One. We need to stop keeping our teens home from church or youth group when they want to go. The scary thing about this is it happens more than we know and it’s frightening how much I hear it. I recently heard it again from a student. “My parents said I needed to miss youth group because I’ve been too busy.” I know for a fact this student is involved in a ton of activities but keeps missing time with body of Christ on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s, most of the time, both days. Sadly, I’m not even referring to one student, I’m speaking for multiple students. So…we are telling our children it’s okay to be busy with work, sports, school clubs and watching American Idol, but when it comes to church or youth group it’s okay to skip. What does that communicate to our teens? Church, youth group and even God doesn’t matter as much. “That’s not what I am saying…” We don’t have to say it, we show it and the message is the same. We commit to what we value…what are our commitments? That’s what we value. What are we showing our kids we value? [I’m looking in the mirror on this one. What am I teaching my kids what I value? It hurts to even evaluate.]
Two. We need to stop discouraging our teens from going to a Christian college/university or going into ministry. Yes, other youth pastor’s, including myself, are running into this every year. Teens are being compelled and called to go into ministry but they immediately hit a road block, their parents. The talk about affording college and not making enough money being in ministry comes up. We just told our teens that we doubt God will provide and we need to think twice about going into ministry because you can’t make a career out of it. God doesn’t want to make laborers for the economy, he wants to make harvesters for the Kingdom, first and foremost. College is ridiculously expensive and I am already guilty of doing this. I was recently talking to a young adult about his college expenses and I jokingly, but seriously said, “And that’s why my kids will go to community college first!” That’s wise right?! Maybe. Not really. For some of us, we just can’t afford colleges for our kids, I get it. I’m pretty sure we are in the same boat but my kids are four and one years old. HA! I’ve already started doubting God will provide. How pathetic am I!? We have to stop this madness. God is drawing your child. God is in control. If it’s of God it’s good to go and your child will have an incredible future. Let your child chase their drawing and calling from God, He will provide. The cool thing is, He is providing for me. I’ll be paying off my investment for the next ten years, but I see it as an investment not as a burden. I gained so much more than a college education at Valley Forge Christian College. I gained a closer relationship with Christ that I would have paid for alone. Sounds foolish, but I don’t boast in having a job, degree or money, I boast in knowing God! (Jeremiah 9:23-24 my personal paraphrase).
Three. We need to stop overwhelming the schedules of our teens. There is a dangerous trend going on in society called “busyness.” Parent’s and even churches are guilty of it. We are way too busy. We made it a point at The Burning Youth Church to not overwhelm parents with trips and activities every month. But I have to say, we have no choice. Teens are so busy doing multiple sports and being in school activities that if we offer something we can’t get commitment. We made it a point to simplify our ministry into two days. We have not added any new ministries that will cause our leaders and students who serve to be overwhelmed. When we do have students serve in ministry we call them to commitment and to make sacrifices in other areas. We have way too many teens doing way too much. I literally heard a young man gasping for air in my office after he spouted out all the things he has to do in a week. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe this young man was busier than me because I am a pastor and we are busy. I’ve had student’s come to me wondering how they can get out of a sport or activity that their parent’s signed them up for without even talking to them. These weren’t kids who had nothing to do and are lazy, no, they were already playing a sport and volunteering at church. This is dangerous, this is unhealthy and there is no room for things that God is drawing our teens to do. This is also unhealthy for parents to constantly be driving their kids around to be busy with something instead of having quality time with their family. News flash: quality time is not parent’s watching their kids sweat on a soccer field although that is probably fun and relaxing for you 😉 Did I mention that is the second soccer team?! While we are keeping our teens busy we are forcing them to skip out on other things or calling up their other commitments and engagements to cancel because they have overbooked. We are teaching our teens to be in a lot, but not give their all. I had a young man recently skip his National Honor Society Banquet that was held on Wednesday so he could fulfill his duty at youth group. That was awesome, that was sacrifice. The crazy thing is, I haven’t even mentioned all the things Jesus calls us to do when we follow Him. For example, evangelize, be a missionary locally or abroad, make disciples, help the poor and needy, counsel the hurting. These are things we can’t even imagine doing because we are too busy. This too needs to stop. There is no space and no time to do what God has called us to do, not what American society has influenced us to do.
I recognize that every family is different and this may not apply to you. If it does apply, you’re not alone. We can humbly accept what we are hearing from the mouth of teens and make necessary changes. If we follow Jesus (Christ-centered living) our priorities and perspectives change on this world; we begin to look at life from God’s perspective and what truly matters. What truly matters? Whatever matters to God. What you are reading are three signs that our teens are following Jesus. They want to be involved with God! THAT IS AWESOME!
Why am I writing this painful article to read? Because I care about the heart and soul of our teens and their journey with Christ and I know you do too. I hope this intel from the teens is helpful 🙂 Parent’s keep up the good work!