Monday, April 06, 2009

Teens and church

This weekend I went to an incredible conference for teens with Allie-15 and Neal-14. Allie and I got to stay in a hotel, eat junk food and get to know one of our youth interns. Neal stayed with a couple of the guy interns. I have no idea what they did (except that they ate fast food for every meal), but he sure came home pumped!

The main reason we went is to get some inspiration, ideas, ANYTHING to help our little youth group's worship band. We did come home with some really good action items (#1, don't show up and say, "Hey, what do you want to sing tonight?"). Yes, we need help!

At one point in the conference, one of the speakers said, "How many of you have grown up in church?" Almost everyone raised their hands, including my kids.

I was distinctly aware of that fact as the weekend progressed. I wondered if some of the kids there weren't already "churched out." Have they heard the message so many times that they aren't really hearing it any more? Have they been "doing church" for so long they know how to play the game? I wonder sometimes if my OWN kids aren't churched out!

More than anything I want my kids to have a heart for God...not just "doing church" out of duty or because it's "the thing to do." I pray constantly that He will get ahold of them in whatever way He can. No amount of church attendance, volunteering, or "programs" can manufacture what only God can do.

And yet...I think a certain amount of involvement is important. So that gets me to thinking (okay, about to get random here): Am I looking at my kids' commitments the same way I look at my own (or am I expecting more of them)? Am I willing to let go of my own ideas of what my kids are "good at" and let God give them a desire to do something? Am I okay with them doing *gulp* nothing for a while? =)

Allie loves to sing but (even after an inspiring conference) is not always real hip on serving in the worship band, even though it seems to be going well. We have the usual issues of personalities, varying levels of talent, etc. I'd love for the kids to be uber mature and overlook all that. I think, But you love to worship! or You are so talented! or Who else is there (in our teeny tiny church) that would take your place? or (sadly) I'm the adult leader, for crying out loud!

Mostly the problem (with all of us!) is when the "fun" wears off. Right now we are doing our best to make it awesome (it HAS gotten better since the beginning), and I'm just holding the kids accountable to keep their original commitment to the end of the school year. Even that's been a bit of a struggle, but maybe that's to be expected with only two months to go until summer.


I think my parents did a good job of this - even though we were surrounded by "ministry," when we got to be teens, they didn't drag us everywhere, force us to do more than we felt comfortable, or worst of all, make us feel that we were "on display." Maybe they knew that by the time you get to be a teen, you have to have some wiggle room to let the dust settle so that what you've grown up believing can become your own.

I want to find that balance...somewhere between encouraging our kids to plug in, challenging them to stretch themselves - and knowing when to just back off!

***Edited to add, in answer to katherine's comment, below***

Here is a post from a while back that is my "takeaway" from growing up in a ministry family. Be sure to read the comments on that post, too:

Setting my priorities straight


Sarah @ said...

Does asking them help? When I was a teen, my parents asked us all the time if we felt like they were balancing things okay. It seems weird, in a way, to put part of the parenting and the balancing in the hands of your kids, but that's all I can come up with.

I'm WAY behind you on this, so GOOD LUCK!

Kelli said...

Hmmm...thought-provoking post. I have been blessed with a teen who LOVES to attend most of the church meetings and teen socials. Since she does attend most of the activities offered, I usually back off when she says she isn't up to it once in a while. I think if I pushed her to attend everything, she would definitely not enjoy the times she does attend.

As far as following through on commitments, I do hold her to her word if she tells someone she will be somewhere or play piano or whatever. I find she does not commit as much, but I'd rather she have a good attitude and love the opportunity to serve than to feel bitter about it.

Not sure this helps, but this is how I've managed so far. Like I said, though, we are really blessed to have a teen who has a good overall attitude toward church. You know what they say about training up a child in the way he should go--sounds like you are already doing a great job leading by example. :)

katherine said...

no tweens or teens yet, so i'm not much help...

however, my hubs is about to graduate from seminary in a month (!) and we will be, probably for the rest of our kids' growing up, a ministry family. i'd love to hear some things your parents did right as they raised you in a ministry family as well as some things you might wish they'd done differently. we hear so many horror stories about pk's leaving church/faith.

thanks :)

Anonymous said...

It's great that you guys got something from the conference. I think it is true of what you ask. Parents seem to expect more from their teens than they do from themselves. Even though I'm wasn't too much older than the youth I had worked with, it was difficult when they challenged us, and it was hard to have a "comeback" because their parents weren't setting that example in their own lives. It would be great if parents could balance their involvement...although I can't say I have personal experience from the parent side of things since my little one is only 2. Some parents seem to always be there when you turn around, and others want you, the youth leader, to parent their teen (do realize that I worked with the youth group when I was 19-26). Anyhow, thanks for sharing.

Susanne said...

My hubby is much better at letting the kids do "nothing" through different seasons of their teens than I am. He is much more relaxed that way. I think it's a good balance to my more "oh no, what's wrong if you want to step back" type of personality. LOL.

Great post, Katherine and lots to think about. Your comment of wondering if you look at your kids committement in the same way you look at yours really struck me. Something I'll have to really think through.

Jill said...

Timely post Katherine. We just had a conversation with our teen tonight regarding the praise team at church. The kids have been asked for months to do a particular bible study and every week there is an excuse. So it looks like the big bad youth guy (aka hubby) has to lower the hammer and make the team take a sabbatical. How can you lead a group to a place you are not yourself?

I find myself sympathizing with my teen who loves the praise team. Do we really need to take a break? I think the right answer is yes.

Laurel said...

GREAT post!

4 of our 6 "big kids" (aka: young adults) are PASSIONATE about serving the Lord.

#1 son (24) - loves the Lord, but not currently serving in ministry.

#2 daughter (23) is preaching her heart out in volunteer youth ministry.

#3 son (22) is serving the Lord in Amman, Jordan (2 year mission commitment).

#4 daughter (20) is just finishing a 6 month missions time in Germany and India with YWAM.

#5 daughter (20) is on YWAM staff in Argentina, with 2 year commitment.

#6 son (18) volunteer in Children's Ministry at our church (enjoys it, but not looking for long term missions opportunities at this point).

Our parenting perspective ... it's all about relationship. If our kids see that mom and dad have a passionate relationship with the Lord, and we focus our parenting on relationship rather than rules ... the kids follow our example and WANT to serve.

We have also focused on parenting (and homeschooling) on missions ... by taking family missions trips (to L.A. and New Orleans) ... by reading missionary biographies and watching missionary movies and supporting missionaries ... and by encouraging our teens to go on "adult" mission trips. We DON'T generally send them on the youth group trips, but prefer the adult-focused trips instead.

We have 7 more to raise up for the Lord, but at this point all 13 of our children LOVE to attend church any time the doors are open (every service, every worship event, every kids event, every class offered). We have very rarely required them to attend ... they just want to be there.


mama of 13

Amanda in PA said...

I don't have teens, but I do lead the children's choir and my children are often the least committed and willing to participate. I struggle with what to do about this as well. Thanks for the food for thought

JJ said...

Love that term "churched-out". That's something I think about a lot with my kids.

My 10 year old does not like choir. My husband and I are doing a video series with another couple on the same night. We are making him go but he does not have to do any performances (that's the main thing he dreads). We talked to the children's pastor about having another option on that night. For now choir is it. Our younger two go and enjoy it.
It's hard to know what's best!