Spiritual Maturity: A Note to Parents
[Part 1 of a 4-part series]
Hi, my name is Gregg, and I may no longer be popular. This is one of those notes that has needed to be written for a long time. I’m certain I will infuriate some, offend several and, hopefully, motivate a few. But I’ve got to address parenting and priorities. I’m writing with the hope that this will provide talking points around the dinner table and action steps in family’s lives.
I’ve listened to parents lament that their child does not feel part of their youth group, and I’ve consoled parents when their college freshmen have made unhealthy choices. But many of those outcomes stem from what I believe are misplaced priorities.
Our church recently had a junior high retreat, an event in which I highly encouraged parents to register their child. Yet, these are some of the reasons parents shared as to why their child would not participate:
- He has a marching band competition that he can't miss.
- She can’t go because she has a soccer game.
- He has three things on his busy schedule that can't be rescheduled.
- She has to meet with her tutor to prep for a test.
- School commitments take up so much of his time.
All of the above are excellent activities and, honestly, reasonable explanations for why their child would not attend. I’m not criticizing the excuses, nor am I isolating the activities. What concerns me is that parents often fail to lead their children with the end goal in mind. Parents claim to have goals for their children, but I fear they aren't the best goals.
I have three children, two of them teenagers, and I want them to be physically fit, adept in social settings, achieve all they can academically, and plenty of other laudable goals. But my greatest desire, my biggest prayer, is that they would be spiritually mature. In fact, I am willing to sacrifice their education, their chair in the orchestra, or time on the playing field for them to walk out of my home and into the world prepared to succeed as best as possible.
Some might retort, “My child needs to do well in school or athletics in order to get into a top college. That has to take priority.” Again, hear my heart, I agree that is a valuable priority, but even if your son or daughter gets a full scholarship, unless he or she has the skills and knowledge necessary to overcome peer and intellectual pressure, that scholarship may end up being withdrawn or traded for unhealthy lifestyle choices. I’m all for education, but not at the expense of my children’s mental, emotional, or spiritual health.
I think the reason I haven't addressed this in the past is because it only affected me as a youth worker. While I believed the same things years ago, I feel them so much more because I am a parent who often fails to have the end goal in mind. I'm a parent who wrestles with priorities, and whether or not my children can skip church this week or next. I recognize now, more than ever, that the sand in my “kids at home” hourglass is all too quickly running out. I feel the pressure to do everything perfectly so that my kids don’t end up as statistics, don’t get hurt by their choices, and don’t miss out on all God has for them. Of course, perfect parenting is foolish. It’s both a heavy burden and an impossible aspiration. So I don’t strive for perfection, but the cry of my heart is that I make a right decision...today. And maybe another one tomorrow. How about a few next week?
Of course, sprinkled within and around those good parenting choices are plenty of horrible ones. But I'm looking to the future, praying for help, and seeking to connect with my kids today. And sometimes it means my kids miss a soccer game or don’t get to attend their play practice because I want them to attend a church event to further mold and develop their spiritual hearts. May God help us all as we parent.
To be continued....
Talk About It As a Family
- What goals does our family have for the health of the kids?
- Is it ever OK for an activity or goal to take the place of church or youth group? When?
- What are 1-2 things we can do as a family this week to help us connect with one another and with God?