Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Break and Safety

When I was in high school about a decade ago, Spring Break was a time to relax maybe go to the beach or hang out at the Lake. I grew up in a tiny town in Northwest Florida. I could have gone to Jacksonville Beach or Daytona Beach. I remember in high school that Daytona was the Spring Break destination for many years, but then things began to get out of hand. One year Daytona kicked out the Spring Breakers, and they all migrated to Panama City. Here is an article about the problems in Daytona in 1993 just after Spring Break was removed from Fort Lauderdale.

My concern with Spring Break is that it is an event for high school and college students to attend without any supervision. The importance of this statement is that the students are aware of this. Spring Break is a prime opportunity for a student to experiment with some very deadly sins. For example, Forbes recently posted an article on binge drinking and students' involvement at Spring Break. Other sins include sexual promiscuity, drugs, and other foolish decisions.

This year Fox News has been posting a lot about Spring Break. I like to follow Fox News, so I have kept up with one particular woman who has been reporting. Ainsley Earhardt represented Sean Hannity. Here are some video clips from her reports. I have enjoyed this woman's reporting, because she is embarrassed for these teens, but she is compelled to post footage. Fox has received comments from parents who were so embarrassed to have their kids faces aired.

Let's just take a minute and stop.

First, why are your kids even there?

Second, why are they acting this way?

Third, what else wasn't shown on video?

Fourth, Facebook catches all!

I am afraid for students. I remember Spring Break back in the early 2000's, and it was nothing like this. Yes, all the problems were there, but this is the worst I have ever seen it. I would encourage all parents to not let their teens go to the big locations like Panama City. If your teen wants to go to the beach, send them to quieter places. Also, I would also encourage you to make sure there is some sort of accountability. Don't give your kid cash, just a debit card. This way, you can monitor their purchases. Make sure to call on them regularly. Screen all friends going with them. Lastly, do not be afraid to tell your child "no." It's ok. I know we want our kids to love us, but letting them go to dangerous places is not love on our end. They will love you more for what you withhold sometimes than turning a blind eye.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Teens and Their Friends

Ever had that moment when your teen tells you they are going to hang out with Kyle, and immediately you cringe. It's not that you think Kyle is an evil person, trying to enlist your teen for ISIS or something crazy. Kyle just happens to be one of those teens that you hope yours doesn't pick up any of his bad habits. Sometimes you wish your teen would hang out with someone other than Kyle, but you have compassion for Kyle too. You let your child hang out with Kyle, thinking that perhaps your child will influence him. Maybe he will start coming to church and start making better decisions.

Many parents of teens face this tension. Kyle is a fictitious character I coined for an example, but many of you readers are thinking of actual people right now by whom you do not want your child to be influenced. This struggle comes from the balance of teaching your teen how to be "in the world but not of the world."

This Christian slogan comes from John 17, where Jesus taught that Christians are to be different from this world because we are like Jesus. However, we are also commissioned to the world as his witnesses. I think we all agree that we are certainly in the world, but the slogan has become more of a cry for Christian isolationism.

Teens are experiencing a great deal right now that will shape heir opinions on reality. It is important that they learn to be missionaries to others for the sake of the gospel. Nonetheless, Christian teens need to learn the truth that their model for life is not from Hollywood but is Christ.

I think Jesus modeled the solution to this well for us. Jesus was known for hanging out with two groups of people: his disciples and the sinners. Jesus didn't hang out with the religious snobs of his day, and I would encourage you not to either. Jesus had intimate and close relationships with disciples. A disciple is a learner of Jesus, who is passionate about what Jesus was passionate about. These type of people are good to develop personal and close relationships with. Jesus even spent time with a select few of his disciples at times. It is also good to select your BFF's from this group. These people naturally encourage your to chase after Jesus.

However, Jesus also spent a lot of time with sinners. When Jesus would spend time with sinners, he was always on mission, and he had his disciples with him. Accountability is good, and a team of missional Christians is better than a single person. This mission kept them focused on loving people and showing them the gospel. This is really apparent when Matthew a newly converted disciple held a house party and invited all his sinner friends so they could meet Jesus in Mark 2. The religious snobs judged Jesus, but the sinners loved Jesus.

Here are some lessons that I think may help us parents:

  1. Model this behavior. As a parent our first disciples are our children. If we are not selecting our friends wisely, they do not have a frame of reference to accomplish this. Also, if we are not being missional to sinners on a regular basis, then they also have no reference for properly showing the love of Christ to people who are desperate in need.
  2. Help your teen choose their friends. There is nothing wrong with telling your child who they can hang out with and who they can't. You can even consciously limit their time with a certain friend. By doing this you help them set a reference for good friend selecting.
  3. Talk to your teen. It's alright for them to know why you are making some of your decisions. You don't have to share all the details, but they need to know that you are taking away their friends and social life for nothing. You are making your decisions out of love.
  4. Don't be a friend to your teen. This one is harder, because it seems all parents want to be their child's best friend, but I would encourage you to aspire to the higher calling of being their parent. If you choose to be your teen's friend, then you may rob them of a dad or mom. We are responsible for the hard decisions that our children are not mature enough to handle. By making good decisions for them, you teach them how to make good decisions for themselves in the future.

For Further Reading:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Helping Teens Make Mistakes

There are a lot of different approaches and opinions on parenting. Some parents are very hands-off and like to let their children make their own decisions. Other parents are very hands-on. I'm not referring to parents who spank their children when I say "hands-on." I mean that some parents are very controlling, and will not allow their children to make any decisions on their own.

There are two extremes in parenting: controlling and negligence. Both are harmful to children, especially teens. Teenagers are coming into a phase of life, where they want to make their own decisions. I think it's part of becoming an adult. However, with decisions come consequences. I think we would all agree that every action receives a reaction. Bigger actions receive bigger reactions. It is important for teens to learn this critical lesson. Parents must find the balance of allowing teens to make their own decisions, yet keep them away from harm. We use this balance to help our children make mistakes, and we teach them how to learn from their mistakes.

Scripture has a lot to say about parenting. Let me be honest here; the Bible is not a detail oriented instruction manual for parenting. However, there are some principles that we can use to parent our children. We will not parent exactly as the biblical parents raised their children, because culturally we are very different. Additionally, each child will need to be raised differently. I have two kids, and what worked for one is not working for the other. I think any parent of multiple kids would agree with this sentiment.

Some Scripture on Parenting:

Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord." Here we see the balance of proactive parenting. We don't won't to over shelter our kids, but we must be diligent in correcting them.

Deuteronomy 6:7 "You shall teach [the Scriptures] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." Scripture also teaches us that we are to teach our children the Scriptures both directly and indirectly by how we live.

Hebrews 12:10 "For [our fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seems best to them, but [Jesus] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness." When we join in disciplining our children in a godly manner, we act like Jesus does towards our children. We want our children to become good men and women, with great faith. So does Jesus. We are an extension of his character to our children.

Hebrews 12:11 "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Discipline is certainly not fun for either the child or the parent, but we must keep the end goal in mind. Jesus uses discipline in both our lives and the lives of our children that they will become good people. We then join Jesus in the process of nurturing our children to become godly. There may be no immediate results, because discipline is taught over time.

There is much more about parenting that Scripture speaks to. I encourage you to do some more study in this area.


  1. My child needs correction and guidance, and I (the parent) am responsible for him/her.
  2. My child needs to make mistakes and learn from them.
  3. I must teach my child about choices and consequences through discipline.
  4. I cannot keep my child in a bubble forever, nor should I expose them to everything. I will find a balance to disciplining my child.
  5. When (not if) my child makes a mistake, I will correct them in love not anger.
  6. In doing so, I hope to teach my children not to make big mistakes because they learned from the small ones.

For Further Reading:

"What the Bible Says About Discipline" by Focus on the Family

"Biblical parenting in Proactive, Not Reactive" by Shepherd Press

"Mistakes Improve Children's Learning" by Psychology Today

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Most Dangerous App for Teens

Last Week I wrote an article on some of the most dangerous apps for students. That article was in response to a question posed by one of the parents, whose child is in our student ministry. Please follow the link above for that article. This week I would like to extend that discussion with what is the single most dangerous app for teens.

Before, I reveal this information I would like to give a quick disclaimer. I am a strong proponent of proactive parenting. While I do not have a teenager yet, I will one day. I do not claim to know how to parent a teen, I'm still working on raising a two-year-old. Nonetheless, I do believe that the Bible teaches that parents should be very proactive in rearing their children. See Deut. 6:6-9, Eph. 6:1-3, and Prov. 1:8-9 for examples. Therefore, I believe a parent should know what apps are on their child's phone, and how they are using them. Grace and peace be unto you in this endeavor.

After posting last week's article, I discovered another app that is by far deadlier than the other apps. It is called AppLocker. It is available for iPhone and Android. This app creates a harmless looking folder, but hides other apps in the folder. Teens are then using this app to hide the dangerous apps from last weeks article from their parents. This app can also hide dangerous pictures and links to web pages. I find this app to be to most dangerous, because it encourages teens' rebellion against their parents even further.

Furthermore, I discovered that there is a whole category of apps like this. Some of the others are Hide It Pro, Vault Hide, Hide Pictures, Vaulty, and App Drawer. If your teen has any of these apps or a similar app, that I am still unaware of this, you should confront them. 

Last, I believe there is no app that a parent should not be able to access. I understand that you want to give your child their privacy, but you the parent are responsible for guiding their decisions for this season in their life. If the student has a password or access code that you don't know, they should be willing to give it to you. If they refuse to give it to you, this implies they have something to hide from you. This is not good, because this implies the teen is involved in something that you will not approve. Additionally, this breaks trust between you and your child.

I encourage all parents to love their children by showing your attention and guiding their decisions in life. Scripture says, 'Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but he who loves his son is diligent to discipline him.' in Proverbs 13:24. It also states, 'Discipline and guidance gives wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his parents.' in Proverbs 29:15.

For further reading:

(I love the solution in this article. The author argues for removing a smart phone from the child's possession. Some parents consider this as radical, but I find it wise.)