I was talking with some friends about their newest adventure—parenting teens. We laughed as they groaned about their 13-year-old daughter, who acted more like she was an 18 year old about to be on her own, and the usual drama that comes with the teenage world. I admit, I enjoyed their pain slightly, knowing that I still have a few years left before that world is knocking at my front door.
However, part of what they said bothered me. They talked about how their parenting had changed, now that they were more disengaged. I didn’t quite understand. Why disengaged? These years are critical for parents if they hope to continue helping their students discover what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
As parents, the most important responsibility you to have to your kids and Christ is that you are the primary disciple maker in your home. In other words, the mission Jesus gave you to go and make disciples starts in your own home. In every dinner conversation, in every trip to soccer practice, every disagreement, and every “I love you.” So how could we possibly accept the responsibility and privilege of disciple making and fulfill the mission at hand if we fail in doing so with those God has directly entrusted to us?
How can you as a parent make the most of the opportunities and time God has given you to do everything you can to help your students know Christ at a deeper level and walk with him for a lifetime? The good news is that I think there are countless little things we can all do as parents to disciple our students. But here I want to focus on three big ideas that I hope will manifest themselves in the little things.
You live with them.
Part of Gods design of the family unit is godly instruction. This has been part of the deal since the beginning. Just look at the command to the nation of Israel.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deuteronomy 6:7
There is not some secret hidden message here or the need to dig deep in context. The message is incredibly simple. In every season of your kid’s lives, in every moment that you have—teach them. Be the source of godly wisdom. Disciple them. Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Make the moments you have perfect. I once heard someone tell me that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time…today.
Life has a way of happening all around us without us ever actually realizing it. All of us say it and complain about it. Our kids grow up too fast. Make the moments that you have with your students teachable.
Be culturally smart. Take a minute and complete the following sentence. “Netflix makes me feel…….
Some of you love Netflix, get goosebumps when your favorite show releases the next season for you to spend a weekend binge-watching—other’s cringe at the idea. But like it or not, on-demand television, social media, and our students’ ever-increasing screen time are not going away. I am not saying that you have to like it, but you need know it. You don’t need to speak the cultural language fluently, but you need, at a minimum, a remedial understanding and more importantly, a level of appreciation.
It is so easy for us who are now a generation or more away from the students we disciple to find ourselves criticizing their world simply because we don’t understand it. We talk about the good old days. We boast about how much better our music was than today’s, or that we behaved so much better as teenagers than teenagers today. Whether you realize it or not times have been changing since the beginning of time. My parents didn’t understand cable TV, my mom took forever to part with her typewriter and scoffed at the first CD I ever bought because how could anything sound as good as a record or be as compact as a cassette. Instead of criticizing, be a student. Learn from your children. They are always smarter than we think they are.
Think of yourself as if you were a model walking the catwalk, all the time.
My last few years of teaching high school, I began to notice a trend that confused me. Students were begging for responsibility and trust from their teachers, pastors, parents, and coaches, but were pushing back anytime that responsibility came with independence. In other words, they wanted to be trusted with money, but not the independence of making it on their own. They wanted the responsibility and freedom to go anywhere and stay out later, but not the independence of driving. They want the responsibility of college, a good job, and family, but not the independence that comes from moving out of the house to attend college in a different state or country. And this trend is growing. But why?
Well, there are lots of reasons, and that is another blog coming shortly. But one thing this trend shows us is that students are staying close to home because they are looking for role models. But not just any role model—they are looking for you. And they are watching you. Students desperately need to see what a healthy functioning, Christ-following adult life looks like. And they are looking to parents. So whether you realize it or not, you are on stage.
And even when it feels like they are not listening or paying any attention to you, they are.
When it seems like everything you say falls on deaf ears, they heard.
If it appears as though you are invisible, turns out they are looking to be just like you.
Some parents are just getting started with parenting in the world of teens. Some of you are headed to the finishing line and moving on to an entirely new adventure. Wherever you are in the journey, walk with your students, take the time to teach them, show them, have fun with them, and be human around them. Don’t be the adult they might want, be the parent they need. Take the time to learn their world, however odd it may seem. Ask lots of questions so you can help them navigate it with the eyes of Jesus. The investment you make today has incredible eternal consequences.
I originally wrote this on my blog for Awana Youth Ministries. I encourage you to check it out. awanaym.org/blog