Tag Archives: parenting teenagers

nice review of Understanding Your Young Teen

i continue to be encouraged by the response to Understanding Your Young Teen. in fact, i’ve had quite a few youth workers buy bulk orders for parents in their churches, which is totally cool.

dan istvanik (a.k.a. “jh uth guy”) wrote a nice review for youthworker journal, and posted it on his blog also. here’s what he wrote:

There is finally a book that you can feel comfortable handing to the Middle School/Jr. High parent sitting in your office! Understanding Your Young Teen by Mark Oestreicher (*Marko, to most of us in the youth ministry world) is a concise and thorough read that gently walks parents through the young teen years. His heart for this age group saturates every page as he introduces and explains each area of young teen development and life.

The book starts off introducing the age group, defined as 11-14 years old and then hones in on the key word of this period of life as “change”. The core chapters of the book follow through explaining each of the changes that are taking place in a young teen’s life. The final chapters close the book out helping parents understand young teen culture and suggestions on responding well to your child. Beyond just the exceptional content inside each chapter, the book also includes “A Word to Parents” written by other well-known youth workers on each subject.

If you are a youth worker that is involved in any way in the lives of young teens, I would strongly suggest you reading this book and also having a few copies of this book available in your office for parents. If you are a youth worker that works specifically with middle school and Jr. High students this book and the previous book Middle School Ministry are essentials in your library.

there were a couple other short quotes about the book on that youthworker journal web page also:

Understanding Your Young Teen offers great insight into so many specifics about the different areas of young adolescence from the physical changes to friendships. Parenting is not just about understanding one part of your teen but his or her culture and the world around him or her. It gives you practical ideas about getting inside the mind and emotions of your teen during this big change in their life. Oestreicher reveals the importance of parenting and the true impact parents can have on their teens.
–Dr. Scott Newton, Student Minister First Baptist Church, Moore

Marko did a great job with adolescent development background coupled with practical tips and aids for adults and parents to come alongside teenagers with real world advice.
–Dr. Jeff Baxter, Littleton, Colorado

thanks, guys!

joel mayward’s review of Understanding Your Young Teen

sharp youth worker and youth ministry coaching program grad joel mayward posted a nice review of Understanding Your Young Teen on his blog recently. joel’s blog is worth following, btw; he’s a thoughtful guy.


I’m not the parent of a young teen, but I will be in about a decade. And when that day arrives, I’ll be sure to check back on the wisdom shared in Marko’s fantastic resource, Understanding Your Young Teen. It’s essentially the parenting version of Marko’s section in the youth ministry tome, Middle School Ministry, offering insight into the ever-changing world of 11-14 year olds.

Change. That’s the word Marko uses to describe this season of life. This change is holistic, from physical to cognitive to emotional to social to spiritual. Marko encourages parents to relationally engage with their young teen on all these levels, taking a posture of humble understanding and guidance. He proposes some new metaphors beyond the disciplinarian or the disconnected parent: cultural anthropologists and adventure guides.

As anthropologists, we learn about the young-teen experience, we study the generalities of development and culture, and we get to know the real issues and stories of the young teens living under our roof. Then we act as their adventure guides through the early adolescent experience, including–but not limited to–their spiritual journeys. (pg. 159)

Marko’s metaphors remind me of Richard Dunn’s discipleship phrase pacing-then-leading, found in his book Shaping the Spiritual Life of Students (the best book on teen discipleship I’ve ever read, btw). We enter into a teen’s life, pacing alongside them at their pace, which requires a posture of listening. As we pace, we also point out potential pitfalls and open their eyes to new visions and vistas they might have otherwise missed, leading them into maturity.

The tone of the book is practical and friendly while also clearly deeply informed. Marko has 30+ years of experience with ministry to young teens, as well as parenting two teens of his own. Yet he never comes off as overly didactic or formulaic; he practices what he preaches, offering insights as a fellow parent and guide with a tone of humble confidence. I also loved the other voices he invites into the conversation–at the end of each chapter, there is a section contributed from a fellow middle school expert, as well as a bonus chapter from Kara Powell and Brad Griffin from the Fuller Youth Institute.

One of the themes that emerges is normalization. With so many changes, parents can continually remind their young teen that they are, in fact, okay. “We must always be ready to slip ‘It’s okay,’ ‘It’s normal’ and ‘It’s good’ into our conversations with our young teens. These statements constantly remind them that their changes are normal and good and that they’ll turn out great.” (pg. 38) No one wants to be viewed as abnormal or bizarre; to offer genuine words of security and comfort can be a sacred act of love in a young teen’s life.

My favorite chapter is the one on young teen culture, entitled “White-Hot Temporary.” The insights in this chapter alone are worth the price of the book as Marko exegetes the current cultural trends of early adolescence. With sub-sections on “an intense but temporary culture” and “a driven yet sedentary culture,” there were so many descriptions that accurately describe the young teen cultural zeitgeist. To understand the culture requires patience and grace, but that’s exactly what Marko is encouraging: understanding. “If you understand why your young teen thinks, acts, and feels the way he or she does, you’ll be in a significantly better place from which to engage with your child.” Understanding and engagement–two critical values to godly parenting, and values that permeate Understanding Your Young Teen.

The Importance of Storytelling in Families

My kids with my parents! (I feel a story about to break out.)
when my two teenage children are with my parents – their grandparents – in my home state, they consistently ask for stories about me as a child or teenager. they ask for stories to be told and retold. when they stumble onto one they haven’t heard before, they come to me and ask me to retell it also.

there’s more to this than the obvious surface stuff of finding out dirt on their dad. hearing these stories helps my kids gain more of a sense of identity, connecting them to the lineage of their origin. the stories become part of who they are. the stories become their stories.

throughout history, our current culture stands unique in our affinity to facts. families, throughout time, have been more interested in stories. in fact, education in jewish households was more about storytelling than anything else. before anyone had a copy of the bible or torah in their homes, oral histories (not even printed stories, let alone printed propositions) were the primary means of remembering who we are, of remembering where we came from.

case in point: the passover seder dinner is all about storytelling. each element of a passover dinner is meant to call up another important element of God’s great rescue, reminding the teller and listeners who they are as god’s chosen, as god’s beloved.

of course, jesus is a fantastic example for us in this: he was an amazing storyteller, often preferring a story (real or imaginary) over other forms of communication. jesus knew that stories capture imagination. stories allow listeners to find themselves in the characters. stories – especially the right stories – encourage us, as the lion king’s mufasa reminded his son simba, to “remember who you are.”

i love what paul (in a fatherly voice) writes to young timothy in 2 timothy 1:5 — i am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother lois and in your mother eunice and, i am persuaded, now lives in you also. paul doesn’t unpack the stories here, but he reminds timothy of stories tim knows well, and has heard over and over again his entire life, stories that tell him, “remember who you are.”

we parents tended to be pretty good about storytelling with our kids when they were little. we bought all those cardboard covered picture books and read them out loud until we wanted to do imaginary harm to the imaginary characters. we sat with our kids watching veggietales or other cute story videos. stories that were cute until about their seventh viewing (and not so much at their seven hundredth viewing). we sat on the edge of their beds at night, making up wild and wonderful tales, full of humor and pathos and wonderful morality and lessons of courage. try that with your 17 year-old son! (no, really, don’t.)

so when did we stop telling stories with our kids? and, more importantly, why did we stop telling stories with our kids?

sure, our stories have to evolve a bit, if we’re going to continue them with teenagers. storytelling with teenagers is less about snuggling and unicorns, and more about the real stuff of life. remember, normal teenagers view their parents as permanently middle-aged. they don’t have much imagination about what you were like as a child or teenager, unless you tell them.

if lines of communication are already open and strong in your family, storytelling is a great way to keep them that way. and you’ll be amazed at the other stuff that will come up before, during, and after stories.

but if lines of communication are already strained, i’d like you to hear a few things. first, don’t panic. you’re normal. yes, this is difficult; but it’s normal. in fact, your goal as a parent of teenager is to wean them from the dependence on you that was normal when they were children. relationships and independence and communication all – necessarily – shift during these years. to try to keep them from shifting actually does damage to your teenager’s development. but consider using stories to create a safe DMZ of communication.

even though it will feel forced at times (that’s ok – some level of uncomfortability is ok), structure some sharing times that are built around stories, not check lists of “what did you do?” that feel more like a gestapo interview than loving parental involvement. my friend, who now has a great relationship with his young adult son, used to tell his distant and moody then-16 year-old son, “you don’t have to like this, and you don’t have to make eye contact with me, and you don’t even have to say anything other than the bare minimum; but you will be going out to breakfast with me once a week until you’re 18, and you will listen to me tell you stories, and you will tell me one story about your week.”

storytelling, by the way, isn’t only important for younger generations. storytelling is beneficial for older generations also! in our culture of disposability and instant-everything, stories provide an anchoring, a macro-level picture of the values most important to us, values like obedience to god, courage, faith, hope, and love. 16 or 75, we all need to be re-anchored to those values.

one of the practices we have embraced in my family is storytelling around the dinner table. we have a no cell phones policy (which, these days, is less about taking phone calls than it is about texting or mobile facebooking or other interruptions that take place just below the edge of the dinner table). sometimes we take turns telling low points and high points of our day. with each of these comes a story. we all learn about each others’ values, each others’ needs, each others’ spiritual and emotional states. often, a story of the day will bring out a “that reminds me of the story of that time…,” with a request or one family member or another to retell one of our arsenal of favorites.

here are some ideas for you to try:

    host intergenerational storytelling dinners. instead of everyone bringing a dish to share, each person has to bring a story (or a few stories!) to share – real stories, not made-up stories. give the categories ahead of time, just like you would for a potluck, and have them choose stories in 2 or 3 categories. make sure you clear the date first with your teenager, because they’re who you really want there! shoot for at least one person or couple from every generation. allow for q&a after each story.
    highs and lows. described above as a practice my family uses, have each family member, over a meal, share a story of a high point and a low point of their day. if your family is open to it, you can add an ancient prayer element to this practice by together noticing where God was present in both the high and low moments.
    letter writing. yes, in these postmodern days, the art of writing snail mail seems almost ancient (especially to teenagers). but, particularly if you older relatives aren’t local to you, asking them to write out stories from their youth and young adult years can become family keepsakes.
    oral history recordings. many teenagers are skilled at simple video editing. challenge your teenager to interview grandparents and other older relatives (or, older people in your church) about what life was like when they were younger. video the interview, and edit it into a short piece you can keep. store them on youtube and share them with other family members (or church members), inviting them to add more.

nice review of ‘understanding your young teen’

benjamin kerns posted a thorough and generous review of understanding your young teen the other day. with his permission, here’s a selection from his post (click through to read the whole thing):

This book is conversational in tone which makes it incredibly easy to read. Every chapter has great stories to hook the reader and practical help for handling the many different topics discussed. Additionally, MarkO has invited other youth workers from diverse backgrounds and contexts to share their insights as well. These voices give a well balanced view for each topic and add just the right amount of variety to each chapter to keep the book from being monotone.

A potential danger is to take the casual and conversational tone as being a simple book with simple solutions. But don’t be lulled into this way of thinking. While every chapter has clever stories as their hook, the meat of each chapter is built on a solid foundation of experts in their respective fields. The combination of credible sources combined with MarkO’s contextual expertise, makes this book the perfect resource for the parent and youth worker.

MarkO resists the natural inclination to scare the reader into a “sky is falling” world view with the awful statistics about teenagers, at risk activities, the crumbling of morality, and the secularization of society. Instead, he leans into the goodness of God and reminds the reader how we survived this crazy time of our lives as well.

The picture MarkO paints of early adolescence is one of wonder and chaos. He explores hormones, cognitive and emotional development, relational change, independence, spiritual development and the changing and not so changing youth culture. In every chapter, the reader is left with a hope-filled impression that the early adolescents in our lives are going to be OK. And, just in case our current realities are seemingly hopeless, there are practical helps to move the reader into action.


adam mclane’s grade school children await to pack and ship boxes of this book for you (not the baby; adam doesn’t have him trained to pack boxes yet). order one, or get a bunch of ’em for the parents in your church! (btw: if you want to order a bunch, adam will give you a special bargain — contact him first)

youth ministry, parents, and logic

i’m writing a short book for barefoot ministries on parents (not for parents, but about parents). it’s one of three short books geared for volunteer youth workers that will be released as ebooks. the other two are on understanding teenagers and leading small groups.

while i don’t agree with the “abolish youth ministry” viewpoint of divided: the movie, i totally think there’s some undergirding truth to the need for ongoing reshaping of our perspectives on parents. to that end, i just wrote these three sentences in the manuscript of the book:

There’s some big picture logic we have to embrace:

If we care about the spiritual formation of teenagers, and know that parents have a bigger impact on their spiritual lives than anything else, we would be foolish not to invest time and energy into parents of teenagers.

If we, ultimately, care about the whole lives of teenagers, and know that their parents have a bigger influence on their whole lives than any other influence (including their peers, and certainly including us), it would be arrogant or myopic to ignore parents in our youth ministry strategies.

If we see in scripture that parents have the primary responsibility for the spiritual shaping of their children, we would be biblical revisionists or showing our ignorance to attempt any youth ministry approach that circumvents parents.

what’s your response?

(as an aside, what’s it say that when i looked at google images with “parent” and “teenager” in the search, the majority of images are of parents and teens in conflict?)

middle school culture, part 4

i have a new book releasing in december for parents, called Understanding Your Young Teen: Practical Wisdom for Parents. the book is a significant rewrite of some of my chapters from the book scott rubin and i co-authored a couple years ago, called Middle School Ministry. In this series, i’m excerpting portions of one of the chapters, called “White-Hot Temporary (Early Adolescent Culture)”.

my first post in this series covered a culture of information, and a culture of immediacy. the second post in the series included a disposable culture, and a culture of consumerism. the third post included an intense but temporary culture, and a networked culture.


A Driven yet Sedentary Culture
This is an interesting, paradoxical tension among young teens today. On the one hand, the pressures on middle schoolers are greater now than they’ve ever been. Today’s young teens are driven in ways that are almost scary. Some of this drivenness comes from their own choosing; but most of it is an external drive from parents and schools.

Not all kids play sports, of course; but for those who do, involvement in sports seems to be less about having fun and getting exercise. Instead, involvement in sports often carries with it a sense of the future: What doors will this open? Sports are seen in a utilitarian sense, as a means to get somewhere in life. In other words, the pursuit of the American dream (financial freedom and career success) is more competitive and fleeting than ever. And sports are seen as one of the many Lego pieces that will build an edge over others, increasing the likelihood of “success.”

Yet sports are only one example. We see this driven reality play out in the lives of countless nonsporting middle schoolers, too. The message seems to be: You must be the best at something if you hope to be successful in life.

Of course, this plays out academically also. Not every kid is college-bound, but the pressure to succeed academically permeates much of teenage culture–including the culture of young teens. I’m pretty sure there was no such thing as SAT prep for middle schoolers when we were that age.

But with all this pressure and drivenness, there’s an odd tension at play in the lives of young teens: They are more sedentary than ever. They don’t move as much. They watch more TV, sit at computers, sit in their rooms and text their friends, and sit in front of gaming systems for hours on end. The notion of a pick-up game of stickball in the street has little more than an old-timey Norman Rockwell vibe to it these days. When the young teen guys I know get together with friends, it’s rarely for any kind of physical activity; young teen guys typically get together to play video games.

middle school culture, part 1

i have a new book releasing in december for parents, called Understanding Your Young Teen: Practical Wisdom for Parents. the book is a significant rewrite of some of my chapters from the book scott rubin and i co-authored a couple years ago, called Middle School Ministry. In this series, i’m excerpting portions of one of the chapters, called “White-Hot Temporary (Early Adolescent Culture)”.


A Culture of Information
We all live in a culture of information. So, in a sense, this isn’t unique to young teens. What is unique is that this reality is shaping them significantly during their early adolescent development and in ways that weren’t true prior to the last decade. What’s also unique is that today’s young teens have always lived in a culture of information.

Almost every bit of information needed (as well as excessive quantities of information that are not wanted or needed) is available with the click of a mouse and in ways that shape our worldviews. This is both about access to information and the onslaught of information. The access of information shapes middle schoolers’ culture of immediacy, their sense of entitlement, and their work ethic. On the other hand, the onslaught of information has a numbing effect. Since everything middle schoolers need to know is readily available and since they’re constantly bombarded with suggestions and data of every sort, they’re less attentive to the stuff that passes by.

A Culture of Immediacy
Think for a minute about the things you had to wait for as a middle schooler that today’s middle schoolers don’t. They can take a picture on their cameras or cell phones and see the results instantly. They hear a song on the radio, and they can instantly download it to their computers or cell phones. Want to buy something? They can jump online in seconds, browse a customized and instantly generated list of sites, get others’ input about an item via user comments, and then, if they want the item, make an instant purchase and wait a day or two at most for the item to arrive. If you’ve ever been “stuck” somewhere without your cell phone and tried to find a pay phone to make a call, then you’ve been reminded of this shift.

Sure, you and I also have access to all this immediacy. But most of us didn’t grow up with this being normative. Today’s young teens have never known a world without instant everything. Doesn’t it strike you as funny that their idea of “old time hominess” includes making bread in a computer-enabled machine that does all the work?

Here’s a great example of this shift: For us adults, email communication changed everything. We were able to send and receive written communication without writing it by hand and going through the “hassle” of using the postal system. Written communication became almost instantaneous. But no one predicted that teenagers would dispose of email as being too slow and clunky and then opt for the intensely more immediate communication pathway of text messaging. We adults saw text messaging as a utilitarian means of quick planning. Teenagers turned it into a social phenomenon.

Middle schoolers don’t have a willingness (or perhaps even the capacity) to wait for anything. Our culture has trained them to expect everything instantly. Patience is a rough one; “delayed gratification” is a foreign concept; and slowness can have a deeply profound impact on them, since it’s something they simply don’t experience in their everyday lives.


still to come: A Disposable Culture, A Culture of Consumerism, An Intense but Temporary Culture, A Networked Culture, and A Driven yet Sedentary Culture

“wave at the bus” (this dad is my hero)

it’s in the dad rulebook that a certain level of embarrassing your teenager, when done in a way that doesn’t belittle them, is golden. when it’s self-mocking, it’s even better. (my teenage daughter has, many times, said something to the tune of, “dad, your such a dork,” when she really means, “i love you.” or, at least, that’s how i hear it.)

so dale price, a dad in american fork, utah, is my hero.

here’s the story:

dale has a 16 year-old son who just finished his sophomore year of high school. on the first day of school, when rain (the son) was still 15, he walked to the school bus stop. his parents realized that the bus route had changed, and was going to bring rain — now on the bus — right back past their house. so they stood outside and waived to him as the bus passed. classed and awesome dorky parent move.

of course, rain was embarrassed. that was like catnip to dale.

so the next day, as the bus passed, dale was outside waving, dressed like this:

on day 3, he waved while dressed like this:

and, by then, he knew he was going to keep this up for the entire school year.

his wife, rochelle, recorded every day of it on a blog, logically called wave at the bus. yup, 170 costumes. 170 waves. 170 chances to subtly (as dale says in an article linked on the blog) say “i love you” to his teenage son.

check out the blog for all 170 photos, and some pretty funny explanations. but here are a few more choice days:

my talks on extended adolescence to the parents at my church

recently my church held an amazing ‘parent summit’ on a saturday morning. we’ve done these before, but this one took it up about 16 notches. we had an amazing turn-out, and great participation. our ‘generations pastor’, brian berry, blogged an overview of the whole day here.

here’s the link for the podcast page of the content for the whole day.

but i was asked me to specifically address the topic of extended adolescence.

my first talk, to all the parents, was called THE ILLUSION OF ADOLESCENCE, AND HOW IT’S DAMAGING OUR CHILDREN. if you want to hear it, it starts at the 8-minute mark on this mp3 (but brian berry’s opening comments are really worth hearing also), and i land with a bump just before the 32-minute mark. i was feelin’ a bit feisty, as you might notice.

then, my talk to only the parents of teenagers, on how we can respond to the reality i talked about in that earlier piece, starts at the 17-minute mark, and ends at the 45-minute mark here

open letter to parents of teens

a youth ministry friend pointed out this amazing blog post, by scott linscott (didn’t his parents realize he already had a “scott” in his last name?). he writes as a parent of young adults. this is what so many of us youth workers have wanted to say to (some) parents over the years; and scott says it so well. with his permission, i’ll post it in its entirety here:

The church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

1) Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities. Encourage your child to put everything else aside for academic gain. Afterall, when they are 24 and not interested in faith and following Christ, you’ll still be thrilled that they got an A in pre-calculus, right? Instead of teaching them balance, teach them that all else comes second to academics. Quick … who graduated in the top 5 of your high school class? Unless you were one of them, I bet you have no idea. I don’t.

2) Chase the gold ball first and foremost. Afterall, your child is a star. Drive 400 miles so your child can play hockey but refuse to take them to a home group bible study because it’s 20 minutes away.

2b) Buy into the “select,” “elite,” “premier” titles for leagues that play outside of the school season and take pride in your kid wearing the label. Hey now, he’s an All-Star! No one would pay $1000 for their kid to join, “Bunch-of-kids-paying-to-play Team.” But, “Elite?!?” Boy, howdy! That’s the big time!

2c) Believe the school coach who tells you that your kid won’t play if he doesn’t play in the offseason. The truth is, if your kid really is a star, he could go to Disney for the first week of the season and come back and start for his school team. The determined coach might make him sit a whole game to teach him a lesson. But, trust me, if Julie can shoot the rock for 20 points a game, she’s in the lineup. I remember a stellar soccer athlete who played with my son in high school. Chris missed the entire preseason because of winning a national baseball championship. With no workouts, no double sessions, his first day back with the soccer team, he started and scored two goals. Several hard-working “premier” players sat on the bench and watched him do it. (Chris never played soccer outside the school season but was a perpetual district all-star selection.) The hard reality is, if your kid is not a star, an average of 3 new stars a year will play varsity as freshmen. That means there’s always 12 kids who are the top prospects. Swallow hard and encourage your kid to improve but be careful what you sacrifice to make him a star at little Podunk High here in Maine.

2d) By the way, just because your kid got a letter inviting him to attend a baseball camp in West Virginia does not mean he is being recruited. You’ll know when recruiting happens. Coaches start calling as regularly as telemarketers, they send your kid handwritten notes and they often bypass you to talk to your kid. A letter with a printed label from an athletic department is not recruitment. When a coach shows up to watch your kid play and then talks to you and your kid, that’s recruiting.

3) Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty. I see it all the time. Faith activities fly out the window when students say, “I’d like to, but I have to work.” Parents think jobs teach responsibility when, in reality, most students are merely accumulating wealth to buy the things they want. Our kids learn that faith activities should be put aside for the “responsibility” of holding a job. They will never again get to spend 100% of their paychecks on the stuff they want.

3b) Make them pay outright for faith activities like youth retreats and faith community activities while you support their sports, music, drama and endeavors with checks for camps and “select” groups and expensive equipment. This sends a loud and clear message of what you really want to see them involved in and what you value most. Complain loudly about how expensive a three-day youth event is but then don’t bat an eye when you pay four times that for a three-day sports camp.

4) Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship. Connections with others is what drives kids to be involved. It’s the reason that peer pressure is such a big deal in adolescence. Sending kids to bible classes and lectures is almost entirely ineffective apart from relationship and friendships that help them process what they learn. As kids share faith experiences like retreats, mission trips and student ministry fun, they build common bonds with one another that work as a glue to Christian community. In fact, a strong argument can be made that faith is designed to be lived in community with other believers. By doing all you can to keep your kids from experiencing the bonds of love in a Christian community, you help insure that they can easily walk away without feeling like they are missing anything. Kids build friendships with the kids they spend time with.

5) Model apathy in your own life. If following Jesus is only about sitting in a church service once a week and going to meetings, young adults opt out. Teenagers and young adults are looking for things that are worth their time. Authentic, genuine, relevant relationships where people are growing in relationship with Jesus is appealing. Meaningless duty and ritual holds no attraction.

There are no guarantees that your children will follow Christ even if you have a vibrant, purposeful relationship with Him. But, on the other hand, if we, as parents do not do all we can to help our children develop meaningful relationships in Jesus, we miss a major opportunity to lead them and show them the path worth walking.

I want my kids to see that their dad follows Jesus with everything. I want them to know that my greatest hope for them is that they follow Him too.

Mt. 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (The Message)

On a personal note: I know the struggle. My wife and I have lived the struggle firsthand. My son was recruited by a few D1 NCAA schools for baseball and opted instead to attend a small D3 school. My daughter was recruited to play field hockey by a couple D2 programs and ended up playing D3 when the scholarship offer was not enough to make her top school affordable. Both played in “premier” leagues. Both got A’s in high school though we often told them not to stress out too much over it. Both are in honor societies in college and my son now has offers from UNC, Univ. of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins and Weil Cornell for a Phd in Pharmacology. Neither ever missed a youth group retreat, conference or mission trip because of their sports or academic commitments. Both missed a game or two to attend faith-based activities. Both missed school for family vacations. Both held down part-time jobs in high school and learned to give employers advance notice for upcoming retreats. My son often changed into his baseball uniform at church to arrive in the third inning of Sunday games. Robin and I did all we could to make sure they connected in student ministry even when it meant driving straight from a tournament to a music festival at midnight so that they would not miss out. It was that important to us. My youngest, a culinary student, lost a restaurant job because he went on a mission trip. That’s fine. Thankfully, all 3 have strong faith walks today. That is due only to God’s grace. But, I do believe that our efforts and example helped them long for a community-based faith.