Monday, August 8, 2016

Is That a 3-Point Sermon My Kids Hear?

I turned 40 over a year ago. I'll give you a moment to process that. I know you're not supposed to ask a youth pastor how old he is, but I offered.

Why is that significant? Except for the increasing pain in my knees, it's not. Really. I think I handled turning 40 better than I did turning 30. Don't ask me why. The best I can venture is that by the time I reached 40, I understood I was viewed as older by the teens I work with and I simply stopped caring what other people thought.

I feel good. Honestly. The worst part is increasing the exercise to compensate for the amount of cookies I eat. One might wonder why I don't just eat less cookies, but I don't really have time for people who ask questions like that.

Here is what has changed. I now have 2 of my own children who are part of my youth ministry. So when other teens look at me and marvel that I'm old enough to be their dad, they're not wrong. In fact, I'm older than some of their parents.

One might assume that when you double as parent and youth pastor, your teenage kids must love you, help you invent new games and your sides all hurt from all the laughter that is had.

You might also assume that having family devotions are automatic and easy. But you would be assuming way too much.

Do you know those teachable moments that all the great parenting advice authors have told you to look for with your kids? I do. I've even encouraged other parents to take advantage of those moments, only to have those parents come back and tell me their kids saw it as a lecture. They have assumed my family would be different.

It's not. My kids don't refer to those teachable moments as lectures, however. They refer to them as sermons. Pastor's got to preach! I get the same eye rolls, the same long sighs and the same exasperated and held out 'Daaaaad!'

Sermons or lectures. I'm sure my kids find themselves humorous when referring to my shared wisdom as sermons when collectively whining with their friends. And that's fine.

But what is a parent to do?

1. Look for the teachable moments anyway.

That's right. Do it anyway. Bore them if you have to, but don't let the moments pass by when your child can learn something from you. You didn't let them run with knives (or in traffic) when they were younger, despite how much they tried to buck the system.

You kept regular bedtimes and forced them to go to school and (hopefully) church and made them eat their vegetables. They very likely whined about all of it at some point. So why did you do it? Because you're a parent. And God has tasked parents with passing on wisdom from one generation to the next.

So, don't stop now. I'm not saying you should prepare a 3-point sermon teachable moment every single day, but don't let the moments pass you by when you can share truth.

2. Don't assume the eye rolls mean they aren't listening.

The eye rolls, the sighs, the crossed arms...it's all part of their job, since, as teenagers, they clearly know better than you. Hopefully you understand sarcasm.

I'm not saying you should simply accept disrespectful attitudes, but don't let their mannerisms keep you from fulfilling your role. Assume they are listening and be pleasantly surprised when they reflect that is something they say, or in a correct action they live out.

Besides, as I tell my kids all the time; we do the right thing for the right reason. Parenting is our role. Pretending to be above it all is theirs.

I'd offer a third point, but I wouldn't want you to think of this as a sermon.

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