Parents, A New School Year, Extra-Curricular Busyness, and Prioritizing Faith. . .

This week, we released the September edition of our CPYU Monthly Parent Page. . . a subscription-based resource that hundreds of youth workers and churches provide to their parents as a tool to equip them to parent better by understanding how the Gospel speaks to parenting in today’s rapidly changing youth culture. (A subscription costs a measly $5 a month for unlimited rights! You can subscribe here.)

In light of changes taking place in today’s youth culture that are contributing to a crisis in Christian parenting. . . a crisis that is doing anything but facilitating the Christian nurture of our kids. . . I penned the following challenge to parents that appears on page 1 of the 4-page September 2018 edition of our Monthly Parent Page. Parents, perhaps it will help you reboot how you will parent over the coming school year.

School days are upon us and if your family is like most, your kids are involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities that keep you running from here, to there, to everywhere. If we’re not careful, the school year will come and go so fast that we might get to June and realize we’ve pushed aside or even forgotten that our primary calling as Christian parents is not to serve our kids, but to serve our Lord by making the spiritual nurture of our kids our first priority.

With that in mind, here are four reminders that I trust will help you daily fulfill that nurturing responsibility in ways that will yield spiritual growth in your children and teens.

First, keep the main thing the main thing. I’ve heard it said that a parent’s checkbook and calendar are clear indicators of their parenting priorities. Go ahead and conduct an informal audit of both. Then honestly assess what that audit tells you about what you are communicating to your kids about what is and should be most important in life. Are they learning that following Jesus is just one more activity in a long list of things? Or, are they learning that following Jesus is the over-arching quest in life that should dictate everything else, including how we spend our time and money?  

Second, engage in idol-smashing. We might not ever set up and worship a literal golden cow, but the reality is that in today’s culture, there are more idols than ever before that clamor for our attention and allegiance. Idolatry enters into our lives when we take a good and wonderful created thing that’s been given to us by God, and we turn it into an ultimate thing that becomes an object of our worship. James tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). God has given us the goodness of created things not so they will become objects that we worship, but to point to our Creator (the giver of all good things) and spark our ongoing worship of Him. Whether it’s your children, your social standing, your online image, your kids’ grades and achievements, etc. . . “flee from idolatry” (I Corinthians 10:14).

Third, teach your kids to integrate their faith into all of life. God calls us to follow Him in every nook, cranny, and square inch of life. Paul Tripp writes, “If you’re God’s child, the gospel isn’t an aspect of your life, it is your life; that is, it is the window through which you look at everything.” Tripp challenges us to see the Gospel not only as an entry point (coming to faith) and an exit point (going to heaven), but as something for the here and now that should shape our identity, pursuits, and struggles. Are you teaching your kids how to integrate their faith into their academics, vocation, relationships, play, and everything else in life?

Finally, force. . . yes force. . . your kids to rest.  Research points to the many ways in which over-scheduling and the pressures of life are leading kids into a constant state of anxiety and stress. Perhaps a long-overdue counter-cultural approach that’s obedient to the Lord’s commands is what’s needed. God made us for a rhythm of work and rest. Our bodies, minds, and spirits need to shut down regularly. Your kids need nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each and every night. We need a weekly Sabbath rest. And family vacations and time off are needed for rest and replenishment.

As the school year begins, why not seize it as a fresh start for your parenting priorities and practices?

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