This series was first launched on June, 2014.  It is a collaboration between myself, Rich Andrews, and Scott Foreman.  These letters are things that we have talked about, prayed about, and shared with parents and leaders alike.  Enjoy.

What’s Your Philosophy?

06/2014 By Brad

This is part 1 of an honest, open letter to parents of teenagers. Contributions to this series are made from Rich Andrews, director of Word of Life Florida in Hudson, FL, and Scott Foreman, former director of Word of Life Canada in Owen Sound, and Associate Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Sewall, New Jersey.  Follow Rich on twitter here, and Scott here.

Part 1 – What’s Your Philosophy? – Brad Smith

Dear Parents of Teenagers,
The good news is that you survived the terrible two’s!  For some, that seems like a lifetime ago.  Being a parent, no matter how old your children are, is really tough.  It is exhausting.  It is confusing.  It is exhilarating.  It is a ton of fun!  It is a ton of heartbreaks.  I believe that it is the most difficult time in history to be a teenager, which means that it is the most difficult time in history to be the parent of a teenager.  Over the last year and a half or so, I have been troubled by what I see going on in families.  I am concerned that we are losing our teenagers to complacency, worldliness and sin because we are losing the battle in the home.
So let me ask you this: what is your philosophy of parenting?  What are you trying to accomplish in and with your teenager?  Do you even have a plan?  Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and others have said that if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.  In other words, no plan is not a good plan.
What do you want your teenager to look like, not just as an adult, but all through their teenage years?  Some may say they want them to be a productive member of society, while others will say they want a good athlete.  Yet others will say they want them to be a good business man or woman, or enter the field of medicine.  While those are all good and productive statements, they are also temporary.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:16-18, ” Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  Look again at verse 18 – we don’t focus on the temporary, but the eternal. Are you raising your teenager to focus on the temporary or on the eternal?
You may not think that it matters, but it actually does.  It matters to God.  God has us here on earth for a very specific purpose: to glorify God and tell others about Jesus.  That is our calling; that is our job.  How we earn our paycheck matters very little, if we have that purpose in mind.  Someone who is a truck driver or a doctor or a teacher can have as much eternal impact as a pastor if they have this philosophy in mind.
The what is – I want my teenager to glorify God and tell others about Jesus.  So we now need to talk about the how – how do we accomplish that?  The number one way, hands down, without reservation is that you model it in your own life.  No one like hypocrites.  We have found that this generation of Millennials has very little tolerance for adults who say, “Do I as I say, not as I do.”  This is scary, because for many of us that means that we may need to make some major changes in our own lives.  Let me ask you this, parent: how is your own, personal, daily time with Jesus?  How is your own church attendance and involvement?  How is your own sexual purity?  How is your own involvement in missions? How is your own tithing and giving?  We need to first look in the mirror and see if who we are matches up with the Bible.  Before you get defeated, realize that we all struggle with sin.  We all struggle with not wanting to do what is right.  But God is a God who forgives and showers us with mercy and grace.  You can make changes in your own life first, and then you will see it in the lives of your teenagers.  When you are in an airplane, in an instance of an emergency, they instruct you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.  It is the same in parenting.
Number two way is to set guidelines and standards that are non-negotiable in your personal life and in your family life.  Over the next several weeks we will be laying these things out for you.  But there has to be a standard of right and wrong that you adhere to.  And yes, this includes repercussions for failing to keep these standards.
Number three is to be consistent.  This. Is. Hard.  We get tired or hungry or grumpy, and we don’t feel like using every possible moment as a teaching moment.  But we need to.  If we give an inch, we give a mile.
Number four is to rely on outside resources.  Here are a couple of books, blogs and podcasts that you can use to help guide you.

Of course, there are many more resources than that, but those are some good ones to start with.  So here is our challenge for today – decide what you want your teenager to look like today, tomorrow and as an adult.  Hopefully it looks something like, “I want my son/daughter to glorify God and tell others about Jesus.”  Next, begin formulating your plan to accomplish that in their life.  “I want my son/daughter to glorify God and tell others about Jesus, so I will begin to model that in my own life.  We will set Biblical standards in our lives, work hard to all be consistent in adhering to those and to using each moment as a teaching moment.”  You don’t have to formulate yours in those exact words, but it is a start.

In part 2, Scott will write about Social Media Purity.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Kik, SnapChat and more are all around us.  How can we keep our students pure in the midst of these?