
I’ve been reading Garrison Keillor’s latest book Pilgrims and as he usually does in his books, he makes me smile. I was reading at home this week and my wife Marci heard me chuckling out loud to myself and asked “What’s so funny?” I said, “It’s just a funny part of the book.” She said, “Read it to me.” So I read this passage to her:
(I should explain that the book is about a group of Lake Wobegonians who go on a one-week tour of Rome. At this point in the book they are eating pizza together at a sidewalk cafe. Marjorie Krebsbach, the tour group leader, is doing the talking.)
“The first time they served pizza for hot lunch at school, it was sort of like fried silage with chunks of boiled owl, and anyway none of us were used to it and by the time school was over and we went to confirmation class, we were full of gas. I remember kids sitting perfectly still in their seats, no leaning to one side or the other, but now and then some gas would escape and sound like a bassoon solo and we’d all smell it and look around and scowl so everyone would know it wasn’t ours. We were trying hard not to laugh, and when you try to hold a laugh in, it will explode on you, sometimes in the form of a fart. Which happened to me. I had my cheeks clamped shut and I was afraid this fart could explode and I would load my pants. And then Pastor Tommerdahl asked me to stand and read today’s scripture and I said, ‘Could I please go to the toilet first?’ and a couple boys busted out laughing and I stood up and read the verse about Pentecost in Acts, the second chapter, it says ‘And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.’”
“And I exploded. I boomed like a cannon and two big strands of mucous shot out of my nostrils and hung here like spiderwebs and I covered my face. The smell was horrible … “
I could barely read because we were both laughing hard, with tears streaming down our faces. I don’t know why farts are always so funny, but we were just howling as I read through these couple of paragraphs.
While we were laughing, I noticed a twinge of pain in my face during the laughing spell and for some time afterward I could feel it. It was the aftereffects of the Bells Palsy that I had gotten back in August. Bells Palsy causes the muscles in your face to go numb and atrophy and it takes a while to work those muscles back into shape. What I realized during our laughing episode was that the muscles in my face that I use to laugh hadn’t be exercised in a while. So like other muscles in my body that suffer from non-use, they hurt a bit when they do get used.
So it’s made me think: I’ve been trying to get exercise for the rest of my body; maybe my face needs some exercise too. Heard anything really funny lately?
Last week I accompanied the middle-school group from our church to summer camp at Forest Home. I really can’t remember the last time I spent a week with a group of junior high boys as a cabin counselor, but the sounds, the smells (especially the smells), the cabin discussions … they all felt strangely familiar to me.
It was a good week. The kids really had a blast and I enjoyed very much watching my son Nate (who directs the junior high camps at Forest Home) at work. Later this year, he and I are going to do a seminar on camping at the YS National Youth Workers Convention, so it was helpful for me to observe and be part of an actual summer camp program at least once this year. I used to do quite a few camps, either leading them or speaking at them … but that was a long time ago.
I was very proud of Nate … he was the camp speaker and did a great job. I know my presence there made him a bit uncomfortable but he persevered and from all I heard, the kids responded well to his messages. I was also impressed with the team of leaders Nate assembled to run all the activities and programs. By my count there were more than a dozen staff. It amazes me that we used to run those camps with a staff of four. Times have definitely changed.
Meanwhile … back at home … we are still living in a hotel room, now into our fourth month. The restoration company has held our stuff hostage waiting for insurance money. This has been the most difficult experience I’ve gone through since my wife’s brain tumor almost ten years ago. We are praying that maybe this week we will be able to return home.
Yep it’s me, Wayne Rice. I’m in the process of creating a new website so “pardon our dust” during the construction phase.
Meanwhile, here are some links to things I do:
For HomeWord parent seminars like “Understanding Your Teenager” go to www.homeword.com.
For my bluegrass band Lighthouse, go to www.waynerice.com/lighthouse
For “Bluegrass Bios,” go to www.waynerice.com/bgbios
For KSON’s Bluegrass Special, go to www.kson.com/bluegrass
To send me an e-mail, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org