To Date or Not To Date

Just when you think you know what you are doing as a parent. Just when you think “I’ve got this.” Just when you think you are a decent parent, your kids start dating. Then everything you thought you knew goes out the window. And you start over from square one.

Should we let our teenagers date? How old is old enough?

Kids in this country often start dating at such as young age. Kids are “dating” in middle school and even elementary. And by high school, they are playing house.

American culture has defined dating for teenagers as kissing, having sex, and using the word “babe” after every sentence. They try to act like they are practically married. It’s scary that this is the “norm.”

The emphasis of dating is on the physical not the relational or the spiritual.

A girl should get so lost in God, that a guy has to seek Him to find her.
~John Piper, Desiring God

There are two reasons why teenagers shouldn’t date in high school.

First, the obvious reason of teens and sex. It is hard to think of how many years my girls have before they will likely marry. If they get married at the same age I did, it will be in eight to ten years. That is a long time not to have sex in this culture.

Unless you live under a rock you probably know that most teens are having sex. And that includes those in the church. A significant number of kids from Christian households are growing up and deciding to have sex before marriage.

“80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex.” ~John Blake, CNN, “Why young Christians aren’t waiting anymore”

We are such a sex crazed nation. We have so perverted sex that it doesn’t seem to even resemble what God designed it to be. How do you come back from that? Is there any hope for our kids to remain pure?

Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.  Song of Solomon 8:4

If our kids awaken love at an early age, they may do things that they will later regret.

Second, we shouldn’t let our teenagers date in high school because it takes their focus off of God, family and school. Our kids’ jobs as teenagers is to love and obey God and His Son Jesus, to love their family, and to learn a skill or trade (go to school!). That’s pretty much it!

Same sex friends and church are also an important part of our teenagers’ lives. They need to be learning how to love others and participate in a community.

Anything else is pretty much a distraction at their age.

However, each parent has to decide what is best for their kids and their family. You know your teen. If you don’t let them date, are they likely to withdraw from you and sneak around? Or, will they be upset at first, but basically obey you? We should consider these things when making our decision.

We must weigh the risk of a breakdown of communication with our kids. Fostering open communication with our teenagers is crucial. Parenting teens requires a delicate balance. It is like walking a tightrope over a very deep canyon. If you get it wrong, you can fall to your death.

I am not saying that we should parent out of fear. However, very few of the issues parents face with teenagers are black and white.

Sometimes I miss the days when my girls were little and right and wrong was clear and obvious. I was an awesome parent then! But now I realize, even though young parents are physically exhausted and don’t have much time for themselves, it is much easier to know what to do. My husband and I have faced so many gray areas in our parenting lately that we have forgotten what black and white look like! It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.

I am in no way judging parents who do let their kids date in high school. We did. However, I am realizing that the ideal would have been for our kids to have waited to date. That would have been the ideal.

However, how much of life is ideal? Not much, I find. Especially in parenting teenagers in America in 2017! We do the very best we can, and realize that we are not perfect parents. I am not even close!

Ultimately, only God knows what twists and turns our kids will make on their way to the cross.

But, we can pray, and teach them that there isn’t anything that can separate them from the love of God. And that there is nothing they can do to earn, or lose, the grace that has been freely given to them.

A man 2,000 years ago hung on a cross, bloodied and beaten, for your kids and mine. Their sins have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb. That is all the hope we need.


Kim Kurtz is writing a book called, Pouring In: Instilling a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation, due to come out this fall. A majority of Christian kids leave the faith after they leave home. She explores why this is happening and what Christian parents can do differently to change the outcome for their kids.

 

Is Your Faith Contagious? 3 Things Teenagers Need To See In Their Parents

On a mission, I grabbed the Clorox wipes and hurried to the kitchen. All I could see was a teeming cesspool of germs. My daughter had just gotten over the flu and strep. So, I wiped down the refrigerator handles, the microwave, the faucets, door handles, and the knobs on the stove.

It has been a rough winter in our household. We have all been sick a lot. Thank goodness for the MinuteClinic! In-out-on antibiotics-and back to bed! And just my style . . . . no doctors!

Just like those pesky germs, our character, who we are, is likely to be contagious. Contagious to those around us, and contagious to our kids.

Think about it, have you ever caught yourself mimicking things your parents said or did during your childhood? We all have.

Our character is contagious. And if we are living a life in obedience to Christ, our faith will be contagious as well.

We, as Christian parents, are the first step in the equation of our kids’ faith. Whether our kids develop a personal, and passionate faith, or a casual, watered down faith, depends a great deal on the faith and character of Mom and Dad.

We are told that if we live by the Spirit we will bear fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22–23

If we long to reflect the image of Jesus in front of our kids, all of these characteristics should be our goal. However, there are three overarching themes in the character of Christ, under which everything else falls.

There are three characteristics of Christ that teenagers need to see in their parents to make following Him irresistible.

They must see . . .

1) Love

Kids must see their parents being people that love much. Love God, love their kids, and love others.

If someone asked you if you loved God, you would probably say, yes. We all would. But what does it really mean to love God? Love is not a feeling or a fact. As DC Talk sang back in the ‘90s, “Luv is a Verb.”

As disciples of Christ, we must actively, willfully, deliberately, intentionally, and fully love God and His Son, Jesus Christ above all else.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30-31

Michael Smalley posed this question during the sermon he gave at our church this Sunday. “What was Jesus’ love language?”

We all know the love languages from Gary Chapman’s 1995 book, The Five Love Languages.

  1. receiving gifts
  2. quality time
  3. words of affirmation
  4. acts of service
  5. physical touch

“What was Jesus’ love language?” I repeated in my head. I figured it was a trick question. All of them?

Michael went on to say that Jesus’ love language was obedience. Of course!

“If you love me, obey my commandments . . . Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.”  John 14:15,21

Our kids will see that we love Jesus if we are obeying his commands. It’s that simple.

Our kids will also see if we are a people who “love much” based on how we love them. We must be continually pouring love into them.

And, this one will seal the deal on what our kids think about us. Our kids must see us love others. Are we loving our neighbors? Are we loving difficult people? Are we loving our enemies?

2) Humility

The strongest defining characteristic of Jesus after love, was humility. No one has ever been higher or more worthy of praise that walked this earth than Jesus Christ. And no one has ever been more humble.

I have often thought that if I found out someday that Christianity wasn’t true, following Jesus would still have been the right way to live. Because of the call to humility.

When we put ourselves below others, they are lifted up. If we all lived like Jesus, we would be loving others and lifting each other up. Talk about an ideal society!

If you want your kids to have faith in Christ, there is nothing that can make Him more attractive than a display of humility in you.

3) Surrender

Many Christian kids growing up in the church never experience parents who surrender their lives to Christ. No wonder they are walking away.

If we don’t follow Christ with reckless abandon, then we might as well forget about passing on our faith at all. Why would we want to anyway? If we are not seeking to surrender our lives to Christ, then, He must not be that important to us. At least not important enough to do what He says.

If we want to show our kids a loving, good God, then we must surrender to Him first.

Love first, humility second, and surrender third. These are the ingredients that make our faith contagious.

It might be time to take inventory. As Christian parents, we must look in the mirror from time to time. Am I a loving person? Do I put other’s first? And, have I given everything I have and everything I am to God?

If you are brave enough, ask your kids what they see in you. You might be surprised by what they say.

Pumping Up Young People On The Drug Of Faith

I recently read Addie Zierman’s book, When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over. I adore Addie. She writes with such warmth. And though there is a slight difference in age between us, our stories are very similar. We both grew up fully immersed in the Evangelical life.

I could relate to the rituals and cliches of growing up in church. I could relate to the camps and mission trips. And I was all about my youth group friends and youth group crushes.

I could also relate to the disillusionment in my faith I experienced as I got older.

I was sprinkled as a baby, born again when I gave my life to Christ at church camp, and confirmed as a teenager. And I never missed a youth group activity, retreat or mission trip.

When Petra, Newsboys, WhiteHeart, DeGarmo and Key, Audio Adrenaline, and Jars of Clay, hit the radio waves in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that was all I listened to.

The band that rocked my world was DC Talk. Their first cassette (yea, I know, I’m old!), Heavenbound, was the first of its kind. It wasn’t just Christian rock, it was Christian rap! Finally, as a teenager, I could listen to the type of music I loved! And my parents approved.

I was really bummed when in 2000, Toby McKeehan (TobyMac), Kevin Max, and Michael Tate decided to break up and pursue solo careers. According to Wikipedia in 2002, the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music called DC Talk “the most popular overtly Christian act of all time.”

Along with DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Sandy Patti were also my favorites. Many nights I could be found in my room belting out Sandy Patti songs like, Another Time and Another Place or We Shall Behold Him.

What I remember looking forward to most about youth group were the boys. It was about who was hooking up with who. And youth group retreats were a hotbed of raging hormones.

Aaaahhhh, the magic of the Evangelical childhood.

It was the emotional rush of that last night of camp around the campfire. It was the spiritual high at concerts and during youth group worship. It was the mountaintop experience of summer camps and mission trips that kept me spiritually floating on air. As a youth in the church, Christianity, was one emotional or spiritual high after another.

When I left home and went to college, however, the highs ended and real life kicked in. The faith of my childhood and the world I later encountered were not in sync. They didn’t seem to fit together. They were like two positive ends of a magnet. So I did what most youth group graduates did, and left my faith behind.

Matt Bays expressed similar disillusionment with the faith from growing up in the church in his book, Finding God in the Ruins.

In time it would seem as though we’d all been given free tickets to The Greatest Show on Earth, and then when we arrived, nothing. No popcorn or lions. No ringmaster with a long whip strapped to his side. No trapeze, no high dive, no clowns, and no one being shot out of a cannon. Before we were saved, the preshow was exciting. But once we entered the big top, we found less pomp and more circumstance. We’d been had.

As young people, we were pumped up on the drug of faith. And we had our high. But it didn’t take long to come crashing down. All we knew was a kind of honeymoon phase of our faith. And nobody told us that the honeymoon would end.

Somehow, the message of the gospel got lost in translation for many Gen X’ers like Addie, Matt, and myself. It was one high after another. The Christianity that we came to know didn’t prepare us for a life of following Christ in the real world.

So, what can we learn from my and so many others’ experiences of growing up in the church?

We must be so careful not to pass on a superficial faith to our kids. It is a betrayal of the gospel. There is a misconception that in order to win kids to Christ, we have to misrepresent what it means to follow Him.

We don’t have to hide the truth of the gospel. We don’t have to constantly impress or entertain our youth. The true person of Jesus Christ, Himself, is captivating enough. We don’t need to dress Him up in order to make Him attractive. The gospel, in and of itself, is irresistible when it is truly understood.

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8


I would love to hear what your experience was like growing up in the church. Did it prepare you to carry your faith into adulthood?

Comment and subscribe now and join the conversation!

 

5 Life Questions Teenagers Need Help Answering

Parenting is an awesome responsibility; awesome in the fact that it is joyful and rewarding, and, awesome in the fact that it is an enormous undertaking. It is beautiful, breath-taking, frightening, intimidating, overwhelming, terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. What can I say, it’s awesome!

My kids are fourteen and sixteen. Finally, they are leaving the house wearing clean clothes that match. They no longer get knots in their hair. And, for the most part, they shower and wear clean underwear everyday.

Ahhh, the sweet, clean smell of success! And, like Nanny McPhee, I am tempted to walk off into the sunset satisfied with a job well done.

 . . . . but, wait! The job isn’t done yet!

It ain’t over until the fat lady sings! And she ain’t singing until my kids graduate from high school and leave home.

Much of our kids’ character and direction in life is forming during their teen years and into their twenties. As Christian parents, we mustn’t lose focus or parent on autopilot.

Our kids hit a fork in the road during adolescence. And the critical decisions they make at this juncture will determine the trajectory of their life.

1) They will ask questions of IDENTITY. Who am I?
  • Am I a beauty queen?
  • Am I an athlete?
  • Am I nerd?
  • Am I worthless?
  • Am I a child of God?

Teenagers are questioning their identity now more than ever.

Not only do they have to decide whether they will be the the criminal, the athlete, the basket case, the princess or the brain; and, what college to go to and what they want to be when they grow up. But, our kids are also faced with questions like, “What gender do I identify with?” and, “What is my sexual orientation?

The questions that young people are facing today are confusing at best and dangerous at worst.

If they don’t have guidance when answering these questions, they are likely to be overwhelmed by the lies of the world.

2) They will ask questions of PRIORITY. Who will I live for?
  • Will I live for myself?
  • Will I live for everyone around me?
  • Will I live for the person I love?
  • Will I live for God?

Kids will naturally answer the question, “who will I live for?” with a resounding “Me, of course!”

In a culture obsessed with self-esteem, we are told we should focus on ourselves. We should love ourselves. Because . . . “you’re worth it!”

Nowhere in scripture does it say to love yourself. The greatest love of all is NOT inside of you. The greatest love of all is the love of God.

How our kids answer the question of priority will determine the relational aspect of their future. Will they grow up to be in abusive, or codependent relationships? Will they be people pleasers? Will they be all about themselves?

It is up to Christian parents to model a life lived for God.

3) They will ask questions about REALITY. What is truth?
  • Is there one truth? or, . . .
  • Does everyone have their own truth?
  • Which religion is true?
  • Is God the author of truth?

Truth is what grounds us; morally and physically. Truth is what keeps us from floating around in space. The truth of gravity that is.

Establishing that truth is not relative but absolute is essential to passing on the faith to our kids. Without truth, everything else flies out the window.

“What’s true for me may not be true for you” makes no sense.

Belief can vary from one person to another. Truth cannot. Can a fact apply to one person and not apply to another? Of course not. Neither can truth.

4) They will ask questions about CONTENTMENT. Where will I find peace?
  • In relationships?
  • In substances or things?
  • In achievements or successes?
  • In God?

Coming out of the holidays, the phrase, “peace on earth,” is still fresh on our minds. We are told in scripture that when the truth of God is our foundation, peace is our reward.

The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.  Psalm 29:11

However, peace can be tricky. Peace within a family or between nations is not a guarantee in this life. How can our kids be content in Christ and have peace in such a troubled world?

As our kids trek into adulthood, they will need to learn contentment. Our kids will have to answer the questions, How will I be ok with ‘what is‘? and, Where will I find peace?

5) They will ask questions about SUFFERING. How will I cope with life?untitled-design-75
  • With alcohol?
  • With medications?
  • With relationships?
  • With God?

So many kids today don’t have any coping skills. This is evidenced in the high number of school shootings we have witnessed in the past 10 years, and the growing number of teen suicides.

When trials come, and come they will, life goes on whether we want it to or not. Kids need coping skills and they need to know where to go for comfort.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3


Teenagers need input from parents when deciding the answers to these critical questions. They need a voice of truth regularly pointing them toward God.

We hope and pray our kids will answer these questions in a way that puts their life in God’s hands.

  • Who am I? . . . . I am a child of God (Galatians 3:26)
  • Who will I live for? . . . . I will live my life for God (Romans 12:1)
  • What is truth? . . . . God is truth (John 14:6)
  • Where will I find peace? . . . . I will find peace in God (Psalm 46:10)
  • How will I cope with life? . . . . God will get me through (Isaiah 41:10)

Our role does change when our kids become teenagers. But we still have a role.

We cannot stop having input in our teenagers lives. Because the noise of the world will never cease. And, the pull of the world is strong.

So, just before your kids become teens, take a short breather and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Then, prepare yourself for the hardest stage of parenting.

If you have teenagers, then you are almost done with the race. Almost. Don’t give up so close to the finish line.

5 Elements that are toxic to the faith of our teenagers

Dark, ominous clouds rumble overhead. Tornado sirens go off in the distance. Torrential rain starts to beat down on the skylights overhead. I look at the radar, and red, everything is red!

There has been a storm brewing in my soul. Every time I start to relax and have a little peace, the raging winds of the storm blow it away. Like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, I look out the window into the funnel and see the wicked witch riding her bike, laughing and saying, “I’ll get you my little pretty!”

Raising teenagers is tough—tougher than I ever imagined. The hearts of my teenage girls are fragile and tender. And teaching them to ‘guard their hearts’ in the world they live in seems like an impossible task.

The more I talk with my kids lately, the more I realize that between school, all their devices, texting, and social media, they are living in a toxic world.


There are 5 elements that are toxic to the faith of our teenagers.

1. Toxic Friends

My daughter showed me a group text she got from a friend while I was cooking dinner the other night.

The text read, “If you are going to the football game on Friday, say, ‘I            .”

I can’t write the three words it said. I can’t even allude to what it said. It was so vile and repulsive.

I was shocked and had to see it for myself to believe it. I started to feel sick as I leaned over. Yep, that is exactly what it said. The room started to spin so I sat down.

I couldn’t believe I had just read those three words on my fourteen year old daughter’s phone! I was filled with disgust and then I got really angry.

“Mom, I hear that kind of thing everyday at school, it’s no big deal. I didn’t say it back.” 

2. Toxic Culture

“The world’s gone mad,” I was thinking several weeks ago.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know what I am talking about. The depressing state of the world is undeniable. This summer has been especially dire. Every time you turned around something awful had happened somewhere in the world. 

If it was a good day, meaning no mass killings, then it’s the Trump/Hillary debacle plastered all over the news and social media. Could we have picked 2 worse candidates? A rich playboy who has a god complex and a criminal. What is wrong with us?!

It’s no doubt that the world needs a good laugh right now. So I guess it’s good for something!

So, what is wrong with us? The answer is simple—we’re human. Left to our own devices we will thoroughly screw things up pretty much every time. And the more that God is removed from our culture, the more depraved our society will become.

3. Social Media Addiction 

As if drugs, alcoholism, and sexual addictions aren’t enough to worry about with our kids, we have to add social media addiction to the list.

The use of social media and smart phone technology is a great experiment. Our kids have so many devices at their fingertips everyday. They are the first generation to have contact with their friends and the world available 24/7.

How will they fare in 20, 30, or 50 years from now? We just don’t know.

My parents divorced when I was 9 in 1981. Divorce in America was at an all time high in the early 80’s. I call it “The Great Experiment”. Couples were divorcing left and right and no one knew the long term consequences it would have on kids.

Well, 20 and 30 years later we discovered that divorce is devastating to children. Ripple effects can be seen long into their adult life.

What will we say about social media when our kids are grown? How is technology going to affect their future?

4. Liberal Schools

God has been kicked out of the public schools. This is not news. We’ve been watching it happen slowly for decades. Each year our schools are becoming a less safe and nurturing environment for our kids.

The number of school shootings that have occurred since Columbine in 1999 is alarming. And through the years we have been hearing about violence in schools more and more.

Kids are lost. Kids are mean. And kids don’t know how to cope with life. Put a weapon in the hands of a young lost soul and tragedy will surely follow.

Schools are becoming more and more liberal. And the educational system is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity.

Are our kids being taught the truth in school? Are our kids being taught the truth in colleges and universities?

5. Lukewarm Churches

The church is the vessel of hope to this wretched world.

However, instead of infecting the world with the love of Christ, are we letting the world seep into our churches?

When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.  -Mark Yoder


So, what hope do we have?

We have hope in Jesus Christ. He is our only hope—but He is a big one! And, we have the joy of knowing that we will spend an eternity in glory with God the Father.

But what about the here and now? Can we find hope in this life? 

Hope is found in our families. Families are the building blocks of the church. And the family unit has power.

Taking back our families can change the world. Take back your days, don’t let every minute be filled with this sport or that activity. Spend time together as a family. Talk about the issues of the day and what scripture has to say about them.

You and I as Christian parents possess the antidote to this toxic world. We can’t save our kids, but the blood of Jesus can!