By Rev. Deanna Woodward
Maple Leaf Parish –
United Methodist Churches of Cherry Grove, Fountain, Preston and Spring Valley
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 19:14
This time of year, we move into confirmation and graduation season—important milestones in the lives of young people and their families. As we speak at confirmation and baccalaureate services, we pastors try to offer some thoughts for the students and also for their family members. We are keenly aware of the vital role that parents and other adult mentors play in shaping the spiritual lives of young people. Didn’t someone once say, “An ounce of parent is worth a pound of clergy”? As we think about their influence, here are wishes that many of us pastors have for parents and other influential adults:
Stay in the game. The little child who once thought you were a hero, by age 12 (or soon-er) looks at you like you’re from another planet and don’t know anything. It’s tempting to want to withdraw, or let things slide, or try to be buddies so he or she can like you as much as they used to. But your sons and daughters are your responsibility at age seven and also at age 17. So remember that you’re still accountable and take comfort in knowing that God will work through you when you continue to parent your child.
Be consistent. Kids know that adults aren’t perfect. Just hold yourself to the same stand-ards you expect from them. When you mess up, admit it and say, “I’m sorry.” Think and pray through tough situations and walk with Jesus in front of your child and they’ll learn to do this too.
Allow room for, but don’t be dictated by, teenage culture. Take a genuine interest in their lives. Try to remember what was important to you at their age, even allowing for changes in society. Accept differences in clothing or musical tastes, or the hobbies they have, within the boundaries of decency and safety. But don’t let the many demands on their time crowd out time for God in their lives. Youngsters make commitments based on today; parents have to prepare them for the future. Adults often let everything take precedence over their child’s spiritual life and don’t look to the church until there’s a problem. Kids need to know that God and church are priorities for us — and for them. Does your church have ministries for children and youth? If so, participate, and if not, get together with some other parents and help start them (most pastors would love this!)
Recognize that we’re all still growing. We say to our kids, “How many times do I have to tell you something?” But don’t we all have things that we haven’t yet learned and that God is trying to teach us? As you’ve experienced God’s faithfulness as a parent to you, draw on God as the source as you parent your children with patience, wisdom and love.