We are inviting Oakwood Student Ministry Parents and Leaders to have their Easter experience in the new Student Pavilion.
Doughnuts and Juice will be served, and we will stream the service during the 9:15am and 10:45am hours!
THINK ABOUT THIS
By Carey Nieuwhof
You may have a toddler right now who won’t leave your side. You know the kind. The kid who’s glued to your leg, velcroed to your arm, who keeps wanting you to read the same story again, and again, and again. It’s driving you nuts some days, isn’t it?
It’s hard to believe, but one day, they’re going to withdraw. Ask any parent who has middle schoolers. Or teenagers. It happens . . . they withdraw. And you know what happens to most parents? Most parents have no idea what to do. So they do this: When their kids withdraw, they withdraw.
Why wouldn’t you? I mean it kind of works like that in life, doesn’t it? When someone doesn’t want to be your friend anymore, you eventually give up and withdraw—which only makes sense. You can’t be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be your friend. Except that in this case, they’re you’re family. The dynamic isn’t as straightforward. So what do you do?
As a father of 2 sons, now 19 and 23, I can give you a few pointers. Now, I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve just been confused by it long enough and have enough scars to write a few hundred words on the subject.
Basically, if you’ve got a kid who thinks Minecraft is far more interesting than Mom, or a son who doesn’t want to watch movies with you but seems to want to watch anything and everything with their friends, what do you do?
1. Get Over Your Hurt. Just admit it: It kind of hurts a little. You pour your heart into your kids, get up at 5 a.m. to take them to practice, do homework with them on nights when your brain should have had a rest hours ago, fund everything, and suddenly they find you . . . uninteresting.
As much as that kind of stinks, you’re the parent. Get over it. Your job isn’t to be their friend, it’s to be their parent.
2. Be Around. When my oldest started high school, he told me, “Hey dad . . . why can’t you just be like other dads and simply hang around more?” It was weird for me to hear that, because I was home a lot. But he was right. I was always busy. Being a driven person who loves what he does, I was always working on a new project or writing something new.
The penny dropped. So basically I just needed to hang around and do nothing, or at least not be preoccupied? I didn’t know if I had a category for that. But I tried. I decided to hang around the house night after night with no particular agenda, just to see what happened.
The first night my oldest son went out after supper to hang out with friends and my other son was tied up with something else. I thought, well this is stupid. I wanted to go get busy with something. But my wife persisted. So I decided to give it more time.
And after a while, we started connecting much more. No agenda. Nothing pressing. Just by virtue of being in the same space in the same time repeatedly, we connected. And I learned this: While being around is no guarantee anything relationally significant will happen, not being around is an absolute guarantee nothing relationally significant will happen.
So be around.
3. Leverage The Ordinary. Your rhythm changes as your kids get older. Tucking your five-year-old into bed is an amazingly glorious ritual. Tucking your 15-year-old into bed every night is just weird. You lose a lot of the rhythms of childhood when your kids get older. And if you keep invading the space they spend with their friends, you lose major points.
But there are other opportunities. Meal times are a case in point.
Take the time to eat a meal together . . . not in the car . . . not standing at the kitchen breakfast bar sucking back a smoothie on your way out the door, but at a real table, with real chairs, with real forks and real knives. And chew your food. If you take 15-30 minutes to have dinner together and turn off all your devices, amazing things happen. Amazing things like conversations. No matter how busy our lives get, we always try to sit down together for five dinners a week. If you prioritize it, it can happen.
Another great opportunity is during your drive time. I know, you feel like a taxi service. So leverage that. Turn the music off . . . or up, depending on your mood. Don’t talk on the phone. Stop texting (especially if you’re driving), and talk. Conversations in the car can go deeper faster because you haven’t got the pressure of looking at each other.
So what happens when all this happens?
Well, you grow up. They grow up. And sometimes, they develop a habit of coming around.
I’m writing this after having lunch with my eldest son and his wife at a Mexican restaurant they found near their place in Toronto. He had called the day earlier and said, “Hey Dad, you and mom want to come down after church? We’d love to hang out with you guys.” My other son now calls and texts from a university out of town . . . even when he doesn’t need money. Imagine that.
Just remember this. When your kids withdraw, don’t withdraw. It’s so worth the fight.
Get connected to a wider community of parents at TheParentCue.org.
In this series, we’ve been talking about the idea of “all access”—the idea that we have all access to God, which gives us access to hope and purpose. But your teenager also needs to know they have an all-access pass to talk to you. That’s certainly easier when they’re younger. Bath time and bed time give you clear opportunities to talk. But as schedules get busier and the conversations become more complicated, it may be helpful to remind your son or daughter that they still have your attention.
This week, try texting them or writing a simple note to let them know you’re still available to them. It doesn’t have to be long or emotional. Try something like this:
Hey, I heard you’ve been talking about “all access” at church. I know sometimes it may not feel like you have or need all-access to me, but I want you to know that you can talk to me about anything, anytime. No pressure to start today. Just wanted you to know.
Honestly, you may not get a response. That’s okay. The goal is to simply re-give them permission to talk to you on their time and when they’re ready.
I remember the day I turned thirteen. I was thinking of my red three speed bike with the banana seat, sissy bar and raised handlebars. I loved it, but I knew it was a kids’ bike and soon I’d have to ride a ten speed like every other teenager. I wish I could say I was excited about becoming a teenager, but the emotions were really mixed.
For one thing, ‘teenager’ wasn’t a great word back in the late seventies. At least from the perspective of a thirteen-year old, most adults seemed to either fear them or loathe them.
Secondly, I was the oldest child in my family of four kids and the only son. So I didn’t really have anyone to look up to in my family who could show me what being a teenager was like. I knew some teens for sure, but I knew they were into things that I probably didn’t want to get into. In the moment, going back a year to being twelve or even eleven seemed like a better option than turning thirteen.
I don’t remember having anyone to talk to about any of this. I could talk to my dad, for sure, but how do you have a conversation like that? I wasn’t even sure what I was feeling, let alone did I know how to articulate it. And while there were lots of adults around me, I didn’t really understand that I might be able to talk to them about life.
Ever been there as a kid?
Fast forward a few decades. I’m a father now with two sons who are four and seven years past their thirteenth birthdays. I remember when they turned thirteen, I tried to initiate a conversation with them, just in case they felt like I did. Let’s just say the conversation was super friendly and super short. They either didn’t struggle with it, or, maybe, they didn’t feel like talking to their dad about it.
All of which reminds me of the importance of a wider circle.
I’m so thankful my kids are growing up realizing that there are other adults they can talk to that actually want to invest in them. They each have a small circle of a half dozen or so adults or young adults they have meaningful relationships with. Some have been mentors to them, others have been small group leaders or church staff. Others are family members, friends and neighbors. They don’t need to be alone, and they’re not alone. I know they’ve had many conversations with their wider circles–some of which I’ll never know about. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.
Do your kids have a wider circle of influence? Maybe it’s a small group leader at church, or a teacher who’s taken a special interest in them, or an uncle or an aunt they feel comfortable with. Whoever it is, it’s just important that someone is there. And as an adult, you can help foster those relationships.
Oh, and by the way, I still ride a bike. And while it’s not red, it’s a ten speed road bike that I like even a little more than my beloved banana seat bike. Growing up wasn’t so bad after all.
Who have you got in your children’s life that can provide that wider circle of influence? What are you doing to encourage those relationships?
The key to speaking into students’ lives is to build relationships with them. I tell our staff all the time, “Be a leader worth following.” Leaders worth following build relationships based on one goal: seeing a student grow closer to the Lord. Relationships can start out fun and crazy, but they need to have a goal, a point when the youth worker asks the student to make changes in his or her life based on God’s word. The students will be willing to only if youth workers have taken the time to invest in them.
Relationship building comes easy for many youth workers—it’s why we got into the ministry. We have a passion for students. But your volunteers may not come by it as easily as you do. Training volunteers is tough. Many of them have a heart for service but are afraid of students. Here are some of the techniques I teach my own staff.
Students have to get your time if you’re going to get their hearts. Find out what they like to do and do it with them. It’s best if you can find an activity that you both enjoy. Sit where students sit. Be around them, hang out in their world, and they will want to know why you are there.
“Students have to get your time if you’re going to get their hearts.”
Discover a Student
Students are just waiting to be discovered. They want someone to unmask them and bring them out. When you discover them, they’ll give you their heart. At LeaderTreks our staff play a game called 100 questions. Whenever they spend time with students working, doing dishes, or just hanging out, they ask students questions designed to uncover who they are. The game is simple. You start by asking a question about the clothes they are wearing and continue to ask questions based on their answers. The idea is to catch them off guard. They are always willing to talk about clothes or school, but before they know it, they are answering questions about their parents and their relationship with Jesus Christ. The 100 questions game is not a flashy or new idea, but it will do the job of discovering a student.
Writing notes is the most powerful way of making a shallow relationship deeper. When I was a youth pastor, I would try to write six notes a day. Sounds like a lot, but I could do it in 15 minutes. I kept the body of the note the same and changed words to fit the student. Every letter started with “I was praying for you today.” Then I would tell the student what I prayed. If I had seen them in a game or a play, I would mention that. But each letter was short. The power of the note is in how it’s delivered. Many times I would put notes in their cars or on their windshields. If I could, I would find a way to get the notes in their lockers. The best way to deliver a letter is in a place where it is least expected. I have a youth pastor buddy who would take sick bags from planes and write notes on them and put them in the mail. He would often write, “I was sick about you missing youth group.” The postman would always deliver them!
Have a Purpose for the Relationship
Once you have developed a relationship with a student, never lose sight of the mission. Always use your conversations to challenge students to grow. Move the discussion to points of decisions. Ask students to make changes in their lives. Ask them if you can hold them accountable. Never lose your focus on growing the student.
The biggest mistake I see youth workers making is they think they know a student because they know the student’s other siblings or the student’s family. Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure you have spent the time to know each student with whom you have influence. You will demonstrate to them that the program is not about you but about them. Once you have their hearts you will be able to challenge them with whatever God puts in your heart.
Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have a dog that thinks he is their only child. Diesel is a 70-pound Weimaraner who never leaves their side. Doug grew […]
Parent Cue – THINK ABOUT THIS
by Autumn Ward
It can be difficult to know how to influence our teenagers. We give advice. They act like we’ve lost our minds. We give encouragement. They roll their eyes. Even when our teenage sons and daughters are respectful, it can feel like they’re not listening. But we all know who they are listening to. They’re all listening to their friends.
At this phase, one of our greatest opportunities to influence our kids is to have a relationship with their friends. And, it isn’t always as difficult as it sounds. Having influence with a teenager doesn’t mean you have to wear skinny jeans and know the names of pop stars. It doesn’t mean you have to throw lavish parties or have the coolest house on the block. Sometimes having influence is as simple as having them over to your home.
In her article Open Your Home on ParentCue.org, author and mom of three, Autumn Ward, talks about the benefits and the costs of spending time with her kids’ friends:
I love beautifully decorated homes with every little thing in place; a candle quietly burning, fresh flowers in a vase, soft music playing, spotless floors and bathrooms, freshly polished furniture. . . and vacuum lines on carpet.
As much as I would love to say this describes my home, it does not. I mean, I still try. I haven’t totally given up on the dream, but I learned a long time ago that hosting kids in my home does not, in any way, help my straight-out-of-HGTV dream become a reality.
The football team hanging out.
The basketball team hanging out.
The soccer team hanging out.
(We’ve had a lot of teams over the years!)
The gang dropping by for a snack.
The impromptu bonfires.
The school study groups.
They’ve all left their mark on my home—literally.
The basement walls we finally painted got a layer of Dr. Pepper sprayed on them three weeks later.
The ceiling fan light fixture got shattered by a body pillow being waved in the air by one young man who was trying to fan away body odors.
The recliner no longer leans back all the way and kind of tilts to one side after a group of guys decided to see how many would fit in it. (The answer is five, in case you’re wondering.)
Oh and the handprints. The walls of the staircase going down to my basement have the handprints of just about every teen we know.
Recently, after my son’s high school graduation, I found myself staring at all those scuff marks and handprints. As I ran my hand across what would be ugly to most, I uttered a “thank you” to God. I thanked Him for helping me open my home, because when I open my home, I open my heart. And in exchange, I received so much more than a beautifully decorated, clean house:
The sound of teens worshiping in my basement.
The laughter of boys being boys.
The excitement of girls talking over one another.
The huddle around the oven waiting for food.
The hugs from kids I barely knew.
The title of “Mom” from kids who aren’t mine.
And the “thanks Mom” from the kids who are.
In that moment, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to care for, influence, and shape the kids who play such a role in the life of my kids—their friends.
Parents, open your home. Let your house be the hangout, the host home, the place where teens can be. Don’t wait until you think your house is “good enough.” All kids want is a place to be with the friends they want to be with.
Yes, it’s exhausting and will cost you. But I promise you, it will be worth it.
This week, try investing in your kid’s friends by offering to have them over. You don’t have to plan a party. Just ask your kid what they’re doing this week. Maybe it’s . . .
•studying for a test.
•shopping for a homecoming dress.
•watching the game.
Then ask, “Do you want to invite ______ to come over while you do that?”
When their friends come over, make an effort to just “be around.” You don’t have to watch the movie with them, but be there to greet them. Ask how they’re doing. Offer snacks. When you do, you’re communicating that you care about them and you’re making an investment that will pay off over and over again.