When My Kid is Too Busy For Church
Activities, distractions and commitments come at teen students quickly and before they know it they are out of time and still buried under so many things-to-do. As a parent, you see the pile of homework, practices, meetings and commitments getting larger and larger but it’s hard to help them navigate. As a parent of two young children my wife and I are trying to prepare now for our kids to face these challenges as teenagers. Speaking as a parent and a youth pastor here’s what I see and what I believe may help.
REMEMBER YOUR VALUES
With the onslaught of commitments facing your teen like school, clubs, sports, band, or whatever other activity they are engaged with its hard to remember to stick to the values. Remembering these values is key to decision making, especially when deciding what is most important to say yes and no to. As a parent you need to make a list of your highest priorities for your family. Here’s an example of mine:
1. Relationship with God
4. Work Life
5. Social Commitments
Next, have your teenager list their values. If there is a difference in the order or context of values that your student has from yours, there may be a problem. If your student says that social commitments like sports, band or a club is higher than school or family or God then it means as a parent you need to reassess values with your teens. Here’s why, this quick list of priorities helps us then assess how we make decisions in our commitments.
RE-EVALUATE YOUR COMMITMENTS
A quick assessment of your teen’s commitments can prove helpful in showing where there may be room to cut back appropriately. Write down all the commitments your teen has and then measure that commitment next to the values. If the commitment level is higher than the value level there probably needs to be an assessment as to why and how that needs to be handled.
As a Youth Pastor, I hear all the time how students are going to miss youth group because they have to much homework but when you look at their commitments through the week its full of practices for sports and band or extra curricular activities so the real reason the excuse given is homework but the real answer is that their student is missing because they don’t value spiritual growth highly. Often times this is what the chart of commitments to values looks like in many Christian families today:
In this chart, it shows the paradigm that many teenage students live in, which shows that they value spiritual life and family highest but their hours are spend in school and in other activities. At the end of the day time is the most valuable thing any person has and for many of our teens they are building a lifestyle that says spending that time in things other than their relationship with God and family is the way to go.
Most parents can figure out quickly through an evaluation of values and commitments that a plan is needed to help balance their teenagers life.
CREATE A PLAN
This step and the next are the most challenging to work out because they require evaluating the truth of our hearts and leads in most cases to some form of sacrifice. Let me just begin by saying that no matter what, there is already sacrifice, for most the sacrifice is family and spiritual life, which is why the goal for making a plan is in creating a balanced lifestyle where that sacrifice is no longer so steep on one area or the next.
The process of creating a plan involves sitting do wn as a family and assessing what values are truly highest and which activities are most important to those values. It may mean being strategic and making time available by being more intentional or it may me trimming some things to make room for more valuable activities.
If the greatest goal you have for your teen is to see them get a college scholarship for academics, sports or band then I guarantee you are setting them up to value those things higher than anything else and through that they will have challenges later in life. The reality is my generation is marked by parenting that said do whatever it takes to succeed, which meant more practices, deeper training and full focus towards that goal. Now my generation struggles in relationships, has one of the fewest Christians, and struggles with more depression than any prior. The lack of faith and family values in parenting my generation shows in how it operates as adults. Creating a plan of action to spend time where those values are held highest makes a difference for the rest of their lives.
EXECUTE THE PLAN
Now that there is a plan to get a balanced lifestyle it needs to be implemented. This may mean meeting with coaches and teachers. It may mean joining new groups and leaving others. It also might mean nothing because your plan already matched your values and life’s good. Whatever the situation it’s key to make sure that balance is found.
Keeping that balance may come in the form of household rules to help keep the consistency. Here are a few ideas:
- Commit to eating dinner as a family for at least 4 nights a week
- Utilize the phone and smart device rules (more on that in another blog)
- No Sunday morning activities, we go to church as a family
- We won’t skip youth group to do homework or for other activities
- We won’t skip family actives for homework or other activities
I realize this is hard as a parent and even harder as a teenager to walk out, but it’s incredibly important. When I hear that another student is going to miss Youth Group for homework or some sport or school activity, my heart breaks because I know that the message that just got communicated to that teenager was that it’s okay to put God on the back burner.
A personal story to end this blog, when I was in high school I had to choose between Youth Group and high school soccer. I knew that if I told my coach that I had to leave practice early to get to youth group, that it might mean losing my starting position or worse getting removed from the team. It made me sick thinking about having to choose but I went to my coach and asked if I could leave early, he gave me a huge Yes and I was able to keep my starting position and on top of that he then asked me to start praying with the team before games.
That’s not going to be the case for everyone, but what it shows is that it might not be as bad as you think and it might actually lead into even greater opportunities! To be honest this blog is written out of a place of despair because I see a generation a lot like mine being raised to value everything by Jesus and it breaks my heart. So please don’t read this blog as if I am angry saying that your decisions and commitments are wrong and you need to be at church all the time, that is not what I am saying. This is written out of a deep love for Jesus and a desire to see Him lifted higher than all other things!