photo by striatic
Somewhere between the ages of ten and twelve, a lot of kids develop a different spirit about themselves. It’s almost like a veil that descends on the happy go-lucky nature of the young child transitioning into the moody or oftentimes rebellious teenager. What happens?
A lot of things can be the cause of these changes - hormones, peer pressure, developing perception of independence, changes in relationship dynamics. For the teen who lives in a Christ-centered home, where love and affirmation rule over judgment and condemnation, the phase is usually relatively short-lived, with emphasis on the word relatively. For some parents it may seem like their child will never come out of it.
The moodiness and/or rebellious behavior may show up in church, too - slouched in their seat, arms folded in front of them, finding more interest in the lint on the shirt on the person in front of them than in the activities of worship. Beyond asking them to sit up out of respect for the pastor (which we always told our kids when we found them sitting that way), there are things you can do which will help engage them in the worship experience and in the life of the body of Christ.
Introduce your child to your pastor. I think this is a much overlooked relationship to cultivate. Most pastors make themselves available after the service to greet the congregation. Make it a point to stand in line, shake his hand and introduce your child. Do it every Sunday for several in a row. Make small talk of what your teen is doing in school or otherwise. You may find your teen beginning to look at your pastor as someone who is real and can be approached rather than a talking head.
Introduce your teen to role models. One of the unfortunate outcomes of conventional school settings is that most kids think it’s normal to age-segregate themselves. What a loss! There are so many wonderful examples of Christian men and women in your church who could provide inspiration or knowledge. Make it a point to introduce your child to them.
Engage in ministry together as a family. Don’t go your separate ways when you get to church. Find ways you can work together for the good of others. Our children often greet with us when it’s our turn. One family I know teaches Sunday school together to preschoolers. We have a coffee bar in our church where I’ve seen teens working alongside their parents.
Pray for people on your church’s prayer list. If you don’t know who they are, see about getting a pictorial directory if your church has one. It makes it easier for your teen to get to know the people he or she worships with.
Play the same kind of music at home. Especially if your church plays contemporary praise music, pop in a CD of something that was performed the previous Sunday. You might find a look of recognition on your teen’s face when it starts up. Singing along together is allowed and encouraged.
There are other ways of helping your child pay attention during the sermon, such as discussing the take away points on the way home, taking notes together, writing down Bible references made and looking them up later or asking your child to share three things he learned in church today.
These are all good (and I think necessary), but what needs to be encouraged is something more of an investment. The key word here is engage. By getting your teen to look outside of himself, you’ll help him develop a fellowship with other believers that will benefit him in the short run, and hopefully, as he pulls himself out of his teen funk as a lifestyle, will allow him to be a benefit to others around him.
So, while you’re teaching and sharing and discipling at home, help your teen weather the transition into adolescence at church, too. It’ll be a blessing all the way around.
Recommend the TGMT blog to your church's website as a resource for other parents in your church. Thanks ahead of time!