The Most Important Thing To Do When Raising a Teenager

The Most Important Thing To Do When Raising a Teenager

I have just recently presented one of the most challenging classes eve called “Preparing to Parent your Adolescent.”

For this class I used every tool at my disposal; my 17 + 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:

Understanding Your Young Teen, by Mark Oestreicher, Hurt, by Chap Clark and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, by Reggie Joiner.

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.

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Parenting Beyond your Capacity: Book Review

Parenting_Beyond_Your_Capacity_Connect_Your_Family_to_a_Wider_Community_OrangeThis last week I read a really helpful book by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof called Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. This is a straightforward book that offers a clear roadmap for parents who want to connect their family to a wider community of faith. And for parents who think that going at it alone is best, Joiner and Nieuwhof offer a compelling argument for the need to invite others into the circle so that our kids have the widest safety net possible as our kids grow into adults and explore a faith separate from ours. Parenting Beyond Your Capacity is kind of like a primer for parents to understand the Orange concept of parenting. Being an orange parent is understanding that "a parent's influence is best realized in partnership with a wider community." And that community is the church. If you are looking for a book to share with parents to help them understand the orange model of ministry than this book is for you. This book highlights 5 family values that are key for the long term spiritual health and maturity of kids and students.

Family Value 1) Widen the Circle: Pursue strategic relationships for your kids.

Family Value 2) Imagine the End: Focus your priorities on what matters most.

Family Value 3) Fight for the Heart: Communicate in a style that gives the relationship value.

Family Value 4) Create a Rhythm: Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.

Family Value 5) Make it Personal: Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.

If you are an "Orange" church than this book is key to helping parents understand what the orange philosophy is all about. "When you combine the light from a faith community (yellow) with the heart of a caring family (red), you exponentially expand your potential to make a difference in the life of a child." This is a book that outlines, inspires, and helps parents maximize their part.

Whether or not you or your church have bought into the orange philosophy, strategy, or curriculum, I have found that this book is a great resource for parents. Not only do the authors make a compelling argument for partnering intentionally to a faith community, they offer clear and straightforward guidance about majoring in the majors. Caring for the heart, quality time, creating rhythms and habits that communicate love and value toward their children.

And the best chapter is the chapter on making it personal. It is a kick in the pants for all parents and ministry professionals to make sure that it is real and alive in you as well. You can't pass on what you don't have, and if parents are going to maximize the potential for their own kids to love and follow Jesus some day, then it better be true in their lives as well.

To communicate these points, the authors share a ton of personal stories. They seem to have find that importance balance between sharing stories of struggle and failure so we know they are real parents and can relate to them, as well as stories of joy and success that inspire and give great ideas for parents to try within their families.

I think the best resource orange has put out there for parents is the family time chart. This chart is highlighted in family value 4, creating a rhythm. The basic idea is that parents can be intentional by using the different opportunities throughout the day to communicate different truths in different ways.

The break down the day into four times with each time having a distinct communication style, a unique role as we share a specific goal.

Time: Meal Time. Communication: Formal Discussion. Role: Teacher. Goal: Establish Values Time: Drive Time. Communication: Informal Dialogue. Role: Friend. Goal: Interpret Life. Time: Bed Time. Communication: Intimate Conversation. Role: Counselor. Goal: Build Intimacy. Time: Morning Time. Communication: Encouraging Words. Role: Coach. Goal: Instill Purpose.

This book is chalked full of clear helps and strategies to help parents maximize what the things that are already in their lives and come up with a realistic plan to incorporate the ones that are missing or lacking. As a parent who worries about instilling faith into my own kids and as a parent who doesn't do it well, I never felt shamed or beat up as I read this book, rather I felt encouraged and actually incorporated some of the tools I learned immediately.

I really enjoyed reading Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. As a parent I found it straightforward, clear, and convicting. But instead of being crushed by all I am failing at doing, this book offered great reflection questions and tips to pull it off. And the entire point of the book is that parents alone can not carry the burden of faith development all by themselves, they need others, they need the church.

My capacity is limited, but by implementing these values the capacity greatly increases. I look forward to passing this book on to parents in our church, and if you are a parent, I think this is a must read. As a youth worker, this would also be a great book to highlight or pass out at a parents meeting to help parents understand the importance of what you are trying to do at youth group and why they should help their kids get and stay connected.

For $10 it is a no brainer. (Especially when you make your church buy it)

What do you think of the orange philosophy? Have you read this book? What other books are out there that you have found as helpful resources for parents?

Orange ConferenceI am honored to partner with Orange in this philosophy of ministry.  If you would like to know more about this philosophy and the tools that are used to leverage these two spheres of influence for the sake of our kids, check out  And if you really want a taste, clear your calendar and join us in the ATL this spring for the annual orange conference.  I hope to see you there!



The most important thing to do when raising a teenager:

curly's law

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:

Understanding Your Young Teen, by Mark Oestreicher, Hurt, by Chap Clark and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, by Reggie Joiner.

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.

The Solution:

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.

As part of Orange week, we will be giving away Chap Clark's Parenting a New Generation DVD.  You can enter to win my simply entering here.

See you in Atlanta!

off to get my orange on in atlanta!

what is orange

Later this week I have an amazing opportunity! I am flying to Atlanta, Georgia to not only attend, but also participate (in a very small way) in the Orange Ministry Conference. In case you have never heard of Orange, or are not yet going Orange, I highly recommend spending some time around their website. Here is the basic gist: "Orange is a strategy for combining critical influences in life to fuel faith in the next generation. Orange is a path, a strategy that combines the strength of two - yellow and red - to create the brilliance of another, Orange. By combining the critical influences of the light of the church and the love of the family, the Orange strategy synchronizes efforts and shows a generation who God is, more effectively than either could alone."

A Curriculum That Matches My Heart and Values:

That is packed paragraph. But this little paragraph has given words and affirmation to something that God has been doing in my heart for a long, long time. My heart is fully wrapped up in walking with students so that they will become adult followers of Christ. And the longer I have been doing this, the more I see how little my piece of the pie really is in accomplishing this goal. It is me, it is the church, it is the family.

For me, the Orange philosophy and strategy is relatively new, in fact I came across it totally by accident. My children's ministry director and I were looking at some curriculum choices for the summer. And as she was searching, she came across the Orange website. As she looked at all the information and the videos, and the resources, she became convinced that this would be fun for the summer. But as we talked and prayed about it, it became clear that Orange is not going to be just for the summer, but is going to be the direction we need to be implementing in for our children's ministry, and in our student ministry.

Right now we are in the end of the planning stage for launching Orange in our ministry context. We have done all the reading, we have bought the curriculum, we have educated our team, and now we are implementing. We gave ourselves the summer to figure it out and work out the kinks. But because it is so helpful and the Orange people are so supportive, it is all coming together faster and smoother than expected.

So, this upcoming week I am getting a last minute crash course in Orange before we jump in with both feet! While I am in Atlanta, I will also be learning from the best in the children and student ministry. Doug Fields, Andy Stanley, Ron Hall, Reggie Joiner, Sue Miller, Kara Powell, David Kinnaman, Chap Clark, Mark Matlock, and a ton more. But here is the crazy part:

I Also Get to be a Very Small Part of the Story:

Because of you, I get to go not just as a spectator, but a participant. I have been chosen, along with a couple dozen other people to be a "guest blogger." You might be asking yourself, "What is a guest blogger?" That is a great question. Because, before I was asked to do this, I never really considered myself a blogger at all. But apparently I have crossed over and I am now a blogger. And now I get be a guest one at that.

As a guest blogger I get full access to the entire conference. I will have an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of these speakers and ministry leaders. I am encouraged to meet as many people as I can, interview as many people as I can, and share my experiences with you. Because of this great opportunity, I am going to spend this entire week on this blog dedicated to Orange. Now, I am new to the Orange movement so I will be engaging this entire conference as a rookie. I have a ton of questions and a ton of excitement as I spend time with people who share a heart for bringing Christ to the next generation.

I look forward to sharing with you my wrestling with this strategy as we try and implement it in our context that is unique and challenging. I look forward to sharing and reflecting on the main stage speakers and break out sessions. And mostly I look forward to connecting with new and old friends as we all strive to be faithful to this unique call into student ministry.

If you have any questions about anything Orange or are looking for a little inside scoop, let me know and I'll get on it. Well, that is about it. It is about time to pack my bags and head off to Atlanta to be a "guest blogger." :) For one week I am going to lean into the blogospher and live into what ever that means. Thank you for your love and support in this writing thing. I recognize I would never have this experience without this unique and strange blogging relationship. Come next Monday, I will settle back into the average youth worker God has called me to be, and back to the unique and amazing students in my specific context. But for now, bring on the freebies :)

One More Thing:

I almost forgot. If you are at all interested in this Orange thing, check out the Orange Leaders website. They will be pod-casting the entire thing, so grab a coffee and enjoy. You can also check out some of my fellow guest bloggers posts and give them some love too. PEACE!