Parental Dogmatism

Parental Dogmatism

Now, that’s a title worth chewing on! What could I possibly mean by Parental Dogmatism? Dogmatism is defined as; (n) arrogant, stubborn assertion of opinion or belief; a statement of a point of view as if it were an established fact. I’m sure, from that definition alone; you can tell which direction the rudder is driving.

I am in the middle of a huge calamity between two sets of parents (yes, you read that right) and their children. The root of this calamity comes from the mother and father (now divorced) who constantly fight and argue over whose turn it is with their children. This escalates into further degradation of one another, in the presence of their teens, by means of slander and legal issues. It seems that these teens have lived among hatred and ill tempers, from both sides, all of their lives. Somehow, by God’s Amazing Grace, these teens have turned out to be respectful, courteous, well mannered, and successful in school, totally excelling in sports, AND neither girl teen nor boy teen holds interest in a significant other (that I am aware). What more could a parent ask for? The two teens are completely committed to church, the praise team, youth group, and any other function remotely related. They have, by far, surpassed my every expectation of how they would handle their given circumstances. So what!? The fact of the matter is that they have been living with this situation their entire childhood. I see the teens agonizing over circumstances weighted on them by their parents. For instance, “Why was father was doing this & that, or Why is you mother is always talking bad about me, Your dad is this and that, You mom never did this or that, etc etc? What teenager should ever have to serve as a mediator between their parents… not a single one! Unfortunately, THEY do!

Parents/guardians, have we completely forgotten what scripture demands of us? “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”. Ephesians 6:4 (NASB). The word fathers, in this blog, pertains to all headship guardians. If you are in authority over your children, or any child, it applies directly to you. Divorced parents, when will you realize that you are killing your children by playing them against the other parent. If you want respect from your children; they must see you portray a life of respect, humility, submission, and so forth. When will you understand that your dogmatic intention to “rule them with an iron fist” is only driving the wedge deeper and deeper? When are we as parents, counselors, pastors, small group leaders, etc, EVER going to wake up to the realization that if WE do not reach them (youth) with the gospel, Satan will reach them with his?

I have watched, for years, as these two teens have played the mediator between father and mother. All the while these teens are trying to find peace, love, and little understanding through this storm; neither parent seems to acknowledge their child’s desperation. The only interaction, now-a-days, that either parent seems to give their teen is a list of investigative inquires about the other parent. We teach our children at a young age to get along with others; when did this become foreign to us as adults? When did we regress into children? Why do we wrestle against principalities of evil when we have an ultimate mediator, Jesus Christ, who will do our fighting for us? (Exodus 14:10-14) Have we as guardians, parents, and adults become another peer? I would sincerely hope not!

Dogmatism has got to give way to unconditional love and tender mercies. Even a blacksmith realizes that the constant beating of metal will substantially weaken its ability to perform. Stop beating the dead horse! (insert your own euphemism here) Shelter your children, guide them through the Word, and pray with them on all occasions. And, pray for them without ceasing!

I have the amazing privilege to be the son of two of the most loving parents I have ever seen. (Ok, maybe I’m a bit biased, but I was taught, not just shown, what love is.) I never lacked ANYTHING; in fact my parents sacrificed, loved, and guided me so much that I could never begin to repay, nor would they ever accept it. Struggling parents, I encourage you to find other parents that have more experience, life lessons and Godly wisdom than you and cling tightly to them. You don’t always have to have older children to be the wiser parent. God imparts wisdom upon those who hunger and thirst for it. Let love be without hypocrisy, abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Fight the good the fight, and stay the course, your crown is laid up for you (tid-bits of a few of my favorite verses: Romans 12:9, 2 Tim 4:7-8).

Perhaps this will become a series on parenting (as if I could possibly offer advice). You do not have to have children to be a parent; it is the motive of your heart. Likewise, not all adults with children should be considered parents; it is the motive of your heart! God Bless!

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


The Practice Game_ Part 4

Teens Are Sensual

Of course, because we expect teens to be walking hormones, when you read the title you assumed (and I am assuming this) that I was going to talk about how all teens are hormonal crazed lunatics, but that, first of all is not completely true and secondly that’s not the point of this blog. What I mean by sensual is that they are driven, like everyone, by their senses. What they hear and see affect their emotions and how they feel is what they go by.

What I’d like for you to consider is this; people’s lives are dictated by externals. As much as we’d like to assume that we are all SPIRIT led to the core, the fact of the matter is that we are very fleshly. As we grow in maturity, we begin to be able to balance those externals with wisdom, hopefully, and become more stable. We are still affected by externals and media producers have come to understand that in order to get our attention they have to use sensationalism. BANG, POW, BOOM!!! You get the idea. The news is filled with the biggest stories, the series on TV are flashy and the movies, musicians, tabloids and such are always over the top because they have to be. In order to cram an (!) in our face that must use the largest attract of our senses to captivate our drive. An (!) is big, it’s outrageous and it demands your attention now!

Your teens aren’t opposed to an (!) in their lives, they are all about an (!) because they are at the beginning of their foray into the world of independent sensory decision making. Before now their parents dictated where any (!) would be in their lives. They were told what was important, what was worth their time and how they should feel about things from their parent/guardians perspective. They didn’t choose their movies, books, friends, etc. so if there was an (!) anywhere it was filtered through their parents’ wisdom, which is not a bad thing AT ALL. This is true in most cases, but not in all and you may have some kids in your group whose parents are not exactly the brightest tool in the shed and have allowed their kids to fill their little mental pockets with whatever (!) they could get a hold of since they were five. That’s the kid you need to keep closest to you for his/her sake and the sake of the other kids in your group.

That’s why teen magazines and movies are sensational! You’ll see an (!) in their lives when it comes to relationships, emotions, problems, fears, etc, etc. They seem to thrive on an (!) and gather around it like moths to a flame. This is normal and you should expect it.

You can be a very effective youth pastor if you understand that you are not going to be able to take the (!) out of your youth group but instead you become an (!) filter. Find out what’s going on in their worlds and without being condescending give them insight from an external perspective. That external perspective I’m speaking of is YOU. You speak into what they are watching, listening to and what they are being affected by.

One more thing, if your teens are all about an (!) and your youth services or small groups don’t have an (!) in them, you will not reach into your kids’ lives. They will be bored (!) and hate any (!), not dislike, hate, any (!) coming to your class or meeting. Your messages, discussions and gatherings need to generate a lasting (!) in your youth. They need to address the things that are affecting your teens in their everyday (!) filled lives. So, start right now thinking of how you can be an (!) filter and how you can generate an (!) in your youth services. With no (!) they’ll see you as a (,) in their lives. If your youth view you as a comma, you’ll become a mere momentary pause between two ideas, neither of them being you, or your ministry. I could definitely expound greater detail upon this issue, but for now I’ll lay it to rest and end with this most profound scripture. Thoughts?

1 Peter 5: 2-4 (NASB): (2) shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; (3) nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (4) And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.


The Practice Game_ Part 3

Be Intentional.

Most of these things will seem like no-brainers. It’s these simple things, however, that can make the difference between a good youth ministry and an effective youth ministry.

Can a youth ministry be good and not be effective? The answer is a resounding YES! It depends on the goal of the ministry. If your goal is to create a venue where teens can congregate, have good music and hear preaching you can certainly do that, but that doesn’t necessarily equate effectiveness. If it doesn’t change the lives and/or direction the teens are going in outside of the venue, and there is no transformation, no development, no difference in the lives of the teens than the ministry in Biblical terms it is not effective. Is it good? Yes. Fellowship in a positive environment is good, but is good what we are looking for as a youth ministry?

Effective comes from intention. You will see specific results if you have a specific plan. Are you trying to create community in your group? What community enhancing events have you planned? Do you have a group of kids that need to be born again? What have you done to create a pathway for them to gain the understanding of this somewhat abstract concept and apply it to their lives? Do you have a group of church kids that are inward focused and not reaching out to their school, family or world? How have you decided to lead the outward.

Effectiveness doesn’t just happen, it’s planned for. Each quarter I sit down with a team of leaders and dispense a plan for the remainder of the year. Although, up until recently, my plans have only been short term (as in a few months out) it has proven to be somewhat helpful. I have recently been convicted of only offering short term goals- as if God is not big enough to extend to such lengths. My plans... JUST GOT BIGGER!

As a leader, especially of young hearts and minds, I must remember that my plans are not His plans (Isaiah 55:8-9) and that I MUST spend countless hours in prayer and fasting to discern His rightful direction for my life in this ministry.

What needs to happen in your group? Find it, plan it, focus on your plan and see it happen.

If All Of Your Friends Think It’s Cool…

If you’ve got a “great” idea, a revolutionary idea even, that you are going to spring on your youth group and you call up all of your youth pastor friends and they think it’s “cool” and slap you on the back and hold their thumbs up, you might need to be worried.

We are trying to reach into a different generation, like missionaries. The first thing a missionary should do when they put their feet on the ground on the mission field is find someone that can translate the culture, not just the language. You need to do the same. You have young people around you (or you should) who understand their culture and the mission of the youth ministry. They are Ambassadors and are as important, if not more so, than the youth pastor because they are who truly interfaces with the youth culture.

You are reaching into their culture, they are in the culture. So before you move forward with this amazingly cool idea, ask a few of your “in house leaders” what they think. Chances are they might think it’s cool, too. But maybe not.


The Practice Game_ Part 2

Expect Greatness not Perfection.

1 Peter 5: 2-5 (KJV) says; “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (3) neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (4) And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (5) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

When people say the words “young people” they are really saying “youngpeople.” - One word, as a noun. Try it, out loud say young people the way you would normally say it. Why does this matter? Because when you say “youngpeople” instead of young people, you change the meaning of the words.

Youngpeople are a kind of quazi-human creatures that are outside of the realm of normal expectations. On the one hand we don’t expect a whole lot from them. We’re just glad they come to church and don’t have drugs in their pocket. On the other hand we expect perfection from them. “The ‘youngpeople’ should be the supreme example of what a person should be as a Christian. Their friends and family and the entire world are watching them and may be turned away from God if these “youngpeople” don’t do it exactly right.” I am exaggerating (a little) but you get the point.

Let’s look at the term the way we should, though. They are young, and they are people. I’m not trying to be sarcastic and yes, I know this is a simple concept, but it could change the way you relate to your “youngpeople.”

They are young. This means they aren’t going to have a lot of wisdom because they haven’t lived long enough to develop it. It means they are going to trust freely (for a while) and trust the wrong people and the right people. They are going to be FIERCELY loyal to their ideas, their music, their friends and the other things that make up their identity. They are going to be reckless and impulsive. The reason they are is because they don’t have a lot to lose. All of the investment has been from their parents. That’s not wrong or abnormal, it’s youth. I think maybe God designed them like that so they would be willing to go out and change the world. Do you remember when you thought you could do anything? They are going to be passionate. Your job isn’t to shut this all down and make them like you, they are not miniature adults, they don’t think like you because they don’t have all of the risks you have. Your job is to help them harness all of this energy and power, yes power, and point them in the right direction so they can make a difference in their world. If we preach “change the world” but never direct their paths what have we done... hindered or helped?

They are people. They are going to do amazing things, normal things and incredibly stupid things. They are going to be subject to their emotions, peer pressure (you still are), ups and downs and everything else everybody goes through. Don’t put them in the “youngpeople” category and limit them to that paradigm. They are people, created by God for a purpose with a capacity for greatness, but the propensity for failure. Expect greatness, but don’t expect perfection.


The Practice Game_ Part 1

Put Me In Coach... Im Ready to Play

Do you recall this catchy kid's tune? It has too often become the resounding theme of many youth ministers (or so called) of our churches today. Youth ministry has been used as a stepping stone until “real ministry” happens. It’s like a transitional time until the person can become a “real” pastor. I call it, “The Practice Game” mentality. IF THAT IS YOUR GOAL, THEN YOU ARE NOT A YOUTH PASTOR. Skip it and give the youth the privilege of having someone work in their lives because they have a passion for it, not as a rung in their ladder to success.

One of the reasons that youth ministries struggle so much with leadership and consistency is because so many youth pastors walk away from youth ministry in their early thirties taking years of experience with them. The misconception is that if you are going to be a youth pastor you have to be young but youth ministry is not restricted by age. I have met some fantastic youth pastors in their 40’s and 50’s and some young youth pastors that didn’t have a clue. I place myself in this last category often... having no clue, but extremely thankful for the mentors in my life that do.

If you are just starting out in youth ministry, find a couple of youth pastors that have been serving for years and connect with them. Your drive and willingness to take risks as a young person is an amazing asset to the youth ministry you are working with. The wisdom of veterans will be a great asset and balance to you. I have often called upon my mentors in great times of distress, discouragement, and confusion. I implore each young or old, new and experienced minister of students to seek out mentors and elders for your “corner”. If you have been in youth ministry for a while you should take an inventory of those around you. Are there any people that you have mentored? Are you connected with the next generation of leaders? If not you should reevaluate your core ministry goal. Why are you doing this?

Establish an Identity.

One of the most important, if not the most important thing for a teen and/or young adult is identity. A foundational part of developing a solid and vibrant youth ministry is to create an identity for your youth group. This can be tricky because we have bought into the idea that youth ministry is basically about slick marketing and advertising savvy.

If you hire somebody to design a good logo, or come up with a catchy name you have not developed identity. You have developed a brand.

Branding is good and it can be important, but it’s not the same thing as identity. Kids don’t wear a certain brand because of the name or the logo, they wear it because it means something, and something they can and/or are willing to “identify” with. The brand and logo are secondary to this more important concept: What does your youth ministry “mean”?

Define the ministry not in terms of cool graphics, catchy slogans or nifty logos, but in terms of purpose, value, cultural significance, and community. Is what the name and brand embody big enough? If you boil it all down is their something significant about what your youth ministry is doing other than creating an audience for you to speak to or a large number of teens gathered for bragging rights by you or the congregation you’re a part of?

What difference would it make in his/her life or world if a teen decided to buy into your concept? It’s got to be about more than coming to your church. If Christianity is about going to church it’s not about much.


Guest Post: Relatable Rebellion

Hello, I hope you all enjoy this guest post from Pastor Joel Stockstill. He is the Youth Pastor for Bethany Church in Baton Rouge, LA.

Relatable Rebellion

Over the last 10 years of dealing with young people and their struggle with the foul root of rebellion, there is a pattern I have noticed that goes far beyond youthfulness and affects all believers. This is what I would like to term “relatable rebellion.” This subtle rebellion is when someone disregards or discredits authority (God’s Word, Spirit, or especially delegated authority) due to the fact that “they can’t relate with me or what I’m facing.” Ex. If your a young person, then an older person could never understand you or your problems because they are old! Makes sense? If your married then a single person could never understand your problems….right? If your a parent, then someone who isn’t a parent could never understand your issues….right? And even if they are a parent but they don’t have teenagers then they, of course, don’t qualify to instruct or direct in your dilemma…right? If your the leader of 1000 then how could someone with 350 ever qualify to speak into your life? This endless form of excuse never fails to provide opportunity to disregard authority and a perfect escape route from obedience or accountability. Examples:

I was in a meeting with the parents of a teenage girl in the youth ministry and after talking with them about her issues (which were obviously from the dysfunction of her parents) the father presumed to tell me that I could not understand how to deal with his daughter because I “don’t have teenagers of my own.” Well, does that mean that every youth pastor has to grow his own teenagers before he\she can qualify to pastor teenagers? This is ridiculous!

Another arena of true deception regards that of race. Anyone who is of a different race, color, or even cultural background can easily be disregarded because, of course, they don’t “understand anything about me” if they are not of my exact descent. HOGWASH!! I do believe that God can use people of similar background to minister specific truths in our lives, but it is not a blank check to disregard or even attack someone because they are not of the same exact ethnicity or background. (Newsflash: truth is not relative to culture or race)

One final example, is the complete disregard of authority due to the fact that they “haven’t been through what I have.” This lie is used by those who have, for instance, gone through a divorce in their family and because authority has a great family they are disqualified in their direction or advice because they were blessed enough not to endure a divorce. This type of logic means that you would have to endure every type of trial or hurt in your life possible to pastor\lead even a handful of people. Recently, someone told a minister close to me who has a heart to see the addicted set free, that because they had not been addicted to drugs they would have no ability to minister to drug addicts. So really, the more sin you indulged in or bondage you had in your life, the more qualified you are to minister to the lost? This totally defies the ministry of Jesus!

Let’s talk about Jesus. Did he need to participate in fornication so he would qualify to straighten out people’s mess of immorality? NO! Did he have to participate in homosexuality to minister to homosexuals? NO! Was He an older man with grown children that could properly direct parents with older children? NO! Did he have years of marriage experience to be able to shepherd those who are married? NO! On and on I could go in showing how this false logic has justified people in their rebellion against the authority of Christ.

As you can see, we are all guilty of using this age old excuse to circumnavigate the true direction of Christ in our life. Many people are extremely miserable and frustrated with where they are in their walk with the Lord (and life in general) because they fell/fall prey to this rebellious logic. I know in my life there have been many instances where, in my immaturity, I fell right into this deceptive trap of the enemy and completely justified my rebellion. There have even been times that I have justified things by saying to myself “they have never had kidney failure.” Like someone needs to go through kidney failure to be my authority or direct me in the ways of Christ! I hope that as you have read this article the Spirit of God would expose this deception in your life and help you as a leader to see this argument rendered powerless in those you’ve been called to lead. It is my decision to refuse this subtle rebellion in my life and not allow anyone to disregard Christ’s authority because they have found some deficiency or difference.

Heb. 2:17-18 Therefore, it was necessary for Him to be made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God… Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.

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