Apart from ministering to youth/children pastors and parents, I also minister to children and teens, with wonderful results. Yet we are still only scratching the surface of the need, even though I am very encouraged with the affects of renewal/revival movement, seeing church-wise kids being turned around in our particular ministry, and also other ministries having similar responses.
Why Are Kids Getting Messed Up?
Just recently there was a report on CNN news about a drug pusher who was HIV positive and had infected at least 75 women from a small town near New York with the aids virus. Many of these were young teens some as young as thirteen years. One thirteen year old black girl began to warn other young girls about the kind of guys they sleep with. She mentioned the dangers of unprotected sex and wrong relationships.
Of course the warning was almost a total waste of time, because preteens and teens seldom, if ever read the news or watch it on TV They have little or no interest in what is going on in the world. Theirs is a world of teenage gangs, drugs, illicit sex, M.T.V. rock music, clothes, fashion, shopping malls, games, sports and hanging out with others of their own age and interests. The chances of them hearing the warnings like the one mentioned is remote. If these youngsters have any parental authority in their lives it is unlikely that their mother or father will inform them of world events. The sad thing about this situation is there appeared to be no moral godly instruction for them. They are the products of our immoral, hedonistic, godless, society.
Dealing With Church Kids
Unfortunately even children with a religious background are not immune. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child." (Prov.22:15). When numbers of children gather and hang out together without wise godly counsel and oversight from adults then the foolishness is multiplied. "For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, and saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of understanding," (Prov.7:6-7). Almost in every case where the problem of stupidity (making wrong choices) in youngsters exists, parents are to blame. "Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old [or independent] he will not depart from it." (Prov 22:6). This is a command and a promise to us as parents.
Some Christian leaders have said that we must allow our children choices. Although we should pray for them we cannot expect them to necessarily follow us in our walk with the Lord. Yet the Apostle Paul said, "Follow me even as I follow the Lord" (1.Cor.11:1). For Christians, our children are our first disciples. Train up a child in the way he should go, not the way he or his friends may want him to go. Children make their own choices when they become independent. Scripturally they qualify for independence (not at a certain given age), but when they become responsible. (If a teenager is irresponsible and a "Bozo" at age 17 years and 364 days, when he or she wakes up the next morning at age 18, they will not have become responsible overnight. Age is not the criteria, some people never grow up.) Children are deemed responsible when they have proved to be trustworthy, and it is through obedience that they qualify to be trusted. If a child is disobedient in front of us, he or she is certainly not going to obey us behind our backs. (see Eph.6:1-4. Prov.29:15).
What Our Children Want
All children desire to be independent. They want to choose for themselves, ie. the clothes they wear, the food they eat, their friends, TV programs. They don't like curfews or restraint. They think they can make their own decisions before they are ready. Even little children want to drive the car, ask them! "I can do it, let me try," they often say.
The story of the prodigal son, shows the Father's heart towards His children, even though the boy was stubborn and self-willed. As soon as the son repented, his Father ran to meet him and welcomed him back. This parable is not a teaching on allowing your children to do their own thing, but on God's compassion and forgiveness. If our children are permitted to rebel and go their own way, they will end up as prodigals and some may never come back. (see Lk.15:11-32. 2.Pet.2:22.)
We know that it is easy for the philosophy of our society to infiltrate the minds of church parents and kids. If a young person does some horrible act or crime many quickly rally to their defense. The argument is usually about how the teen was abused as a child, had bad role models, was persecuted by his school mates, and hated and beaten by his father. Although this has a element of truth, as these things do happen to people, (very few people can claim to have a perfect childhood) it does not relieve them of personal responsibility.
Using our liberal society's argument, if anybody had good reason to turn out bad and go to drugs and violence it would have been the biblical character, Joseph! The main difference is that our liberal society does not take God into consideration and Joseph never failed to see the hand of God in his life. After receiving two dreams from the Lord which I'm sure he thought would bring blessing, instead brought great trouble. His brothers planned to kill him, and throw him in a pit, but then sold him as a slave. But he did not turn negative and have a bad attitude. Even when he was put him in prison after being falsely accused by Potiphar's wife, he still didn't have a revengeful attitude. (see Gen.37-39). When he was finally vindicated and Pharaoh promoted him, he did not have a pay-back plan to destroy his brothers when they came to buy grain. (see Gen.40-44).
Joseph saw God's divine plan overruling the sinful human plans of man. What man intended for evil, God meant it for good. "And Joseph said to his brothers, 'Please come near to me.' And they came near. And he said: `I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.'" (Gen.45:4-7).
Causes Of Rebellion
Many parents come to me to tell me that their child is in rebellion. In most cases it started when he or she was allowed to associate with ungodly youngsters. "Do not be deceived; Evil company corrupts good habits." (1.Cor.15:33). Some may argue that to keep your children from associating with children of the world is being a legalistic Pharisee. "After all Jesus ate with sinners."
I met a mother who told me that her teenage son was spending all his time with his non-Christians friends. When she queried the wisdom of that, he argued that he had to do that in order to witness to them about Jesus. After asking her what had been the result of this, I found out that he was not going to church and he had abandoned all his Christian friends and he was participating in drugs and parties. The purpose for his hanging out with ungodly kids was different from what he had told his mother.
If our children desire to be friendly with ungodly children we need to know their real intentions. I believe that we are to be friendly to non-Christians and try to help them and minister to them - but make them our best friends? - How can a Christian have a unbeliever as their best friend? What do they have in common? They obviously have no spiritual fellowship, so it must be on the carnal level.
Recently I was ministering at a retreat in Oregon. After I had spoken, a young girl of about fifteen, asked me if people ever disagreed with me. I said, "sometimes."
"Well I disagree with what you said. I think its all right to watch any kind of movie you like. I also think its all right to date non-Christians and even marry one if you want to. My parents agree with me, for we have come out of all that legalistic church junk."
I made some other comments and then she got mad and said, "Are you saying that me and my parents are not Christians?" If the cap fits wear it.
Another thing that can cause rebellion is when one of the parents is not there for the child. This often happens in divorce or only having a single parent. For instance, if a father cannot show love and affection for his daughter, she may find it in other places, and there will always be some fleshy unregenerate guy that will be happy to accommodate her. When I do my family seminars in churches the people that are usually having the most problems with their children don't bother to show up. Then after I have left they are still complaining about the family woes they are experiencing. God gives us answers and keys, but often we don't want them.
Children are given choices today at a very young age. In my travels I stay in hotels almost every week. When coming down for breakfast I have on many occasions seen a mother taking her three year old through the breakfast bar and asking what he/she wants to eat. Are children of that age capable to making a good dietary choice for themselves? I think not. When my children were small I never gave them choices. I did not tell them that there was a broad way and a narrow way. I only told them about the narrow way. The broad way was not a viable option. A fence at the top of the cliff is better than a ambulance service at the bottom.
Danger Of Public Schools
Public schools easily become a breeding ground for negative influence and relationships among children today. Mix large numbers of good apples with a few bad ones and all will become finally bad. "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." (Gal.5:9). Although church youth programs and children's ministry can help to influence youngsters, we parents are the real key. Weeds grow and thrive in a garden because of neglect. When we parents neglect to train our children for God's purpose and destiny, then their lives produce weeds, instead of fruit and flowers.
Wrong Concept For Acceptance
Many young teenage and preteen girls major on their own bodies and how they look. They same goes for boys. As girls develop and become shapely they want to attract the attention of boys. Many of them do all that they can to enhance their appearance and sex appeal. They seem to think this will make them worthwhile and they will be popular with the opposite sex. How they dress and how they appear to their peers becomes of utmost importance. Although it is natural for youngsters to want to look attractive, if that is the only thing they have going for them, then they will have a problem. They will probably end up being abused and in trouble.
The difficulty for many of our youngsters, is that their physical growth and sexual attractiveness, far outweighs their spiritual maturity and character. Physical growth doesn't need much working on, but character and spirituality does. After some of these have been sexually taken advantage of, they then have to think of other things to keep up with their peers and to feel important. So outrageous appearance and behavior is practiced to create an attention-getting personality. It doesn't matter if its negative behavior as long as it gets them attention. For this is what children crave for. If they can't get our attention by being good, then they will be bad. One way or other they will get the attention they feel they deserve.
Problems With Religious Education
If our children are only traditional Christians, (meaning they were brought up to be a Christian by learning to give the right answers), they will not survive the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Their character and spiritually will be weak or non existent. They must have a real faith, and the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives. Religion, even orthodox religion, will not bring them through. I have met so many preteens and teens that have been in church most of their lives and have never even read the four gospels through. They only know a few bits and pieces of scripture, like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. How can they understand what Jesus said; how He felt; how He responded to the people of His day, and how they responded to Him? How will our youngsters make it without the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives?
Recently I was preaching that many problems people have are due to lack of revelation. The Lord said, "ask the teens and preteens if they know what the word `revelation' means." Not one could answer me. We assume that our youngsters understand biblical terms, when many of them are ignorant. I had to explain to them what revelation meant. -To reveal, to show something that is hidden.- To really get their attention, I majored on how good parents want to children to wear appropriate clothes and not a wear a dress or bathing suit that is too revealing. Some kids in church don't have a clue what God is doing or saying, because they have no spiritual insight. They are wise in their own eyes. They don't listen to the preachers, but fool around, or go to sleep in church. ". . .You have hidden these things from the wise and the prudent and have revealed them to babes." (Mat.11:25). I have told parents, children and youth pastors alike, its time to seriously disciple our children.
Innocent Or Depraved?
Some people believe that children are born innocent little angels, but all humans are born with a propensity to sin. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they hid themselves. When God came down to find them hiding and afraid, He asked them if they ate of the forbidden fruit. Adam blamed the woman and the woman blamed the serpent. Our original parents sin of passing the buck has been passed down through the generations. (no pun intended) We and our children have inherited the fallen Adamic nature. Many times parents come into a room when siblings are fighting and arguing. "Who started it?" one of the parents asks. "It was her." "Uh! Uh! it was Him." "No! she started it." So the debate continues. They have inherited this from their original grandparents. A vase is suddenly broken in the room where the children are. The parent comes rushing in. "How did that get broken? "I don't know, I never touched it." replies the child. "Well what happened?" "I just looked at it and it fell of the table all by itself." The Adamic nature will not own up to responsibility.
Destiny And Purpose
I have seen teenagers wearing tee-shirts with the slogan "Born to Party" on them. We were not born to party. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; And ordained you to be a prophet to the nations." (Jer.1:5). When our children see that God has a wonderful destiny and purpose for them they will be inclined to develop their character and spiritual walk. When they realize that they are important to God, and He wants to anoint them and use them regardless of their age, they will become excited and respond to God's purposes.
Ten Commandants For Parents
Let us as parents do the following things:-