God's concern for us as His children is tremendous. Do we have this same concern for our teenagers?
"I don't know my own child anymore! Ever since he started high school, he has been off with his friends, doing his own thing. I wish I knew how to get through to him." Does this sound like you? Thoughts like these have gone through the minds of many parents of teens in God's Church. The tragedy is that all too many of these parents become frustrated and conclude that there is no way to close the gap between them and their teens. Some parents come up with some choice excuses for divorcing themselves from their teenagers' lives and interests. Here are but a few: "My teens don't want me there. They want to be by themselves." "We just don't have the same interests." "I have to work hard all year long. I'm not going to spend my time during the Feast with my teen." "I have more important things I need to be doing. I can't bother with these juvenile matters." "That's why my kids are enrolled in school — it's the school's job to provide for them." "That's the job of the pastor and the Church. I thought YOU [Youth Opportunities United] was established to take care of these needs." The list goes on. Some parents will even hold back until 75 percent of the other parents in the Church get involved before they will volunteer to sponsor or provide transportation to any youth activities. They feel they don't have to get involved unless everyone else does, too.
The "generation gap"
Involvement, time and effort are all essential in nurturing wholesome, healthy, growing relationships between parents and teens. Yet, some parents in God's Church neglect these key ingredients and add to their own family's "generation gap." In Proverbs 22:6 God promises that if we "Train up a child in the way he should go... when he is old, he will not depart from it." God is talking directly to us, the parents, showing the integral part we play in giving proper direction to our teens as they mature to adulthood. In this verse the Hebrew word for "train" is chanak. This word's root meaning is "to narrow." God is showing that training our children involves narrowing the choices they have to make from the vast array of deceptive, negative lifestyles this world has to offer (Matt. 7:13-14). All too often parents give up on their sons or daughters, virtually turning them over to this society. "After all, they're carnal" or "They are responsible for their own decisions," these parents say. The truth is that they want to wash their hands of involving themselves in the lives of their teens in a viable, loving way.
Church teens in different category
As Jesus Christ revealed to His Church through His apostle, Herbert W. Armstrong, I Corinthians 7:14 shows that the unconverted children of Church members are set apart — holy. That includes the teenagers. Knowing about the spirit in man and that our children have access to God's spiritual values is the key to successful child rearing in God's Church. Therefore, God expects even parents of teenagers to take advantage of the tremendous. Opportunity to positively influence their children about God's way of life. The Church's dynamic thrust to strengthen the family, initiated by Christ through Mr. Armstrong, includes countless opportunities for parents and children to be actively involved in functions provided by God's Church: YOU activities, group outings, family socials and many others.
Teens need parental involvement
No one can take the place of a parent. The bonding that is experienced between a newborn baby and its parents is a beautiful and necessary process, and years later the need still remains for parents to love and guide their teens. Psalm 127:3-5 tells us that our children are really a blessing to us. They are described as arrows in a parent's quiver, and truly, they are arrows that need to be shot in the right direction. Skill and effort are needed to guide and provide for our sons and daughters as they grow up. It's all too easy to excuse ourselves from spending time with our children. But no parent has a valid excuse not to be actively involved in the life of his or her children as they grow from infancy through the teen years into adulthood. Although the individual interests of teenagers can vary as widely as they do with adults, taking the time to show a true interest in your teenager's friends and concerns will show your son or daughter that you really do care. Sure, it takes time to learn about photography or skiing. Roller skating with your kids or going with them to an amusement park may not be the most fun thing you ever do. But putting forth the energy to involve yourself in a realistic way can benefit you, the parent, in building bridges between you and your children. This type of bond cannot be bought with money. An ideal way to create this bond is to develop interests and hobbies as a family — these can offer areas of mutual interest when your children reach their teenage years. The point is that parents should strive to share in the interests of their children, regardless of their ages. For instance, many parents are concerned about teen dating — when to allow it and under what conditions. But parents are the very ones who can do the most to develop right dating attitudes and habits in their children. Sponsoring quality group activities for your young people can do a lot to defuse the premature pairing off and going steady that can take place when your kids are forced to constantly find their own social outlets.
Right parental involvement
Over the years, many have assumed that only a young adult — one not too far removed from the teens in age, one who knows their language and likes their music — should supervise or lead the teens. Subsequently, some parents have also used that same philosophy in their personal approach to their teens. They sometimes water down their conduct and standards to an unacceptable level, all in the name of "communicating" with their teenagers. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians there was a time to put away the childish approach and be mature: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man,
Involvement, time and effort are all essential in nurturing wholesome, healthy, growing relationships between parents and teens. Yet, some parents in God's Church neglect these key ingredients...
I put away childish things" (I Cor. 13:11). The point is that parents need to be mature yet understanding examples to their children. Another caution is that parents shouldn't overdo it. We can go from one extreme to another, not realistically "counting the cost" before we start getting involved (Luke 14:28-30). Be sure your priorities are well established — don't spend so much time with one member of your, family that you neglect the others. Also, when stirred to action we often "overkill." Don't try to overcompensate for your past lack of interest in your teens in a short period of time. You may experience burn-out as a parent and then not offer the consistent support your kids really need over the years. Some parents feel that the Church doesn't understand teenagers — that we involve adults too much in teen activities — that we force ourselves on them. But parental involvement is necessary for teens to properly develop socially. If parent-teen interaction is not present, teens are prone to seek recognition outside the Church and home. Parents should provide and aid in group activities for teens in the Church to promote their social development.
We as God's children
One of the most beautiful and encouraging truths in God's Word is that God is interested in seeing all His potential Sons come to repentance and salvation (II Pet. 3:9). In John 3:16 we find that God loved all of us enough to give His only begotten Son so that we may all have a chance to experience spiritual life in His Family. God's plan is pictured by this physical life. Think about it for a moment. In our spiritual infancy in God's Church — when we were first being called — we knew God was involved and interested in our growth and development. We had to believe that as a requirement for baptism (Acts 2:38-39). As time goes on in our spiritual lives, we sometimes act like teenagers do physically. We may think we know it all and can take care of ourselves. But does God cease to actively involve Himself in our lives then? No! God's interest and care for His spiritual children never diminishes. He continues to work with us as we mature spiritually. Romans 8:28-31 tells us that God called all of us for a purpose — that He does care. Paul ends with the statement, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Are you for your sons and daughters? Are you interested enough to get involved in their lives during one of their most crucial and potentially traumatic periods of development? Let's be sure we understand our parental responsibilities. Let's set the godly example of caring about our teens by knowing them and being involved with them. That's the way to close the generation gap.