I have just finished teaching one of the most challenging classes ever. For the last three weeks I presented a class called "Preparing to Parent your Adolescent." For this class I used every tool at my disposal; my 15 + years of ministry experience, access to the personal libraries of all our pastors on staff, and input from my colleagues. As I looked through over 40 years’ worth of books and resources, I landed on three that have shaped me the most and became the core of this class:
All three of these are must-reads for parents, youth workers, and those who interact with and love students. If you haven't realized it yet, adolescence is a complicated and challenging process with a seemingly-unnatural amount of variables that play into the change from child to adult.
The Problem: Adolescents are in the process of becoming their own people and making their own choices, which means that many of those choices will be different than yours.
You can go crazy trying to find some book, some remedy, some nugget that will give you the right tools to ensure the teen in your life grows up to love Jesus. For the better part of my career, this is what I have been trying to do. With every book, every seminar, every conversation with a parent or a student, I add to my list of to do's that will help me and my parents pull this off.
As I have recently reflected again on how to consolidate all the information out there into something easy to pass on, I have come to the conclusion that there is really only one thing that is irreplaceable in the emotional and spiritual development of a teenager. The answer was in a simple list in the beginning of Reggie Joiner’s book about some of the truths he wants to stay focused on. This is what he says:
“My children need to know I will never stop fighting for a right relationship with them.”
That is it. Of all the steps, of all the values, of all the to do’s, at the end of the day, I think that fighting for a right relationship with your kids is the most important. Everything else will kind of work itself out. There will be great years and there will be awful years. But parents who fight for a right relationship will be ones who will have a lifetime of relationship and influence in their kids’ lives.
It is so simple, so easy to understand, and yet it seems to be pretty challenging. I think this is how most spiritual truths are. We want complexity so we can justify our failed attempts. But something simple like fighting for right relationship puts the burden on us and not the “system” or “steps.”
In a few months I have the opportunity to head down to Reggie’s home state of Georgia and spend time with him and 3000 of his best friends as we wrestle with how to do a better job connecting students to Christ. Reggie Joiner has come up with an amazing strategy and curriculum to resource churches and families to accomplish this called Orange. Orange’s entire philosophy is about combining the light of the church with the love of the family to maximize this effort.
If you don’t know anything about the Orange strategy or about their slick curriculum, I highly encourage you to check it out. The actual conference happens April 25-27. And if you register before the 16th of February you will save $50. I hope you make it and would look forward to hanging out.
As youth workers, we have an incredible opportunity to share the love of Jesus with our students. When we partner with parents to encourage them and equip them to do the same, we maximize the chances of these students actually getting it. I am thankful for Reggie and his peeps. And I too will never stop fighting for a right relationship with my kids.
See you in Atlanta!