The following may hurt a little and I’m going to remember this for day my son and daughter morph into teenagers. Please understand the truth hurts but if acknowledged and accepted, it can set you free! Okay, here we go…
Over the past seven years working with teens I have encountered a noble discouragement. Teens are discouraged by the way their parent’s live out their faith and they are too afraid to tell you. And can you blame them? How do you tell your parent’s how to be spiritual? It’s typically the other way around. You’re probably wondering, “What kind of teen’s do you talk to Ryan? Little Billy Graham’s?” No! Not even close. As a matter of fact, they are immature and young in the faith, but that’s why they are discouraged. They are looking for examples that are going to help them grow. Christian teens are confused because they see something different in the home from what they read in the Bible or hear from the pulpit. I ran into this discussion with teens so much that I began to encourage them to get real with their parent’s and share how they feel. I’ve yet to hear back from any that they courageously and humbly told their parent’s how they felt.
What could be the problem?
One parent serves God and the other doesn’t. This is a serious challenge in our churches today. We have one parent that is totally following Jesus and one that isn’t. Divorce has made this even more complicated. We also have a home where both believe in God but do not follow Jesus or serve like Jesus. There is a Christianity that is running rampant in our homes and churches, a Christianity that only does what is accepted by our American culture but looks nothing like Jesus. Following Jesus is a radical lifestyle of getting into the lives of sinners, making disciples and doing whatever God says we should do. I’m giving you a brief overview there on what it means to follow Jesus. But if you’re curious about the details, pick up the book of Mark and Matthew and start observing the life of Jesus (any Gospel book will do).
Churches have gotten back on board to preaching and following Jesus, at least we have. We are calling student’s to a radical lifestyle of following Jesus. If you need books to help you begin this journey, let me recommend Radical and not a fan. So here’s the deal, teens are being challenged to live above the norm, above status quo and no longer being a casual fan, but a committed follower of Christ. This could explain why I keep running into student’s frustrated with the spiritual climate in their home.
The truth is, you know your home best, even more than your teen. You know your heart best and the question I would pose to you is…”Are they right?” “Have you been following Jesus or just being a Christian who attends church?” It doesn’t hurt to consider what they are saying.
My Humble Pie.
I recently sat down with a young man who practically fed me a whole pie of humility. I asked him one question about improving youth group and he spilled his guts about me and what we do. What I thought was working, wasn’t. What he had to say hurt. It stung. I actually wanted to breakdown but I held back my emotions so he could be real with me again someday. But everything he said was true. I had gotten comfortable in my title and position and was dropping the ball.
Perhaps, we too get comfortable as parents. We take our kids to church, youth group, Bible studies, send them away on retreats and pray around the table for dinner. Some of us even go above the status quo and do weekly family devotions. But Let’s look between the lines.
What do teens hear and see? Do they see you being like Jesus? Do you talk, walk and love like Jesus? Well, you should ask them. Ask your teen just like I asked this young man about youth ministry. What kind of example of Jesus have I been? Word the question differently until you get what you are looking for. I only hope your teen will be as real and honest as this young man was with me. To help your teen overcome that fear, go ahead and ask the question for them. Now, what do they want to hear and see from your life? Ask your teen what they want you to live and teach them?
I think you would be shocked to find out that your teens actually want you to teach them the deeper meanings of the Bible. Your teens want to pray with you. Your teens want to help you serve a needy family. Your teens want you to teach them tithing. Your teens want you to teach them how to treat our enemies. Your teens want you to show them how to spend time with God. Your teens want you to be a living example of Christ or imitators of Christ. Yes, they want you to show them how to follow Jesus so one day they can do it on their own. In order for your teens to do all these things, you must lead by example. It’s not easy following Jesus, but it is necessary to pass it on to your kids. We can’t expect our teens to know how to follow and live Jesus without our examples.
Here are three ways you can improve your example. [Let me just say, this should be natural, coming from your personal relationship with Jesus. This should not be motivated by your kids. I live this out because of who Jesus is to me, not because of my kids. However, my kids have given me even more inspiration to know the Bible and follow Jesus so I can raise them up to be followers of Christ.]
1. Be madly in love with Bible. Read it, study it and talk about it. I can’t help but read, study and talk about the Bible. Every night at dinner I purposely ask my four year old what he learned at school or in Bible class just so I can share what I learned in the Bible that day. Shhhh…let’s keep that a secret between us. 🙂 The Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, is the foundation that I have built my life upon Matthew 7:24-25 says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” I don’t know about you but I want my wife and kids to have their foundation built upon God and His Word. My passion for the Bible has and is spilling over into my family and I can’t wait to see what God does with their journey in His Word.
2. Jesus must be the center of your life. Jesus must be your comparison, not other parents or other families. You look to Jesus to be your everything. Jesus plays a role in all areas of our lives. He fits everywhere, he belongs in your entire life, especially at home. The way he forgives, the way he loves, the way he defends, the way he nurtures, the way he treats sinners and the needy. The way Jesus submits to his father. The way he sacrifices, the way he trains, the way he teaches and what he teaches. The way he serves, the way he serves, the way he serves (Yes, I said it three times). Lastly, everything Jesus said is important and should be applied. If you follow Jesus to the best of your ability you have done the greatest act of love you could ever give your family.
3. Be humble and let your family evaluate you. I remember my father was preaching a message about parenting and he had all the families come together at the end and pray. In our prayer huddle my father asked a gut wrenching question. “What do you need mom and I to improve on?” My sister and I didn’t have anything to say at first but then we thought of a couple things. All I can remember after that is my father and mother crying and apologizing. Humility is willing to be corrected, confronted and face reality. Humility will keep you from falling. Humility will let your family evaluate you and keep it real. Humility is strength and another thing you want to pass on to your teens.
I know these work because I am doing what my parent’s modeled for me. I am simply passing down what I learned from my time at home. Just be patient and know the fruit may take awhile to bud.
You may have a strong home and you may be a strong example. You could be reading this article and it is affirming that you are doing the right thing! Keep up the good work! I don’t think it ever hurts to evaluate our personal walk with Jesus because it’s not just our own life we are thinking about. We have to keep our kids in mind. Ask the question and let your kid share where you can improve. The cool thing about letting them evaluate you is they may end up praising you for the spiritual leader you are! And remember, everything you do is teaching them. Perhaps, they will let you evaluate them too one day.