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Life After the Empty Nest


Why one mother moved her family across the globe after a tsunami








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August 2013


volum e 35, NUMBER 11







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Off the Wire: Teens When it comes to body image, affirmation isn’t just for girls. by Robert Smith


Teen Issues: Cyberbullying Our “Teen Issues” series continues with a look at cyberbullying. by Gretchen Williams


Nine Ways to Keep Your Child in Church After High School Thousands of teens leave the church when they leave the house. How can you help buck the trend? by Steve Masters

12 Media 411 Steadicam comes to the iPhone. by Randy Williams

14 Life Stages: Passion Plans Use your teen’s passion to guide their transitions. by Becky Preble

16 Teen Voice: Left at the Nest One teen explains what it’s like to be left behind by the first sibling to leave for college. by Schuyler Daniel



18 Off the Wire: Parents

32 After the Nest

How much actual studying happens in a 15-minute study period? by Joy Fisher

20 What We Would Have Done Differently

Kerry and Chris Shook know something about parenting teenagers—and about regret. PT sat down for a candid Q&A.

24 Hey Dad, Got a Minute? How to stay joined at the hip—and the heart—with your teen. by Mark Merrill

26 Single Parenting Transitions should bring about rejoicing. by Dedra Herod

27 Blended Families Uninvited transitions can rattle blended families. by Gayla Grace

28 The Illusion of Control In 2004, Hilary Alan moved her teens across the globe—and learned a hard lesson about control. by Hilary Alan

A newfound peace in the home after the exit of your last teen may mean the end of teen chaos—but it doesn’t mean the end of your ministry. by Mike Wakefield

36 On Your Knees When praying your teen through transition, keep your eyes on God. by Kevin Garrett

37 Conversations To get your teen to open up about transitions, celebrate them! by Kevin Garrett

38 Book Reviews Downside Up can be a valuable tool to deal with rejection. by Cheryl Sloan Wray

40 The Reward of Reliance Is your faith in a spiritual desert? Find reliance in Jesus. by Ben Trueblood

43 In It Together Four Bible studies that look at some biblical transitions. by David Crim

august 2013 1

encouraging and equipping parents with biblical solutions to transform families Volume 35, Number 11 | August 2013 Vice President, Lifeway Church Resources | Eric Geiger Production & Ministry Team Editor | Scott Latta Graphic Designer | Kaitlin Redmond Editorial Team Leader | Mike Wakefield Send questions/comments to: Editor, Parenting Teens One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0144; Or make comments on the Web at Management Personnel Director, Student Ministry | Ben Trueblood Director, Student Ministry Publishing | Jeff Pratt Advertising One LifeWay Plaza, MSN 136, Nashville, TN 37234 Phone: (615) 251-2289 Fax (615) 251-2039 E-mail: Media kits: Director, Magazine Advertising & Circulation | Rhonda Edge Buescher Advertising Production | Scott Hancock Printed in the United States of America

Parenting Teens (ISSN 2167-8936; Item 005075228) is published monthly by LifeWay Press®, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234, Thom S. Rainer, President. © 2012, LifeWay Press®. For inquiries visit, or write LifeWay Church Resources Customer Service, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0113. For subscriptions or subscription address changes, visit, fax (615) 251-5818, or write to the above address. For bulk orders shipped to one address, visit, fax (615) 251-5933 or write to the above address. Annual individual or gift subscription, $22.50. Bulk orders shipped to one address when ordered with other literature, $1.55 each per month, plus shipping. Please allow six to eight weeks for arrival of first issue. Advertisement Disclaimer: This magazine includes paid advertisements for some products and services not affiliated with LifeWay. The inclusion of the paid advertisements does not constitute an endorsement by LifeWay Christian Resources of the products or services. All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.

editor’s note


Transitions start early. We moved from feeding them milk, to cereal, to solid food. We watched them go from immobile, to crawling, to walking. Once they just looked at the pictures, then they started reading. Lots of transitions. Early on, we welcomed those transitions. Remember how excited we were when they took their first steps? We captured it on video, called the grandparents, and announced it to our friends. During those years we had the transition pedal to the metal, speeding our kids along to grow up and move forward. However, somewhere in the teen years we switched from the accelerator to the brake. Because overnight she went from preschool to freshman year…his bicycle turned into a car…the sweet little boy she played with on the swingset is taking her to prom…and suddenly “Pomp and Circumstance” is playing and you’re in a puddle of tears wondering where the time went. Happens fast, doesn’t it? And though we want time to stand still, we know these transitions are part of life. Leaving our daughter, our firstborn, at college that first year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. As we drove away, my wife Tricia and I talked about how hard it was to leave her. Then she said this: “It’s hard, but it’s right. She’s where she’s supposed to be.” She was acknowledging the truth that our daughter (and son) are not actually ours—they belong to the Lord. We’re just stewards of the precious gifts. As our children have continued to transition we’ve held on to that mantra, seeking to embrace each transition through God’s grace and strength. I realize that some transitions are painful, brought on by tragic circumstances or sin’s consequences. If that’s what you’re facing, remember we serve a God who knows the reality of transition. He sent a Son from His home into the world. He watched His Son die. He understands your loss, your fear, and your questions. I pray you’ll lean into Him and experience His comfort during this season. In this issue of Parenting Teens, we’ve addressed some of the transitions you’re walking through. We pray you’ll be able to see God’s hand in all of them, even the painful ones, and trust your lives and your teens to His sovereign plan. Trusting Him,

Cover photo: Cody Bess

Check out our blog at

2 Parenting Teens

Trust in Transitions

Mike Wakefield Team Leader, Parenting Teens



your teen’s world

august 2013 3

Off the Wire:


Teen girls get a Plan B Earlier this year the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of Plan B, the “morning-after pill,” over the counter to girls 15 and older who can show ID to prove their age. Before, girls under 17 needed a prescription, and those over 17 had to ask for the drug from the pharmacist. This is a perfect example of how our culture’s view of teens and their sexuality has changed. Prior to this ruling teens would have had to consult an adult or doctor before having access to this pill. Now the ball is strictly in their court. Today’s teens are being encouraged to make decisions concerning their sexuality strictly based upon what feels right in the moment. It is so important for parents to have an ongoing conversation with their teens about sex, not just “the talk.” The conversation starts young, and it’s ongoing. It centers around God’s plan for your teen’s life and his or her sexuality. Source:

Boys and Body Image:

3 affirming messages

Girls aren’t the only ones who struggle with body image. Boys worry about their appearance, too. Sadly, many brands with products to sell have picked up on these insecurities. This has produced the need for parents to help their sons develop a healthy body image. The Huffington Post’s GalTime Blog recently published tips to affirm your son’s selfworth. Here are three: 1. You are good enough. Teen boys need all the encouragement they can get that how they look is good enough. Affirm your son’s worth, letting him know that he is good enough—regardless of how he compares physically to those around him.. 2. Looks aren’t everything. Emphasize character rather than physical attractiveness. Is he kind? Hard-working? Compassionate? Generous? Courageous? Responsible? Honest? Honorable? Proverbs 31:30 says it best: Beauty is fleeting. 3. Being healthy matters. Rather than appearance and body sculpting, emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Many bodily injuries and even some long-term damage can come from taking shortcuts to changing his physique. Source:

Fighting the Hip Dip What’s the newest word in teen self-image? Meet the “Hip Dip”—a negative term teen girls use to refer to the slight curve on the outside of their upper thighs. The hip dip may be a natural part of a young woman’s body, or it may simply result from the clothes they are wearing. Many girls are exercising in an attempt to get rid of this body feature. Parents—especially parents of teen girls—continue the ongoing conversation about body image, and make sure your son or daughter has a healthy perspective on how far is too far when it comes to caring about how they look. Source:

4 Parenting Teens


Parents must be cautious now more than ever about the rise in app technology. Not every teen has these apps on his or her phone, and, if they do, not every teen misuses them. However, here are five apps that parents need to be aware of for the safety and protection of their kid. 1. Snapchat. Snapchat is an app where you can share photos or videos to anyone in your contact list. Though it sounds innocent enough, the concern is that teens can set the time for how long the opposing party can view the message—in essence, a student could send a profane, perverted, or sexual picture to another student, with the promise that it will be nonexistent in 10 seconds. Snapchat is a great app for students who want to hide stuff from their parents. 2. Vine. Vine debuted in January and is an easy way to share a quick, sixsecond video with someone else. It can be dangerous, though, in that it has gotten many negative reviews due to pornographic material appearing on the app. 3. Bang with Friends. This app, which was banned from the Apple App Store in May, allows users to log in using Facebook and choose friends in your Facebook list who you would sleep with. It is anonymous, until that other person chooses you. If both parties choose each other, each party is notified that the other is up for it. 4. Twitter. Twitter is certainly nothing new. What is notable about it, however, is the mass of students migrating over from Facebook. Why? Most parents, pastors, and teachers have long discovered Facebook by now, and it is, therefore, no longer cool to hang out there. Some students create Twitter accounts with different names so that no one can find them. Be aware of your teen’s Twitter account, and if he has to block pastors, teachers, and even parents, there might be an underlying reason why. 5. YouTube. Like Twitter, YouTube is nothing new. YouTube can be very innocent, but the app becomes problematic when students use YouTube to view music videos. The top music videos viewed by teens are filled with images of sex, drugs, and money—all available for free on YouTube. Stay aware of how your teen is using YouTube by keeping an eye on the “recently viewed videos” link and keep up-to-date on how they use their phones.

5 Apps every parent should be aware of


Source: Josh Evans,

robert smith is a writer and speaker from Lawton, Okla. A former youth minister, he founded Upside Down Ministries, an organization that specializes in youth culture and parenting issues. Visit

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy new book releases from your favorite authors. But with so many options, it can be tough to determine which books to add to your summer reading list. To help out, we’ve built a web-based Summer Reading Guide featuring cover images, book descriptions, author names, purchase information, and more. So whether you’re planning to read by the pool, on the beach, or in your own backyard, make LifeWay’s Summer Reading Guide your first destination!

* T een||  Issues

Cyberbullying By Gretchen Williams

Today’s American teenagers are wired. They have never known life without the Internet, laptops, or cell phones, and it seems that these devices are permanently attached to their bodies. So it’s no surprise that one of the most difficult challenges teens face manifests itself profoundly through the use of technology. Bullying has been around since one-room schoolhouses. But the methods students can use to hurt one another have multiplied exponentially in recent years, namely in the form of cyberbullying. When rumors, name-calling, putdowns, harassment, threats, and intimidation from peers occurs online, the effects are magnified. An insult delivered at the lunch table reaches maybe a dozen students; online it can reach thousands in a matter of seconds and be recirculated for months. Whether through email, social media, instant message, text message, or smartphone applications, teens who seek to exert power over others will use any means to accomplish that task. These sites and apps aren’t inherently wrong or negative. But because

6 Parenting Teens

teens spend so much of their life online, they need you—their parents—to be familiar with this complicated social world and guide their decisions within it. When your teen is the victim According to a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics in May 2013, 16 percent of high school students have been victims of cyberbullying. Given that approximately one-third of bullying behavior goes unreported, that number is likely much higher, inching toward 50 percent. The study also showed that girls are twice as likely to be victims of cyberbullying than boys. Warning signs that your teen might be a victim of bullying include school avoidance, lack of interest/motivation, drop in grades, moodiness, frequent crying, physical complaints, trouble sleeping, change in appetite, increased social anxiety, decreased self-esteem, or social isolation. Victims of cyberbullying in particular may be emotionally sensitive to text messages or social media posts. If your teen shares with you that she is receiving aggressive messages, take it seriously. She needs to feel that


Ed. note: This is the eighth in a 12-part series on the social and moral challenges teenagers face in their everyday lives.

you are approachable and will follow up on her complaint. Use reflective listening—affirming her feelings and restating them—so she can feel understood; then help her come up with solutions to deal with the problem. Teaching her assertiveness and healthy conflict-resolution skills can increase her confidence. Here are some practical tips to give your teen if he or she is a victim of cyberbullying: • Ignore it and tell an adult. • Contact the social media website, school resource officer, or police department and make a report of harassment. • Get school personnel involved when necessary. • Keep all messages. Take a screen shot of the computer screen or save all texts. • Never confront the bully face to face. • Block the bully from your phone, social media account, or instant messaging function. When your teen is the bully “Bullies” are often depicted as angry or aggressive individuals with social or emotional problems. While this is often true, the profile of a bully is no longer the biggest guy in school with the intimidating stare. Some of the most aggressive forms of cyberbullying happen among girls, circulating nasty rumors, making a negative comment on a picture someone’s posted, or sending threatening text messages. Whatever the case, teens who bully—whether online or otherwise—seek popularity and higher social status, and they know that public humiliation is a powerful weapon to accomplish this. Bullies love an audience, which they can get instantly online, from “likes” and “follows” to comment threads. They also feel emboldened to post things they wouldn’t normally have the courage to say in person. If you learn that your teen has been acting aggressively online, find out what his or her motivation is. Is there some past hurt for which he is harboring resentment and anger? Is he feeling rejected and has decided to retaliate? Does she have unmet emotional needs, and if so, what are they? If your teen engages in bullying behavior repeatedly, he might benefit from ongoing support outside the family. Research shows that individual therapy is effective in helping teens learn anger management skills, build empathy for others, and develop higher self-esteem.

Helpful resources:

Here are some other steps that may curb the bullying behavior: • Eliminate physical aggression in the home. • Reduce your teen’s exposure to media violence. • Teach positive social skills (manners, body language, assertiveness, and empathy). • Spend quality time with your children on a regular basis. • Involve your teen in community service. •P  rovide opportunities for your teen to connect with other students in Christian community. It’s also important to teach your teen how to respond if they observe cyberbullying. Bystanders play a crucial role in the virtual world just as much as they do in the school hallways. Encourage your teen to report online aggression to an adult, and to refuse to participate in dialogue that may perpetuate the problem. A simple awareness of your teen’s online activity can give you the opportunity to intervene quickly in incidents of cyberbullying. Stay updated on the latest technology teens are using, and know your teen’s social media passwords. Administer appropriate and consistent consequences for technology overuse or misuse, and keep the home computer in a public place. Encourage discretion in what your kids post, especially pictures, and have open conversations about how to use technology wisely. And above all, remind your teen of their intrinsic self-worth. They shouldn’t base their identity on how many people are following them on Instagram or Tumblr. Rather, remind them of their status as God’s beloved son or daughter, made in His image, and loved so much more than they can imagine. Now that’s a truth worth tweeting. Gretchen Williams is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, currently working with middle and high school students as a guidance counselor in Orlando, Fla. She is a freelance musician and also enjoys traveling and photography in her spare time.

august 2013 7

9 ways to keep your student

in church after high school

Every year, thousands of students graduate out of their schools—and out of their churches. How can you keep your student in church after graduation?

8 Parenting Teens


By Steve Masters

The vast majority of the graduating high school seniors of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention have dropped out of active involvement in their church by the time they graduate from high school. Based on my contact with student ministers, high school seniors, and state and national student leaders, I personally feel from 75 percent to 90 percent of our SBC seniors have dropped out of church involvement by the end of their senior years. This is a staggering loss of more than 100,000 high school seniors each year from our churches! Why are we losing so many of the students in our churches during their middle and high school years? There are lots of reasons: youth ministry turnover, change in youth ministry direction, part-time jobs, sports activities, too much “play” and not enough spiritual growth in the youth ministry, not enough “play” for youth to connect with each other and to use as an outreach to their friends that aren’t involved, separation of the youth ministry from the rest of the church, and lack of spiritual transformation. But what can you do as a parent? There are a few practical things—whether you are a parent, grandparent, youth leader, or church staff member—to help the middle and high school students of your church to grow and mature in Christ and to serve Him during these years. Focusing on these methods early can hopefully stem the loss of students flowing out of church year over year.

If your son or daughter really is like you spiritually, what kind of Christian will that make them? Are you a 24/7 Christian or just a weekend warrior? If you aren’t living out your faith, then chances are great that your son or daughter will follow in your footsteps.

song, “Cat’s In The Cradle?” You know I’m gonna be like you, dad, the singer sang. You know I’m gonna be like you. If your son or daughter really is like you spiritually, what kind of Christian will that make them? Are you a 24/7 Christian or just a weekend warrior? If you aren’t living out your faith, then chances are great that your son or daughter will follow in your footsteps.

1. Encourage mission involvement.

Students need to be a part of the total church and not just the youth ministry. You can help them do so by being creative in helping them get to know the church staff and other strong Christian adults in your church. I am convinced that students “catch” Christianity as much as it is taught to them. As they spend time with other strong Christian adults, students grow in their faith.

Participate in local mission ministries. Going on church and youth mission trips is one of the best ways for a student to personalize his or her faith. When I ask incoming freshmen why they stayed close to Christ during their high school years, many of them shared the importance a mission trip or mission involvement had in strengthening their walk with the Lord. Consider participating in a mission trip as a family. Organize such a trip with several families in your church.

2. Live it out. As a parent or grandparent, be an example to students. They are watching and observing how you live out your faith. Are you having a daily quiet time? Are you memorizing Scripture? Are you using your spiritual gifts? Are you sharing your faith with your co-workers, your friends, your relatives? Are you involved in local missions and the mission trips of your church? Remember the Harry Chapin

3. H elp them relate to and get to know the church staff and other adults in the church.

4. Realize the importance of the summer student conferences. Most youth groups participate in a summer conference such as World Changers, Student Life, Missionfuge, or Centrifuge. These weeks can be invaluable in helping students grow and mature in their faith. They spend a concentrated period of time in Bible study, prayer, and worship. They “catch” a passion for Christ from the camp leaders and counselors. They develop strong friendships with other students and the adult leaders of your church. There are great benefits for students that participate in these conferences.

august 2013 9

5. Secure a spiritual mentor for your middle or high school students. When a student needs help with a specific subject or they want to learn a music or athletic skill, parents will hire a tutor, a teacher, or a coach. Your son or daughter needs help growing spiritually. Consider securing a mentor for them. This mentor could be a college student or a young adult in your church. Get input from the student of possible mentor prospects. The mentor should be of the same sex. The mentor could meet with them on a weekly or monthly basis. They could work through a Bible study together, memorizing Scripture, praying, etc. Most mentors would be willing to serve in this capacity at no charge. However, you may want to consider paying them a small stipend. Doing so makes a statement to the student that growing spiritually is as important as growing athletically or academically.

10 Parenting Teens

6.Involve students in ownership of their church. During the past 20 years many student ministers have put together praise teams to lead their student worship services, which are usually held on Wednesday nights. Doing so has been a great way to increase the ownership of the student ministry of their church for the praise band members. They “step up” spiritually as they realize they are leading other youth. Churches should learn from this and involve students in committees and leadership teams of their church. This might include serving as greeters, taking up the offering, helping with meals for the church, or working with the children. This is a “hands on” generation. Let them serve!

7. Provide the name and contact information of the graduating high school seniors of your church to the Campus ministries Director of the college or university they will be attending. Most of the colleges and universities in our nation do not secure the religious preference of their incoming students. As a collegiate minister for more than 30 years I can confidently say that being able to contact incoming students months before they arrive on campus greatly increases our chances of reaching and involving the student. You can provide their names to us at, which is

our SBC transitions website. If you wish to contact the BCM Director you can do so at

8. Encourage your 2013-2014 high school juniors to commit to being a Senior Disciple. Senior Disciples commit to being leaders in their youth groups and to reaching out to their school for Christ during their senior year in high school. They can sign up at

9. Encourage your 2013 high school graduates to commit to being a Collegiate Disciple. A Collegiate Disciple commits to being involved in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the college or university they will be attending, to become involved in a local church, and to be a disciple for Christ while they are in college. A student can commit to being a Collegiate Disciple at Please pray for the more than 700 Baptist Collegiate Ministry directors in our country as we reach out to the incoming freshmen from our SBC churches this summer and in the fall.

Steve Masters serves as the Director of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Louisiana State University and as the Transitions Coordinator for LifeWay. He can be reached at or 225-343-0408.


Please plan your vacations so they don’t conflict with the major youth conference your church attends. Please make sure your older students don’t let summer jobs keep them from participating. Please don’t let sports activities interfere with these weeks. Valuable spiritual growth is missed. Over the years I have watched many youth begin their drift away from the Lord due to a summer job or a sport activity causing them to miss these summer student conferences of their church. Don’t let this happen!




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Reviews All this for a king  David Crowder*Band

How Mercy Looks From Here  Amy Grant



The David Crowder*Band were perhaps the most inventive and creative artists in popular worship music, and All This for a King is a reminder why they were so popular. Throughout their career, DC*B recorded some of the past decade’s most loved tunes, and they’re all included on this quirky best-of collection, which perfectly sums up the bearded wonder Crowder and his nerdy-cool sidekicks. A new Crowder tune (sans band) seems out of place here, but serves as a quick glance to the future. Check it out at

Having had dizzying highs and tragic lows, Amy Grant has the unique perspective of a 30-year career that is still intact and influential. How Mercy Looks From Here is a simply beautiful record of reflection that deserves to be heard and absorbed, like gentle rain landing on dry, parched ground. It’s really that good. If you’re not a fan of Grant’s music, just read the lyrics and you’ll find even the words are ministering to you. Grant is not one to mince words, and her first album in 10 years is beautiful, poignant, and timeless. Read the story of the album at

Something More altars

Finding Favour EP Finding Favour

Facedown Records

Gotee Records

Altars is a hardcore metal band that has made a brutally musical sophomore album in Something More. Quick primer: hardcore is more punk than straight metal in its emotive lyrics and DIY production. Altars isn’t the brightest of the genre, but its new project is getting glowing reviews. Parents may not go for the chugga-chugga style of music, but the heavenly directed lyrics are suitable for any youth group singalong, especially the anthem “Question Everything.” Find out more at

Every artist (whether successful or not) that is signed to TobyMac’s Gotee Records is genuinely and profusely talented. Georgia’s Finding Favour is no exception. Combining singer Blake NeeSmith’s gritty, soulful vocals with catchy lyrics and beats, the band’s eponymous debut EP is a solid introduction to a band whose hearts are worship but whose style is pop. “Hallelujah, We Shall Rise” and “Slip on By” are the obvious hits and should quickly catapult the band’s popularity. Hear it at finding

12 Parenting Teens

The Croods (PG)  Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone 21st Century Fox

First things first: from a Biblical standpoint, The Croods is set in a particularly controversial time when humans were supposedly more ape-like. Setting that aside, The Croods is a genuinely delightful movie about a father, Grug (voiced by Nic Cage), whose main concern is to protect his family in a scary and ever-changing world. Sound familiar? Throughout the movie, Grug’s overly cautious ways are challenged and ultimately he learns to release his fear and truly live fearlessly—good lessons for any family to learn. PT’s grade: A-

other media



Steadicam Smoothee steadicam .com

Have you ever noticed in movies or TV shows how sometimes the camera seems to be floating in air, and thought, “How did they get the camera to move so smoothly?” The answer: Steadicam™. Now the company has released the Smoothee™ for use with smartphones. Using a relatively simple design that utilizes weights and balances, the Smoothee produces shots with impossibly fluid motion. Your kids’ soccer games, school plays, or youth group videos will never look the same. Go to the site and watch the video—shot with the Smoothee and an iPhone. PT’s grade: A

The Great Gatsby (pg-13)  Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire Warner Brothers

As a work of art, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is a chaotic spectacle for the senses much like his other films Moulin Rouge or Australia. Everything from the music to the colors to the characters are larger than life, which, on paper, would seem to work as a way of presenting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece book. On some levels it works, but I can’t recommend that families watch this movie simply because it “works” as art. The language, themes, and overt sensuality make this a better story to read than watch. PT’s grade: C-

DJAY for iPad  algoriddim .com

With the recent explosion in popularity of electronic music (music made primarily by one person on a computer), DJs are becoming rock stars. Now you and your kids can create the new neighborhood jams with DJAY for iPad, which allows you to “mix” songs from your music library using an incredibly realistic turntable interface. Record and save your favorites, perform live, or use the Automix function to let DJAY mix things automatically. Beginners will be amazed at how quickly they can create, and the app takes full advantage of iPad’s multi-touch features. PT’s grade: B+

Randy Williams is a Grammy-nominated musician and writer who lives in Franklin, Tenn.

august 2013 13

Life Stages

Passion Plans

Identifying your teen’s passions can help the transition through high school and beyond By Becky Preble

14 Parenting Teens

What can I do to help my teen transition from high school to college or school to work as smoothly as possible? Before getting specific about how to help your teen navigate the confusion so often associated with picking a college major or career path, we need to consider a more fundamental question—what’s the role of work in our lives? Why do we work? The Bible begins with a theme of creating, producing, and world ordering. In Genesis 1:2 there is an eerie description of earth. It is unformed and void and there is darkness over the


As a college and career counselor for more than 20 years, here are the concerns I most often hear expressed by teens as they face the transition from school to work. I feel scared and confused about my future. I have no idea what I want to do with my life after I graduate. I don’t know whether to go to college, get a job, or join the army. The parents of the teens who come into my office have their own list of questions and concerns. How do I help my son or daughter find a career path that fits them?


surface of the deep and the Spirit of God is sweeping over the water. By Genesis 1:3 we see God bringing order out of chaos and darkness and assigning a role and purpose to each phase of His creative process. He brings restoration as He separates light from darkness, gathers the waters together so dry land can appear, and sets boundaries in place. He also assigns duties to His creation as He commands the earth to produce. Genesis shows God putting things in order so man can live on earth. Isaiah 45:18 reveals that God did not create the earth to be empty. After God orders the world, He creates Adam. Next God places Adam in a garden that was already planted and asks him to join the work as a manager and caregiver. In Ephesians 2:10, we discover that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Work provides a way for us to solve problems, make improvements, repair things, bring comfort or understanding, create things that are beautiful or enjoyable, and a variety of other outcomes that allow us to serve others and meet their needs. It is a way for us to co-labor with God in the ongoing management of His creation. Young Teen (age 13-15): By the time some teens hit seventh or eighth grade they may begin mentioning certain career fields or colleges that sound interesting to them. This is an ideal time for them to investigate every career field that sounds intriguing. Researching their interests is the first step in good career planning. What to do: Listen as they talk to you about their career fields of interest. Resist the urge to tell them why a certain career field may not work for them. Instead, ask questions like, “Tell me why that career sounds interesting to you?” Let them talk. They just need a listening ear at this point. It’s very likely they will change their mind dozens of times before committing to a career path. Encourage your teen to visit the following websites to learn about colleges and various career fields:, and Teen (age 16-17): Once teens get to their sophomore year, they need to start identifying their natural talents. What is it they do well and enjoy doing? It’s fine to focus on just their interests in

junior high, but at this stage they need to also consider their natural talents. Their interests may change, but their natural talents are part of their God-given design and should play a prominent role when selecting a career path. What to do: Explain to your teen that there is a difference between their interests (things they like) and their natural talents (things they do well). They are looking for a career that fits both their interests and their natural talents. For example, teens who love animals may think they want to be a veterinarian, but they need to find out about the day-to-day job duties of a veterinarian and ask themselves if they would enjoy doing this type of work. Encourage your teen to write about or tell you about their most enjoyable experiences. Help them identify which natural talents or strengths they used during these enjoyable activities. They should be looking for a career path that matches their interests and utilizes their natural talents. Older Teen (age 18-20): At this stage teens are old enough to begin identifying what’s important to them. They will be most satisfied if they pursue a career path that matches their interests, natural talents, and values. What to do: Explain that all jobs produce some kind of outcome, solve a problem or meet a need. For example, a doctor helps people get better physically, an accountant makes sense out of numbers, etc. They need to ask if the outcome of the career they are wanting to pursue is something that will motivate them to want to go to work everyday. The best career fit is one that matches their interests, natural talents, and values. Whatever your teen might become, spend time praying with and for them about their career choice. Remind them that God can and will use them in whatever career field they choose. Becky Preble is a certified career counselor and the author of Heading in the Right Direction, a biblically-based career planning curriculum published by LifeWay in 1999. She is also the author of How to Pick a College Major, Discover Your Child’s Natural Talents and The Natural Talents Questionnaire. She is the founder of the Get A Direction College and Career Counseling Center in Boerne, Texas. Visit her online at

august 2013 15

Teen Voice

Left at the nest By Schuyler Daniel

Every one of us sees it coming—that dreadful day when the first child packs up and leaves the house. As the little sister, I saw it coming, but I always thought it would be fun to be an only child and have all the attention for once. It wasn’t until our last Christmas with my sister, Ashton, that it really hit me. I realized she wouldn’t be there to laugh at our inside jokes, or to help with geometry. None of it. So for the last five months of school I tried best I could to soak up the days as they dripped through my fingers. It felt like we dragged out Ashton’s leaving as long as possible. It all built up, eventually, to move-in day. Shortly after my first day in high school we drove to The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and that would be it. We got her settled in to her dorm with her suitemates, and then we left. We simply left her there. It was the most unnatural feeling, knowing that this wasn’t some camp; this was for good. The three of us sat in the car on the way home, desperately quiet, with a sense of fear of how we would get on without the ever-so-important member of our family. As soon as we got back home and opened the door, we just cried. We’re not an emotional family, but some occasions require tears. Eventually, over the course of two or three weeks, we began to make it. We adjusted easier than we thought we would, and the only reason I can think of is because of God’s grace and love. He was our Rock. And the crazy thing is that splitting us up made our family closer than ever. I know I relied on God more than ever, and I also got a lot closer to my parents. They remained positive and supportive of my sister at college and me in high school. My mom patiently listens to all the things I would usually talk to my sister about. My dad and I have started to hang out more, and we may go out to eat one night out of the blue and just catch each other up on everything. Like most American families, we’re busy and there is no way we can all keep track of each other without designated family time. And I think as a younger sibling, that’s all you can ask of a mom or dad. They just need to be there and walk with you and support you. Now we have our own lives going on, which is one step towards our inevitable future. We are all pursuing our own goals and are totally invested in the support of one another in the midst of this journey. Before my sister left, I only saw it as the end to the way of life we had all known and loved, but now that we’ve got a whole year under our belts living apart, I can see that this is just one more of God’s sneaky ways of bringing us closer to each other—and to Him.

16 Parenting Teens

©© iStockPhoto

Schuyler Daniel is a student at Merrol Hyde Magnet School in Hendersonville, Tenn., where she really has trouble saying no to anything. As VP of the sophomore class, making regular 5 a.m. swim practices, and a member of just about every club she can squeeze into her schedule, she still finds plenty of time to exchange texts with her sister nearly every day.



your parenting skills

august 2013 17

Off the Wire:


Does your teen know what you believe?


The percentage of churchgoers who believe that those who have confessed their sin and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior will go to heaven when they die.



Are teens safe, cautious drivers? Ninety-one percent rate themselves as such. Yet a survey of 11th and 12th graders by Students Against Destructive Decisions and Liberty Mutual discovered some startling statistics. • Twenty-three percent of teens surveyed admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or prescription drugs. But that’s not the scariest part! • Almost 40 percent of those who drink and drive don’t see themselves as a danger. In fact, many say alcohol actually improves their driving. These sentiments are shared by 75 percent of those who drive after smoking pot. • 11 percent of teens admitted to drinking and driving during summer vacation. Source:

The percentage of churchgoers that also agree that if a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity. Source: LifeWay Research study on “Doctrinal Positions”

A spoonful of…cinnamon

Yes, teens that dare to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without water can spew cool-looking orange powder out of their mouths. But what teens that take the “cinnamon challenge” don’t realize is that cinnamon is caustic and can cause choking, throat irritation, difficulty breathing, and even collapsed lungs. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, calls about what to do when the prank goes awry have greatly increased over the past year. Learn more at by searching keyword “Cinnamon Challenge.” Source:

18 Parenting Teens


15 Minutes

Speak, Don’t Touch

Stepparents, go ahead and dole out praises and compliments to your spouse’s kids. Research shows both boys and girls in step-families prefer this type of verbal affection over often unwanted hugs and kisses.

California psychology professor Larry Rosen noted students’ behavior for a 15-minute period when they were supposed to be studying. For about two minutes, students focused on their studies. Then they began taking breaks to respond to texts or check their Facebook feeds. At the close of 15 minutes, Rosen determined that most students had spent only about 65 percent of the observation period actually doing school work. His study results are published in the May issue of Computers in Human Behavior. Source:

Source: American Psychological Association

Moms and Stress How stressed out are moms these days? If you look at the numbers, a lot. • Nine out of 10 moms stress about staying fit and attractive. • 46 percent of moms say their husbands or partners stress them out more than their kids do. • 72 percent of moms stress about how stressed they are. • The biggest cause of stress? 60 percent say it’s lack of time to do everything that needs to get done. • 60 percent of moms say raising girls is more stressful than raising boys.



Joy Fisher is a freelance writer, editor, and reviewer. She and her husband, David, make their home in Nashville, Tenn.

august 2013 19


wish we’d done differently

20 Parenting Teens

©©Cody Bess

Kerry Shook was pastor of one of the fastest-growing churches in America, host of a television program that reached millions, and father to two teenagers enduring a crisis of faith. In a candid conversation, PT reached out to Kerry and his wife, Chris, about what they would have done differently while raising their teens, and what they would say to parents about holding onto regret.

PT: How did it affect you as a pastor—and as a father—to hear your son Ryan say that his “Christian kid” answers weren’t good enough for him anymore? Kerry: At first I was defensive about it, but I have to say I never really let on to Ryan because somehow God gave me the strength to keep his spiritual walk first over my ego or the church or anything like that. As pastors and pastors’ wives, we have to be careful about worrying too much about our reputation over their spiritual walk. Ryan and Josh didn’t always make the right choices, but what they went through was healthy in so many ways because they had to decide if the Christian faith was as real and life-changing as they had been told. God gave me the strengths to say the right things to him through that, but I have to totally admit the first feeling you have is, “Wow. Haven’t you seen God work in our lives?” And he had, but his whole point was that he wanted to see God work in his life first-hand. Ryan was really worried if he expressed his doubts that it would be hurtful to us. It wasn’t like they were going out to make a mess of things to show us—it was more of them not being sure they believed it but worried about how it would affect us. Chris: If things are going good, you really have no desire to rock the boat, and yet before there is an issue you need to have these honest conversations about faith and making it your own, otherwise you won’t have them until there’s a crisis. Many times as parents we deal with other issues this way. Sex would be one of them. We wait until there’s an issue or a crisis, whereas the best way to handle it is to have ageappropriate conversations early on and in the same way that transition takes place as kids get older. We don’t do that, in general, about faith. You don’t talk about having doubts unless something happens. By that time many times kids are out of the house or away at school. That window for conversations is quickly closing. The time to foster these conversations and foster opportunity for them is at home; it just happens really rarely. PT: What did those conversations teach you about regret? Kerry: There are so many things we’d like to tell younger parents or parents entering the teenage years we wish

One of the biggest things we’ve learned is that we wish we had been more transparent sooner. By the time we recognized the need for it, the time had already passed where we should have started. we had done differently. Probably the biggest one is that we wish we had shared more of our personal stories and struggles with our kids as they grew older and were able to handle it, so that they realized we weren’t perfect and that we had the same stresses and struggles they did. They just looked at us and thought, “Well they have it all together and aren’t going to understand our stress and struggles, and it seems like this Christian life isn’t working for us the way it is for them.” That was a big breakthrough for us, when we finally started doing that. We started doing it because our oldest sons started challenging us. One thing I would do is I would come home from work and ask Ryan and Josh, “How was your day?” And they would say, “Great, how was your day?” And I’d say “Great.” One day I said, “You know guys, I want a deeper relationship with you than that, because I know you go through a lot of stress at school,” and they said, “Well you never share with us any of your struggles or anxieties,” and I said, “Well I just thought you didn’t need that,” and they let me know they could handle it. At that point we began to open up about our struggles and anxieties and fears and worries. We learned that they have to know a little more about your flaws and imperfections so they don’t think you have it all together. PT: Chris, is it hard to get to this place of honesty and vulnerability as a mother? Chris: It really takes a lot of intentionality. You have to be aware of it every day because I think as moms the thing we revert to is to be overprotective. That “mother bear” mentality leads us to want to protect our kids, and many times it includes protecting them from any hurt or anything we’d want to insulate them from. There’s a real value Kerry and I have learned to appreciate as our kids have gotten older, in transparency,

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Kerry: Being proactive about talking with your kids about tough issues, including a crisis of faith, is really key. I think every teenager starts experiencing a crisis of faith, and usually it gets very serious in college. They’re on their own, they have to decide, “Do I want to go to church today? Do I believe in God today? Do I believe what the professor says, or the Bible?” So many things hit them in college. We wish we had started that discussion before our kids got to college. We did so well early on—we made sure they went to church. We wish we would have started the dialogue about their faith being tested, telling them that they are going to have doubts, and that it’s healthy to work through them with good people around you. That’s why I’m glad the boys wrote Firsthand, because it’s a tool for parents in a big way to be able to say, “Hey read this and let me know what you think about it,” to start that discussion before they get out on their own. PT: You guys have found value in looking at what you’d do differently, but are there dangers as a parent in holding this self-doubt or regret? Where’s the line? Kerry: No doubt. Kids and teenagers are going to go through a crisis of faith. For some, it’s going to mean they’re going to go off the deep end for a while, and you pray for God’s protection. For others it may be questions they’ve buried in their hearts and silent rebellion. It shows up in all kinds of ways, but everyone has to go through a crisis of faith to really own their faith. Faith has to be developed and owned to really make a difference later in life. We parents often feel like it’s up to us for that to happen, and sometimes it’s the opposite. We’re going to make mistakes, and God can use those mistakes. We’ve seen so many kids who went off the deep end come back later. It’s in the Lord’s hands, and that’s the hardest thing for parents—to surrender our kids to the Lord, and surrender

22 Parenting Teens

our mistakes. They have to come to that relationship. It’s between them and the Lord ultimately, because God doesn’t want us to beat ourselves up with the mistakes we’ve made with our kids. He wants us to live in grace. Chris: We’re all imperfect parents. If you can’t think of anything you’d do differently, there’s probably a problem because we’re all imperfect and we all make mistakes. We’ve seen so many parents struggle with having these honest conversations because the parents never really have embraced their faith as their own either. We see parents who grew up in church but never made it totally their own and make that “firsthand” choice themselves. Then when the kids have a crisis of faith, it makes them feel unsure. The bottom line is to welcome the crisis. Embrace the crisis, because that’s what it really takes to have a deeper relationship. PT: What about parents who are waiting on their kids? Waiting on a prodigal? How can they cope with this unknown without feeling regret? Kerry: That’s the toughest thing. You want to just keep your kids going down the straight and narrow and save them from all the pain. It hurts so much. We just had to surrender our kids to the Lord. When they went off to college, we had to trust them to the Lord. That’s the hardest thing to do, and it’s a daily thing. I know there are so many parents that Ryan and Josh have spoken to and they bring so much hope because they say, “Don’t give up. Don’t give up. They’re closer to the Lord than you think they are. It may not look like it, but the Lord can turn that around. All the seeds you planted are still there. God can do miracles. Don’t ever give up. But every day, surrender.”

Kerry Shook is the senior pastor and founder of Woodlands Church outside Houston and host of Kerry Shook Ministries, a worldwide television ministry that can be seen in more than 200 countries. Chris Shook is the director of International Missions at Woodlands. They are the authors of the New York Times bestseller One Month To Live and One Month to Love. They have been married 29 years and have four children.


and letting that veil drop. It doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t shield them from everything and then dump everything in their lap, but there’s a transition that takes place where you’re able to share more and relate to them so they can relate to you. One of the biggest things we’ve learned is that we wish we had been more transparent sooner. By the time we recognized the need for it, the time had already passed where we should have started.

What could their parents have done differently while their sons worked out their belief system? PT sat down with Ryan and Josh Shook, authors of Firsthand (Waterbrook Press 2013) and Firsthand Faith (LifeWay 2013), about how parents can keep the faith when their kids seem like they won’t. PT: Is there anything your parents could have done differently to prevent you from going through a crisis of faith? Ryan: I think it’s important to remember no kid is perfect and no parent is perfect. Josh and I were fortunate to have parents who practiced what they preached and lived out their faith in front of us. It’s all about being open and honest. We as a family definitely became more open and honest as we went along, but our message to parents who have younger kids now is don’t wait to show them what you believe, and be honest about what you’re going through. There’s definitely an element of judgment trying to figure out when your child is old enough to know about what’s going on in your life, but so many students now junior high and younger are faced with peer pressure and depression and all kinds of issues, and it’s important for parents to be honest with their kids about what they’re going through. Josh: The cool thing is that you get better at parenting. They got really good about cultivating that sense of honesty with us as we got into high school and then into college. They were probably wise about that. You have to have judgment about when to talk to your kids about it. But your kids are going to pick up on way more than you think they will. I wish we had been more honest with each other earlier.

©©Cody Bess

PT: Is a crisis of faith something parents should be afraid of? Josh: We’ve talked to parents whose kids have gone through this, and they wonder with how to react and think they’ve done something wrong, but I think that one of the things that speaks loudest is when a parent just kind of goes, you

know what, we believe in a God who is big enough to handle our doubt and handle our kids’ doubt and we love them all the same and want to show them Christ’s love because we believe it doesn’t come from anywhere else. As a kid it speaks so much and makes you realize, maybe I am missing something. If they see that coming from their parents then I think they’re way less likely to go through it. Ryan: It takes a lot of faith on the part of a parent to let your child go to high school or college and have to form their own beliefs. One of the things Josh and I always encourage parents with is that because faith is a firsthand faith, all you can do is live out your own faith and try to instill those values in your child. There comes a point where you do have to let go and say, “God it’s up to you to really guide this child and bring them up in your ways and teach him what it means to have a firsthand faith.” As much as parents wish they could give that relationship to their kids, the truth is it can only come through struggling through doubt and really coming out on the other side and deciding for yourself what you really believe. That’s why we really encourage parents when they see their kids struggling with doubt and we say it’s a good thing. It means your kids are developing a faith of their own. Ryan Shook is a filmmaker and blogger. A graduate of Baylor University, he is married to Sarah, and they live in Los Angeles. Josh Shook is a musician, a song writer, and a graduate of Belmont University. He lives in Nashville. They are the authors of the New York Times bestselling Firsthand (Waterbrook 2013) and the Firsthand Faith Bible study (LifeWay 2013).

august 2013 23

hey dad,

Got a Minute?

By Mark Merrill I’ve learned a lot from my wife, Susan. One thing she’s taught me is how to maintain a “heart relationship” with each of our children—a deep, enduring relationship that beats strong through the transitional teen years. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned. 1. Don’t take it personally. “Why doesn’t she want to hold my hand?” “Why would he rather stay home with friends than go on vacation with us?” Those are just a few of the questions that swirled in my heart as we ushered in the teen years. My wife gave me a good answer. “Don’t take it personally,” she said to me. “Give them some space. They’ll come around.” I knew she was right, but I didn’t take her advice at first which led to my kids telling Susan that I was “smothering” them. So I backed off a bit. The results? I found that they wanted to do a bit more with me. 2. Always speak the truth. No matter what, my children know that I will always speak the truth to them. If they ask me a question, they will get the truth. They can trust what I say because of my track record over time. Consistent truthtelling is key to staying connected relationally.

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Mark Merrill is the founder and president of Family First, a national non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the family. Mark hosts the “Family Minute with Mark Merrill,” a nationally syndicated daily radio program. He is the author of All Pro Dad: Seven Essentials to be a Hero to Your Kids. This article was adapted from a post at


Staying joined at the hip—and the heart— with your teen

3. Always do what’s in their best interests. On many occasions, I have sat down with my children and advised them on someone or something they should avoid, or someone or something they should embrace. When I do so, I often preface my comments with something like, “You know that I am saying this because I have your best interests at heart. I want you to avoid pain and to prosper in life.” 4. Broaden the boundaries. Creating boundaries for your kids is essential. But rules and consequences for breaking those rules should change based on age, trust, maturity, and responsibility. As our children demonstrate responsibility, the rules should become fewer and our children should have more freedom to make decisions. 5. Find one thing. During those teen years, I’ve learned that finding that “one thing” is a big deal. It’s that one thing they like to do and will do with you. For one of my daughters, it’s shopping. For another, it’s soup and salad at a nearby restaurant and then an old movie together. For one, it’s hunting. For another, it’s jogging. For my son, it’s camping. 6. Get out of town. Plan something periodically with your child that takes you both away from familiar distractions and allows you to be one-on-one. Whether it’s a shopping trip, fishing trip, or just a fun road trip, give your teen the opportunity to breathe a little easier when they’re with you. Don’t lecture during your time together, just listen and laugh. 7. Ask. Periodically ask your child questions such as, “How am I doing as a dad?” and “What can I do better as a father?” Ask your child’s mother the same questions, then take note of their suggestions. Don’t react in a negative way; just thank them for their candidness. 8. Don’t give up. As a parent, you must walk with your child through the good times and the difficult times. Never give up on your child no matter what your child does or says. Let them know that you love them no matter what and that your relationship is all-important. And remember, being a parent is a lifetime commitment.


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A Different Angle:

single parent

We need to celebrate the transitions in our lives, good and bad, with praise to a glorious and loving God who has given us reason to live and breathe. I’m grateful for all the transitions in my life.

By Dedra Herod

Transitions. I don’t care much for them. I think it’s my innate need to control situations, or at least have a small sneak peek into how things are going to turn out. Control freak much? God’s been working on me almost my entire life in this area. My basic, one and only desire besides knowing Him is to surrender and trust Him. Truly. I can’t help it that my flesh and pride get in the way. Well, yes I can. That’s the point of surrendering every second, minute, hour isn’t it? Couple my basic need for control and a harmonious environment and then add in huge transitions in a single family unit and there it is: my desperate need for a Savior. So, yes, transitions are difficult, but they can also be joyful. I’m so tired of giving into the weakness of my own heart and tensing up when it comes to changes and transitions. They are not all bad. After all, they are all allowed by our great, big, amazing, and intelligent God, so I say roll with it. With some boundaries.

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Dedra Herod is wife to a husband that refuses to be tamed, mom to three college kids that make her laugh, and whose desire is a home where everyone loves to hang out, as long as they clean up after themselves. ©©iStock

Rejoice in Transition

As our teens grow and mature into adults, its important to celebrate milestone transitions like physical maturity, being old enough to drive a vehicle, and beginning to discover gifts and callings. This will completely embarrass my daughters, but we had a complete, check-you-out-of-school shopping, dinner, mani/pedi kind of day when physical maturity hit. When my son learned how to drive, we headed to the church parking lot for some fun. Safe fun, but fun. As my son began to realize and own that his gift of writing was extra special, we had an amazing meal with a menu completely chosen by him. Recently, a dear friend encouraged me to stop and celebrate a milestone in my own life. As I transition from my corporate position into full-time ministry, she encouraged me to put a stake in the ground. She encouraged me to stand back and praise Him for allowing me to have the strength for a job well done. We need to celebrate the transitions in our lives, good and bad, with praise to a glorious and loving God who has given us reason to live and breathe. I’m grateful for all the transitions in my life. The deaths of loved ones, including my late husband and father, should be celebrated. Not for the grief, but for what their lives have meant on this earth. Celebrated for how they loved and shaped me into the mother and daughter I have become. We need to celebrate transitions a whole lot more. God is good. Change is His. Let’s teach our teens how to glorify Him in it.


A Different Angle:

blended family Blended families experience transitions that traditional families do not. Noncustodial family members often fluctuate in the time and energy they choose to dedicate to their children, drastically changing the climate of the relationships.

Uninvited transitions


By Gayla Grace

As I listened to the pain of my friend recently, I recognized the familiar transition that accompanied his step-parenting journey. After a prolonged absence from their lives, the biological father of my friend’s stepchildren appeared, desiring a relationship with his teen children. The stepdad was pushed aside, into a dispensable position, after playing a significant role in the children’s lives for years. His tears told the story of the hurt he couldn’t change. Blended families experience transitions that traditional families do not. Non-custodial family members often fluctuate in the time and energy they choose to dedicate to their children, drastically changing the climate of the relationships. Upheaval in the other home from divorce, re-marriage, re-locating, or a new baby influences what’s happening in our home. Relationships become embittered without renewed effort toward harmony. How do you adjust to an uninvited transition? In our own family, we sought to deepen our faith through a day-by-day

reliance on the Lord and surrender to His plan. When my exhusband re-entered the picture after years of homelessness due to alcoholism, I reacted in anger to his desire for a place in my girls’ lives. My daughters had a dad who had loved and provided for them during his absence. However, I recognized my girls’ need to know more about their biological father during their teen years. I agreed to a visitation arrangement with a man I thought had abandoned them, acknowledging that was part of God’s plan. Surrendering to an unexpected transition that’s different than what we desire requires uncommon effort. But with God’s help, we can find peace, even in the midst of unsettling circumstances. The Apostle Paul, writing from prison, says, “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12-13). It’s only through Christ’s strength, guiding our surrendered steps, that we can endure the pain and uncertainty that accompany unwanted transition. Paul relays a challenging situation again in 2 Corinthians 12 when he pleads with the Lord to remove an unwelcome visitor—a “thorn in my flesh”—to no avail. Again, Paul responds with surrender to God’s plan, while relying on His power for strength: “‘But He [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’” Gayla Grace trudged through her single parenting years with two young daughters. She later remarried and is now a mom/stepmom to five children, ages 12-28 and ministers to stepfamilies at her website,

august 2013 27

The Illusion of Control In 2004, Hilary Alan moved her two teenagers halfway around the world. Along the way she learned a very important thing about control: It’s not up to her. By Hilary Alan

28 Parenting Teens

pursuits outside of school. We were invested in a solid church. They were friends with the “good” kids. Our children were well-behaved, and the four of us were very close. We loved our life and thought it was perfect. We certainly orchestrated things to turn out that way. And then the 2004 Asian tsunami happened. Soon after, my husband traveled to that region as a volunteer, serving for six weeks. Although I had always appreciated the luxuries that his IT Director position provided, I had

known for a long time that the career he worked so hard for didn’t match the man I knew. Volunteering in the wake of the tsunami did something profound in his heart during those six weeks. I knew what it was. On that trip he became the man God intended him to be. Suddenly our “perfect life” no longer fit. We knew that following Jesus would mean the four of us returning to that broken place and investing our lives there. At that time, our daughter was 11, and our son, 15. Most parenting experts ©©Getty

In 2004, I made what the world, many friends, and even my extended family considered a major parenting mistake at one of the most critical times in my children’s lives. Today, my kids, ages 18 and 21, say “thank you” for it. That year, my husband and I thought we were doing everything “right” when it came to parenting. He had a well-paid position at a successful company. We were raising our kids in a spacious house in an upscale subdivision. Our kids were excelling in great schools and thriving in their

would advise against a major move during those years. We would be taking them to a strict Muslim province in Southeast Asia, not only far away from everything they had ever known, but literally half a world away from North Carolina, where they had both been born and raised. Our decision was met with some support and a lot of opposition. Especially when it came to our kids. “You’re taking the kids with you, where?” “You’re being incredibly selfish!” “Your children will resent you for taking them away from the life they love.” That was tough to hear. And I certainly had fears. But there was no denying that Jesus was saying “Follow Me.” The only biblical, obedient response we could find was, “Yes, Lord.” We had to go. We had to model that obedience to our kids.

Out of your hands Had my husband and I not made a fundamental decision about how we were going to parent early on, my critics may have been right. When our children were young, my husband and I realized quickly how dangerous it could be to “go along with the crowd” when it came to parenting. Despite having wellmeaning friends, sometimes we were going to have to be comfortable with doing things differently, even if that meant we had to be the only ones. We ended up teaching our kids that, too. Sometimes following Jesus is lonely. Sometimes you will be the only one who makes a certain

decision, and you will have to be OK with that—so long as you are following Him. This decision is summed up in Joshua 24:15: “But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.” Selling everything, we moved to a place where we looked, sounded, acted, and believed very differently from everyone around us. Suddenly my kids were homeschooled, in a house that didn’t always have running water and electricity, where the temperature never dipped below 90 degrees, and where the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast five times a day from the mosque next door. They had no American peers. They could no longer pursue their passions—no ballet studios to train my daughter, or bands for my son to play his trumpet in. There was no church as we knew it, and no youth group. The

Despite having well-meaning friends, sometimes we were going to have to be comfortable with doing things differently, even if that meant we had to be the only ones. We ended up teaching our kids that, too.

food was spicy, the heat oppressive, and the water unclean. And everywhere we went, we were stared at. It wasn’t long before culture shock set in and the four of us felt completely broken. Everything familiar was gone. This may seem crazy, but when our only constant was God, His Word, and each other, it turned out to be the best move we ever made and definitely one of the best decisions we ever made for our kids. In the three years that we lived in Southeast Asia, I learned what an illusion control is. The “perfect life” my husband and I had worked so hard to construct was no longer ours. I learned that letting go of my children isn’t about releasing my own control over them little by little as they grow up. It’s about fully understanding whose they are and wholeheartedly trusting them to the Lord, even when something doesn’t make sense on paper. It’s easy to say “He loved them first, so He is the far better parent,” and another thing to put that to the test and then see that lived out right in front of you. Today, my kids are thankful that the Lord broke them of their comforts and false sense of security, because they know that He did that to mold them into the man and woman He created them to be. They learned through experience that every single one of His promises is true. They lived out how very faithful He is. They know “what” and “why” they believe and truly understand surrender and obedience. They experienced true biblical community. All of this happened not just because we “taught” them this, but because

august 2013 29

we modeled that to them and they walked that path with us. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” The decision to follow Jesus to Southeast Asia required us to live out that verse. Verse 6 continues, “Think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” By obediently following Him and submitting our lives to His purposes together, He made the path clear—and it led us to a place completely unexpected. I know now that the things that my husband and I had worked so hard to provide to our children turned out to be not at all what they truly needed. As my friend Kathy Keller says, “What kids really need is not the best of everything—clothes,

education, opportunities. Our kids need parents who become heroes to them by following Christ into difficult situations where ‘success’ is not the goal. They also need relationships with young adults who are completely in love with Jesus. That is so much more important than having them in a youth group with kids who are at least as clueless as your own.” That is definitely true for my family. As scared as I was to go, and truly entrust my kids to the Lord, now I shudder to think what we would have missed had we caved in to our fears and illusion of control over our children’s lives. What if we had succumbed to everyone else’s opinion and not been able to hear God? Oh what we would have missed! He doesn’t call everyone to do

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what He asked of us. He will likely call your family to something very different, but no less obedient. Trust Him. Especially with your kids. He truly is the far better parent.

Hilary Alan is the author of Sent (Waterbrook 2013), a book that tells her family’s story of obedience in response to the 2004 Asian tsunami. Today the Alans continue to advance the work of Christ in their involvement with a church in North Carolina as they prepare for another overseas assignment.

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august 2013 31

AFTER THE NEST No matter how much you may dread it, the day will come when the last teen moves out and the nest goes empty. But that doesn’t have to mean an end for your parenting—or your ministry. By Mike Wakefield

That phrase hung in the air around our house last September. We moved our daughter to graduate school in early August, then three weeks later moved our son to college for his freshman year. We were officially empty-nesters. It was a weird feeling. In some ways the feeling was good. More freedom to go and do. And now

32 Parenting Teens

we could go to the movies or eat out without taking out a loan. But in a lot of ways, my wife, Tricia, and I felt lost. For several evenings after moving our son out, I would come home from work, we’d eat a quiet dinner, clean up the dishes, sit down on the couch, look at each other and think… Now what do we do?

There was no need to go to the baseball field for practice, or the theater for rehearsal, or the high school for open house, or homework to help with. As I said, it was weird. By God’s grace most parents will find themselves at this passage in life. As bad as we try to not wrap ourselves around our children’s lives, we do get pretty intertwined. Even though the ©©Thinkstock

Now what do we do?

high school years are not as intense because most of them prefer their own mode of transportation rather than your taxi service, there can still be a flurry of activity in those years. And then, in what feels like an instant, it’s gone. And you look around and wonder… Now what do we do? If you’re in that season of life, or it’s fast approaching, here are some things to keep in mind when you start asking the question.

1. Embrace the changing role. I have to admit, I was delusional. I thought parenting young adults would be much easier than parenting children or young teens. I was wrong. It’s much harder in so many ways. One, you’re parenting from a distance, literally and figuratively. Although technology affords us more opportunity for conversation, the close access to see facial expressions, body language, and countenance are missing. This disconnect makes it harder to know the real need. Also, in parenting older teens/young adults, my desire to fix things is limited. When my young adult children find themselves in difficult situations, my tendency is to fix it. However, I have limits placed on me by time and distance. But I also have to enact self-imposed limits. I have to remember my children are no longer 8 and 4, but 23 and 19. I have to be able to let them swim for themselves. I am no longer the trail guide out front, paving the way. I’m now the encourager from the back, providing godly wisdom and advice.

I thought parenting young adults would be much easier than parenting children or young teens. I was wrong. I also have to remind myself that I am not in charge of their lives and future. God is. Both of them have His presence living in them through the Holy Spirit. I must trust that He will carry to completion what He has designed for them. In that light, I must diligently…

2. Be a prayer warrior. I have always prayed for our children, but I’m not sure that I prayed for them as much as I do now. They are so out on their own and I am so left behind. And there is so much more on the line with the decisions they are making. Making friends when they were elementary age was important, but who they choose to hang with now is so life shaping. Not even counting who they choose to date. This is not just a friend she’s catching a movie with—this boy my daughter mentions could be my son-in-law. The girl my son spends so much time with could be the mother of my grandchildren. Pretty important stuff! It moves me to be on my knees, praying they would be fully devoted to Christ, praying they would make wise decisions, praying they would stay focused in their studies, etc. And I pray specifically, not just a general, “Help

my son and keep him safe,” but asking God to meet specific needs and shape specific points of his character. Now that you have them grown is not the time to take a prayer vacation, it’s time to intensify the effort.

3. Stay involved with students. Because you had teenagers in your house, it’s likely that you have been involved with students in some fashion over the past several years. You volunteered at the theater, coached an athletic team, helped with the band, served as a sponsor in youth group activities, or taught Sunday School. There is a natural tendency to pull away when the children are gone, but those organizations and ministries still need caring adults to help. Don’t back away. Stay involved. While serving as a student minister in Arkansas, two of the best and most loved workers we had in our student ministry were George and Margaret Ann Vickers. They had a high-school son in the youth group when I first came to the church, but he soon graduated. However, George and Margaret Ann stayed involved with students. They taught Sunday School, sponsored youth events, had students in their home, and went to camp and mission trips. Though their teens had moved on, they continued to love on the students in our church. If lock-ins, camps, and herding seventh graders is not your thing, there are other ministries in your church and community where you can be involved. As a student minister and pastor, one of the saddest phrases I heard when asking for adults to work with our youth or

august 2013 33

4. Enjoy your spouse. While we love our children, and love being with them, Tricia and I have certainly enjoyed the time just to ourselves. As much as you try to stay connected as a couple when the children are in the house, it can become difficult. At times you find

34 Parenting Teens

yourselves like two ships passing in the night as you run from practice to church to school to work, etc. There’s time for a quick kiss in the morning as you head to work and then maybe a “Good night, dear,” as you fall exhausted into bed at the end of the day. But now that your kids’ ships have sailed, it’s time to reconnect and rekindle. Spend time doing the things together you once enjoyed doing, or find new activities. You may enjoy travel, working in the yard, antiquing, movies, or maybe it’s just more time sitting on the swing and talking. Take advantage of this newfound time in your schedules to renew your friendship and love for each other. Make this a special time in your relationship as you settle into this new season of your lives together.

So tonight if that question, “Now what do we do?” hangs in the air at your newly-quieted house, admit that it may mark the end of a precious time in your life. However, it also opens you up to a whole new season of blessing for your relationship as a couple and for your ministry together.

Mike Wakefield serves as an Editorial Team Leader for LifeWay Student Ministry. He is blessed to be the husband of Tricia and dad to their young adult children, Hannah and Joshua. ©©Thinkstock

children was, “We did our time. It’s time for someone else to step up.” If you need a break or a sabbatical, that’s fine. Step back for a few months. But don’t park it. There is a retirement program in God’s economy, but not in this world. There are too many children and students who need your wisdom, love, and friendship. You have way too much to give to get out of the game. Stay involved.


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On Your Knees

In transition, keep your eyes on God By Kevin Garrett

To understand reliance upon God • He is a rock (Is. 26:4). • He is a shield (2 Sam. 22:31).

36 Parenting Teens

• He is King (Ps. 95:3). • He is all-powerful (Matt. 28:18). • He helps us (Heb. 13:6). To focus on God, because He is faithful • Look upon Him, who is your help (Ps. 121:1-2). • He is faithful to those in fellowship with Him (1 Cor 1:19). • His faith is everlasting (Ps. 119:90). • He is faithful in keeping His promises (Heb. 10:23). To trust God • Trust His ways, not man’s ways (Prov. 3:5-6). • Trusting in Him brings protection (Prov. 25:5). • Trusting in Him brings blessing (Jer. 17:7). • Trusting in Him brings stability (Ps. 125:1). • Trusting in Him prevents stumbling (Jude 1:24). Keeping our eyes on God is difficult when the enemy is providing diversions in times of transition. The enemy wants your teen—and you—to focus on all that is negative or hazardous. Transitions will occur, but God will always be there. Pray that both of you will focus on what is positive and promised. Keep your eyes on Him and His love for you. ©©iStock

Transitions have never been easy. After wandering in the desert 40 years, the Israelites were finally going to traverse the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. There was fear, uneasiness, and even hesitancy. But the key to success was to follow the Lord and keep their eyes on the Ark of the Covenant, the visible symbol of His presence with them. How does your family act in times of transition? Do you focus on yourselves and your fears or do you focus on God and His plans? The key to success for transitions in our lives is to keep our eyes on God and to realize that He is present with us. Teaching this to our teenagers can be challenging, but we must pray for them to learn it through our example, the examples of other adults, and through their own study of God’s Word and their relationship with him. As you spend time in prayer for your children, allow yourself to meditate upon the truths of the Scriptures below. Do more than simply read them or casually agree with them. Spend this privileged time with the God of the universe to seriously intercede for your teenager. Pray for your teenager:



Celebrate transitions with your teen


There are two profound truths about transitions. They will occur, and no matter what happens, God is always there. Teenage transitions can be frightening and occur in such rapid succession that they tend to overwhelm—unless we are focused upon God. You can help your teenager by focusing on what matters. Consider creating emotional markers of remembrance, such as giving a gifts or having dinner celebrations. These place firm positive memories with each transition. When he moves to high school, take time to remind him that a new school provides new opportunities. Take time to talk about his previous successes and joy. Then discuss the electives and course of study he has chosen. Encourage him to find support through his previously established relationships. As young adulthood begins to set in, take time to remember what these physical changes were like for you. After an argument or disagreement, remind him that hormonal changes bring challenges in attitudes and reactions. Share a time when you and your parents had difficulty and pledge that you will always be there to support your teenager, no matter what. Remind him that God will always be there to support him and you, as well, through this transition.

When your teen graduates, you may think your time of “raising” him is done. It is not. Plan an outing to talk about transitioning from authoritarian to advisor. Recognize your teen’s growing independence while maintaining the position of influence in his life. A good walk or time together over coffee can create a wonderful atmosphere for a meaningful conversation. Notice how you can reflect God’s love in each of these situations. You can positively advise your son, pledge your unending love, support him through all situations, and help guide him through life’s transitions in his teenage years and beyond. Remember, your job as a parent is to rear godly children to become productive members of His Kingdom. Utilize times of transitions to aim toward this ultimate goal. Keep your focus on God through these challenging, yet rewarding, times.

Kevin Garrett has served in music ministry, collegiate ministry, and student ministry. He currently serves as associate pastor for education and outreach at Parker Memorial Baptist Church in Anniston, Ala.

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Reviews Downside Up: Transform Rejection into your Golden Opportunity Tracey Mitchell Thomas Nelson

One of the hardest things to transition from is rejection. Whether it’s rejection in a friendship, family relationship, job, or a specific goal or dream, it’s never easy to handle and move on from. In her newest book, Downside Up: Transform Rejection Into Your Golden Opportunity, Tracey Mitchell turns the classic response to rejection and turns it upside down. Rejection, she says, is actually an opportunity for good—it’s a blessing in disguise, as God builds you for greater things. Mitchell says that her life was a “textbook example of brokenness” and that she let rejection rule her life for 30 years. An “a-ha” moment, though, taught her an important lesson: “I could embrace my rejection, work it to my advantage, learn how to extract my self-worth and develop meaningful and lasting relationships.” Downside Up is divided into chapters on root causes of our feelings of rejection, different sources of rejection, unhealthy ways we deal with rejection, and ways to deal with rejection in a positive way. Each chapter provides personal stories and then gives practical advice. Each ends with “Chapter Principles” (which effectively reinforce what you’ve been taught in the chapter), “Words of Wisdom” (a Bible verse), a “Power Quote,” and a “Plan of Action.” This last feature was especially effective; it helps the readers take what has been taught and actually put it into effect in their daily lives. Mitchell’s book works especially well for parents of teenagers. What parent hasn’t felt rejection in his or her own life? And what parent hasn’t had to give her teenager instruction on how to handle self-esteem issues or situations of rejection? The principles in the book can easily be transformed into lessons for your teenage son or daughter.

38 Parenting Teens

Holding Your Family Together: 5 simple steps to help bring your family closer to God and each other Rich Melheim Regal Books

What if there were five simple things you could do every night with your family that would make your family more spiritually connected? What if you could transform and transition your family from one that is disconnected into one that feels more emotionally, spiritually, and relationally bound together? Rich Melheim says you can. In his new release, Holding Your Family Together, Melheim outlines five steps which he calls the Faith 5: sharing highs and lows of the day; reading a key verse of Scripture from Sunday’s teaching; talking about how the highs and lows relate to the Scripture and asking, “What is God saying to my situation?”; praying for one another’s highs and lows; and blessing one another before turning out the lights on the day. The key, Melheim says, is connectivity. Healthy, spiritually mature families—whether they are parents with young children or parents with teenagers—care about each other; they share their lives with another. In so doing, God can work in those relationships in a richer way. While the steps outlined in the book are natural for people just starting a family, it is never too late. Melheim, in fact, talks directly to the parents of teenagers many times throughout the book. The key to this process is doing the five steps every single day at bedtime. While families with teenagers are often swamped with activity, Melheim said that this process is worth the change in routine and schedule. Based on the success stories in the book, it seems like he might be correct. Cheryl Sloan Wray is a freelance writer who lives in Alabama with her husband, Gary. She is the mother of 20-yearold McKenna, 16-year-old Delaney, and 8-year-old Sydney.

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Personal Space

The Reward of Reliance

Going through a spiritual desert can leave you questioning God’s providence and relevance for your life. Re-discovering your reliance upon Him may help you journey back. By Ben Trueblood

40 Parenting Teens

he was a picture of complete reliance and trust. He was willing to put into his mouth whatever was in the spoon, yet he trusted us as his parents that it would be what he needed. This image played out over and over until the carrots were gone, but the image has stayed with me for much longer. This image brought me to a very important question: Does my life show that I am totally reliant and totally trusting in what Jesus has for me? Sure, when things are going well it becomes easier to rely and trust in Him. But what about when disaster strikes? What about when we lose a loved one, experience disaster, or have a child go in a rebellious direction? In those times are we still stretching out our necks with mouths

open like hungry birds seeking what our Heavenly Father has for us? There are things that happen in life that may not “taste” good to us. I can tell you that in my own life the temptation in those difficult moments is to take control instead of trusting that what God has for me is what I really need. What happens when we stretch our necks like a hungry bird and feel like there’s nothing there? Have you ever experienced the feeling that your faith may be dead? If not dead, then perhaps you feel as though your faith is barely hanging on. If you feel this way, you are not alone. Many before you have felt this way and many after you will feel the same. This does not mean, however, that you are meant to stay there. ©©Thinkstock

Since becoming a father there have been many things that have taken on a deeper meaning to me personally. One of those is the relationship between captivity and reliance. A captive is completely reliant upon the captor for everything. In some ways our children are captives to our homes and relationships with us, especially at younger ages. But this captivity also brings another element—the element of reliance. Our children are in complete reliance upon us as parents for their every need. This lesson struck home once again not long ago at dinner. My wife was feeding our youngest, and like a hungry bird he stretched his neck to receive the delicious carrots that were clearly in view on the spoon. In that moment


There are times when we are feeding our youngest son that he will attempt to grab the spoon from our hand as it approaches his mouth. The only thing that can come from this spoon stealing is mess, frustration, and an emptiness in his belly. In that action, at the young age of 7 months, he is expressing a desire that exists within each one of us: the desire to control. How many times do we attempt to “steal the spoon” away from our Heavenly Father? In this one action we are illustrating the belief that we can handle our lives more effectively than our Heavenly Father. There can be only one result of this attempt to take control and it is the same result of “spoon stealing” at dinner: mess, frustration, and emptiness.

For me, this has been the source of my struggling faith many times. The faith that feels like it is barely hanging on, the feeling of being in a spiritual desert, the emptiness—it has all come as I have tried to take control from the one who holds the spoon, the very thing that is right and best for me. Jesus said in Mathew 11:28, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” As you read this today, you may be in one of those spiritually dry times. As a needy child of the heavenly Father, stop trying to grab the spoon and instead stretch your neck out to Him, trusting that what He has for you is exactly what you need. Rely on Him and be filled with the rest that you desperately need.

The faith that feels like it is barely hanging on, the feeling of being in a spiritual desert, the emptiness—it has all come as I have tried to take control from the one who holds the spoon, the very thing that is right and best for me. Ben Trueblood serves as the Director of Student Minstry for LifeWay Christian Resources. A 12-year student ministry veteran, Ben also serves as student pastor for Grace Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. Ben and his wife Kristen have three children ages 6, 4, and newborn.

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In it together A parents of teens Bible study.


Life is a journey of stages, quite often leaving us feeling like we’re a stranger in a new town. But the One who created life is also the One who can navigate us through these transitions. The lessons in this month’s study will examine four biblical characters who successfully navigated a life transition: Abram transitioned to a new hometown, without a map; Naomi transitioned through the tragic loss of her husband and sons; Hannah transitioned from heart-breaking childlessness to motherhood; and Paul transitioned from a dead-end past to a life pursuing a future prize. These four men and women offer us insight to the powerful presence of God, who guides us in a journey of stages, equipping us to navigate life’s transitions.

Included in these Teaching Plans is a Devotional MAP (Meditation, Application, and Prayer) supplement for each teaching point. Use the Scripture from each teaching point with each corresponding MAP suggestion to build your own four-day devotional plan. Meditate on the words of Scripture, Apply them to your daily life, and Pray for yourself and your family as you continue in your daily walk with Christ. David Crim and his wife, Cindy, are the mission coordinators of the Two-Thirds World Network. They live in Manila, Philippines, where he also serves as Senior Teaching Pastor at the International Baptist Church of Manila.

august 2013 43


Genesis 12:1-9

Getting Started: Display travel brochures, posters, or maps. Engage members in conversation about travel and some of the exciting places they have been or would like to see. Ask: Considering your life as a journey with God, what are some of the places you have visited with Him? Explain that today begins a study about life transitions. Enlist a volunteer to read aloud Genesis 12:1-9.

1. 2. 3. 4.

Our journey with God is not static. • Point out the word “go” in verse 1. Invite members to state other Bible passages where “go” is a focal word. Note the journeys of the Israelites in Exodus, the journeys of Jesus in the Gospels, and the journeys of Paul in Acts as examples that faith in God is a journey. • Lead members to discuss some of the “destinations” in their journey with God thus far.

Our journey with God requires faith. • Ask: Where did God command Abram to go? (“from your land…to the land I will show you.”) What did Abram leave behind? How would he get to the place God was taking him? • Lead the class to discuss ways they can identify with Abram and the necessity of faith on a journey with God.

Our journey with God moves by obedience. • Ask: What did Abram do to experience God’s promise? • Point out verse 4: “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…” Lead the class to discuss how obedience and disobedience impact our journey with God. • Ask: What additional evidence of Abram’s faithful obedience can be found in verses 5-8?

Our journey with God moves in stages. • Direct attention to verse 9. Point out that the HCSB translation and other modern translations include the word “stages” in verse 9. Abram’s journey to God’s promise was in stages. Lead the class to identify significant transitions in life and how they move us along in our journey with God. • Ask: We might call these stages “transitions.” What are some transitions in life that you have experienced in your journey toward God’s promise?

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MAP: Meditate on the phrase “go out.” Is there a reluctance to move in your relationship with God? Are there places that God wants to take you but you are unwilling to go? What paralyzing fears make your faith in God static?

MAP: Pray. Ask the Spirit to give you faith to go and discernment to see the place God is taking you.

MAP: Pray. Be honest with God about your reluctance to obey.

The Point Faith in God is a journey that moves in stages toward His promise.

Personal application I am willing to trust God to be my navigator through the transitions of life. I will faithfully obey in spite of what I must leave behind. I will live in joy and thanksgiving as I experience the realities of His promise.

family application MAP: Meditate on the most recent transition in your life. How is this transition a stage in your journey toward God’s promise?

We will listen carefully to our children as they enter life transitions and gently nurture their faith in God as they learn to trust Him.



Ruth 1:1-22; 4:13-17 Getting Started: Prepare small portions of a bitter fruit or vegetable. As you serve the food, lead the members to share transitions in their lives that have been bitter and painful experiences. Inform them that today’s lesson will be Naomi’s bitter transition and how God can use similar experiences in our lives to move us toward His promise. Read aloud Ruth 1:1-22.


2. 3. 4.

Some transitions are bitter and painful. • Direct members to review verses 1-5 and verses 20- 21, specifically looking for examples of the bitter and painful circumstances that moved Naomi into a transition in life. • Point out the words “famine” (v. 1), “without” (v. 5), “bitter” (v. 20) and “empty” (v. 21). Ask: When have you gone through a transition that seemed like a famine? When has a transition brought emptiness and loneliness? How is the death of a loved one a transition in life?

In bitter transitions, God speaks a word of hope. • Ask: What was the word of hope to Naomi in verse 6? • Point out the phrase “the Lord paid attention.” Lead the class to discuss the encouragement and hope found in that phrase. Ask: How does bitterness and sorrow keep us from hearing the Lord’s word of hope?

In bitter transitions, God provides a companion. • Ask: Who were the companions God provided for Naomi in verses 7-19? What commonalities provided a bond between these three women? • Enlist a member to read aloud verses 16-17. Ask: What are the important characteristics of a good companion during bitter transitions? On whom can we always depend as a companion in bitter transitions?

In bitter transitions, God has a plan. • Summarize the events in Ruth 2:1–4:12, then read aloud Ruth 4:13-17. • Ask: How did Naomi and Ruth discover and experience God’s plan by trusting Him in a bitter transition? What other plan did God have that goes beyond Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives? (Point out that God provided a king for Israel and a Redeemer for the world. Through Joseph and Mary, Jesus’ lineage traces back to King David.)

MAP: Meditate. Read slowly and carefully Ruth 1:20-21. What words of Naomi strike a chord in your heart? Express your feelings to God in Prayer.

The Point God can turn our bitter transitions into discovery of His remarkable plan for our lives.

Personal application

MAP: Apply. Sometimes we must wait, but always God eventually speaks hope. How can reading and studying the Bible prepare you for hearing God’s word of hope?

MAP: Are you going through a bitter transition right now? Pray, asking the Holy Spirit to be a companion and to provide a good human companion. Has a friend entered a bitter transition? Pray, asking the Lord to show you how you can be a companion to him or her.

MAP: Pray. Ask God to give you faith to wait on Him to reveal His plan that will come through your bitter transition.

When I enter a bitter transition, I will seek good companions, express my feelings to God, wait on His encouraging word, and look for His perfect plan.

family application We will be sensitive to the transitions our children endure and always point them to God’s hope through family prayer and Bible reading.

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1 Samuel 1:1-28

Getting Started: Prior to the lesson, request members to email you some photos of their children. Compile the photos into a slide show. Play the slide show and lead the class to discuss the various transitions in life these photos represent. Explain that many transitions in life center around our children. Today we will learn from Hannah. Read aloud 1 Samuel 1:1-28.




Childlessness is a sorrowful transition in life. • Lead members to recall from last week’s lesson that we sometimes experience bitter and painful transitions in life. Ask: How did Hannah navigate this transition? How was her husband, Elkanah, a good companion for Hannah? Lead the class to suggest ways they can encourage and support childless couples in your class and church family. • Point out Hannah’s vow in verse 11. Ask: What does this speak of her faith? What transition will she eventually face if God gives her the request?

Children are a gift from God. • Call on a volunteer to read aloud verses 19-20. Ask: How does the name Samuel reveal Hannah’s understanding that children are a gift from God? What does the name reflect about her response to God’s gift? • Lead the class to remember the various ways their children have been a gift from God. • Ask: What are some specific ways we can reflect our gratitude to God for His gifts to us?

Children belong to God. • Point out Elkanah’s statement to Hannah in verse 23. Ask: What did Elkanah mean by the Lord confirming her word? (Relate back to her vow in verse 11.) Do you agree or disagree with the statement: Our children belong to God? Why or why not? • Direct the class to Hannah’s statements in verses 2728. Ask: What are some stages, or transitions, in the lives of our children when we are reminded that they really belong to the Lord? How do these transitions lead us to the time when we ultimately give them back to the Lord and “empty our nest”? What makes this hard or fearful to do? What can we expect from the Lord when we place our children back into His hands? How is God using you to accompany your child(ren) through life transitions?

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MAP: Meditate on Hannah’s vow to the Lord. What vows have you made to the Lord? What transitions will you experience if God gives you your request?

The Point God designed families to navigate life transitions together.

Personal application

MAP: Pray. Write a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of children. List ways your children have been a gift to you and ways you will respond to God in thanksgiving.

MAP: Apply. What is your current transition with children right now? What can you take from Hannah’s faith and apply to your current transition? Meditate. What transitions with your children are ahead?

I celebrate the gift of children in our family. Recognizing that children belong to God, I will be a godly guide in their transitions as children and will understand each transition as steps in returning them to the Lord.

family application We will design ways to celebrate and navigate meaningful transitions in the lives of our children.



Philippians 3:12-14 Getting Started: Display a child’s blanket—the older and more used the better. Remind the class of the Peanuts character Linus who always carried a security blanket. Take turns passing the blanket around the class and sharing one thing from the past they are holding onto for security. Explain that in today’s lesson we will learn from Paul. Read Philippians 3:12-14.




Transitions help us reach our goal. • Instruct members to pair up and share with each other two or three of their life goals. Give the pairs 5-10 minutes then call on volunteers to share one goal they heard from their partner. • Point out that goals are important to life, but how we reach our goals is equally significant. Ask: According to verse 12, what is the ultimate goal of every follower of Christ? (Spiritual maturity in Christ.) How can life transitions help us reach our goal of spiritual maturity in Christ? How do we “make every effort” toward reaching the goal?

Transitions move us forward. • Point out Paul’s admission that he had not yet reached maturity. Remind the class that we are on a journey. • Ask: According to verse 13, what must first be done in order to move forward? (Forget what is behind.) Lead the class to discuss what Paul forgot. (Note verses 1-11.) • Ask: Why is forgetting necessary? What about the past causes us to be static? What is hard to forget? • Display a photograph of a runner leaning forward into the finish line. Ask: How can we lean forward in life? How do transitions in life move us forward?

Transitions are steps in our pursuit of God’s promise. • Instruct members to underline the word pursue (or press on) in verse 14. Ask: What ideas come to mind when you hear that word (or those words)? What do people pursue in life? What pursuits hinder us from reaching the goal of spiritual maturity? • Display a toy car or truck. Call on a volunteer to briefly describe the purpose of a transmission in a car and how it moves the vehicle forward. Ask: In what ways can we consider transitions in life like a transmission in our car? What spiritual steps can we take so that transitions become steps in our pursuit of God’s promise: spiritual maturity in Christ?

MAP: Pray, asking God to reveal to you every effort you need to make in reaching the goal of spiritual maturity in Christ. How can your current transition in life help you reach that goal?

The Point If we are willing, God can use our transitions in life to move us forward in our pursuit of spiritual maturity.

Personal application MAP: Meditate on the phrase “one thing I do.” Are you as focused as Paul on reaching the goal of spiritual maturity? In what ways? What needs to change?

I will move beyond my past and pursue spiritual maturity. I will allow God to reshape my pursuits so that each transition moves me toward the goal.

family application MAP: Apply. What evidence of spiritual immaturity is in your life? How can you apply your current transition in life to pursue spiritual maturity? Pray, asking God to fuel your pursuit.

We will continually teach and model to our children Deuteronomy 6:4-9 so that they learn to pursue God.

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Last Word

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“He saved usnot by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” —Titus 3:5

Parenting Teens  

This monthly magazine offers timely information, encouragement, and advice to families facing the unique challenges and blessings of parenti...