Parenting, Kids, & Guarantees

Someone once said: It kills you to see your children grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t.

It’s hard watching your kids grow up, especially as they work their way through the difficulty of the challenges they face. Sometimes, we who are parents & grandparents can step in; other times, we can’t (and shouldn’t) protect them from the realities of life. With three teenagers, I get to see this just about every day. But some weeks, there are just more challenges than normal. And there are no magic words to speak that will make everything better.

It reminds me of the joke about the young preacher, just married, who begins a new ministry, and one of his first sermon series is “The Ten Commandments of Parenting.” Then he and his wife have their first child, and when he comes around to another series on parenting, this time he calls it: “Five Suggestions for Parents.” He and his wife go on to have a couple more children, and the oldest reaches pre-teen status. This time, instead of a whole series, the minister does a one-week message on parenting: “One Suggestion You Might Try.” Then his kids become teenagers, and the minister can’t pull together a series, let alone one sermon. Instead, on the day he wants to talk about parenting, he stands up in church, and simply says: “Anybody got any ideas?”

Raising kids is one of the best jobs a person will ever do, and one of the hardest. And for Christians, it is a powerful opportunity to share our faith and shape the faith of our children. But beware of those who have simple answers, great theories, easy solutions. Parenting, like life, should not be tackled without faith. But parenting, like life, should also be approached humbly, constantly trusting, learning, and loving.

I have a friend who says that Proverbs 22.6 is not a promise, but a principle. Oftentimes, we like to quote that verse as an assurance — if we simply put our kids on the right path, they will stay on it (or eventually come back to it). But the Proverbs are not meant to be guarantees, but guidelines. This is the way life is meant to work; this is how we believe that a God-centered life will usually turn out. But kids are people, and people have the freedom to choose, to live, to go where and do what they want. Perhaps this is the hardest thing to learn to do as parents: to love, and let go. To rear, and release.

  • I’m still learning. But I can promise you this: I won’t ever do a “Ten Guarantees of Parenting” series. Instead of guarantees, there are guidelines — where we as parents, and grandparents, and aunts & uncles, love, pray, stay connected, and point our kids to Jesus. Where we don’t give up, but also don’t give in. Where we make hard choices, where we lose sleep, where we pour our heart and soul into our kids. Because parenting ultimately is about love, and who ever said that love would be easy? Come to think of it, isn’t that what we see in our Heavenly Father? A love that doesn’t come easy, but doesn’t give up. And continues to guide us, call us, and is there for us; no matter what.

That’s the kind of parenting I need. And the kind I want to give. Even in a house full of teenagers.

What a fourteen-year-old boy has in common with a healthy church

My fourteen-year-old son grows like a proverbial weed. Scratch that; he grows faster than a weed. It is now a matter of weeks before he passes my tall, lanky frame with his soon-to-be taller, even-lankier frame. I am about to lose my 23-year-reign as the tallest member of our family. And when Quincy grows past me, I will from that day and forever after be 2nd place in the contest for family height. (What can I say? I’m a guy; everything is a contest.)20140831_140005

But that sure beats the alternative. I would much rather he would grow past me than not grow at all. I would rather he reach 6’5″ than stay the same size he was when he was 5 or 6. I know he’s healthy because he keeps growing – and because he keeps eating, and eating, and eating…

The truth is: growth and health go hand-in-hand. Whether you are a parent watching your child mature, or a teacher guiding a student, or a employer training a new worker, you want to see growth. You need to see growth. That’s how you know the person is healthy.

Isn’t the same thing true when it comes to our faith journey? The healthiest among us are the ones who keep growing; who aren’t content to sit still – or, worse yet, regress. Spiritual health is seen in my growth, as I continue to learn, to listen, to love. As I use my spiritual muscles, I become more and more like Jesus. And isn’t that the best way to measure growth?

And if that is true of me and you as individuals, can’t we say the same about us as a group (that is, the Church)? If I am healthiest when I am growing, isn’t the Church also healthiest when it is growing?

But truth is, sometimes that is hard to measure. I can chart my son’s growth; all I have to do is look at him and notice that I no longer have to lower my head to look him in the eyes. Soon I will be looking up to him. Growth, for Quincy, is very easy to measure – it’s seen in the swivel of my neck.

But measuring growth in church isn’t so simple. It’s not just a matter of knowing our ABCs (attendance, building, and cash). Those are helpful tools, sure; but often the way to truly measure growth is more difficult than that. In his article, The Measure of a Church, Will Thomas suggests five ways to gauge church health. All of his recommendations are good, because all of them point beyond simply measuring what we can count on our fingers.

At the end of the day, what matters is not how often we sit in a pew or how much we put in a offering plate, but are we changed by what we hear? Do our lives look different? Are we transformed by what we say we believe? And does that impact others?

In short: are we followers of Jesus who help others see what it means to follow Jesus?

At Fern Creek Christian, we have begun a new series, Discover Your Mission Now. But it is more than a series; it must be a way of life where we aren’t measured simply by what we attend or what we give, but by how we live. And healthy, growing followers of Jesus are people who live on mission – with Jesus, for Jesus, for a world that needs to see him live through us.

So, how healthy are you?