Saturday, November 6, 2010

Spiritual growth

“…work out your salvation with fear and trembling” -Phil. 2:12

Most parents are concerned about the spiritual growth of their kids. Though goals in academics and athletics top most wish lists, a teen’s moral and spiritual health remains an important priority for moms and dads as well.

But the spiritual area is tricky. Forcing teens to be “spiritual” sometimes creates the opposite effect. Most teens rebel against being forced into being “religious.” The key is creating an atmosphere for our kids to recognize their need for a loving God in their lives. But it comes at their pace and requires us to respect our kids and their choices.

I grew up in the church, attending a denominational church in Fort Worth. I understood my need for a Savior, but made the decision to follow the Lord my freshman year in high school. Through the wonderful ministry of Young Life, a ministry to high school teens, I grew in my faith through the high school and college years.

My sophomore year in high school, I was hungry to grow in my faith and wasn’t feeling plugged into our church. My Young life leader and friends were attending a local Bible church, which I had visited several times. Feeling nervous, I spoke to my mom and dad about attending that church. They said, “that would be fine” and off I went to search and grow and learn.

At the time I thought “no big deal” to attend another church. Now, looking back, it was a big deal. It meant my parents had to release me from the tradition of attending church together. They had to put my growth ahead of their desire.

For the record, I think it’s best for a family to all attend church together and for the entire family to be “fed” through that fellowship. But the youth program in my church was almost non-existent and I needed more. The point is that my parents were willing to let me go.

So, step back and take inventory of where you stand with your teen’s spiritual journey. If your teen is thriving and growing, that’s awesome. Pray for them and support them. If your teen is stagnant, that’s okay too. Again, pray for them, that their hearts will be soft and pliable. At the conclusion of most counseling sessions, I ask parents if I can pray for the family. I pray mostly for a soft and teachable heart for their teen.

The soft heart is important for mom and dad too. When our hearts are soft and pliable, they are open and flexible to God’s work in the life of the family. Even if all the “ducks aren't in order” (which is most of the time), it’s okay because we bow and submit to a loving God who is patient and at work in the lives of those we love.

It’s not our responsibility to produce change. We are not the Holy Spirit and we are not required to worry until those we love are at peace in their lives. All we can do is be faithful. We are simply called to love, pray and love again.

So, take a deep breath and take some time right now to pray for those God has put into your care. Pray that their hearts will yield to God’s love in their lives. Pray that they will grow and thrive in His care.

And pray that you will be at peace as well.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

1 comment:

Mary O. Paddock said...

Hi Joey,

I've been following your column for a while now and have found it to be chocked full of good advice. So thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom.

Thank you most especially for this entry as it puts to print my own half-realized thoughts. I have four boys--ages 20 to 12. Our own church used to have a terrific youth program, but for one reason or another, it is now non-existent. We live in a very small town, largely peopled with retirees, and most of the churches here suffer from this. Out of loyalty to the local congregation my husband and I continue to attend and our boys do part of the time.

A couple of years ago, my oldest son formed a friendship with a pastor at a church (same denomination) in another town. He now plays music with their worship band and assists in leading the youth group. This pastor has a heart for youth and it shows. Their group is strong and active. My son is in college, but detours past here every weekend to take his brothers with him (without us asking him to and without asking for gas money). I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this. He is a fine Christian young man who has taken responsibility for his own faith and now is helping his younger brothers.

In our own church, it is sometimes awkward explaining where the boys are and I'm sure it looks like we're living with one foot out the door. But we believe that sending the boys where they're getting fed is more important than awkward silences.