Volume 13, Number 3, September-October 2009

Feast of Tabernacles 2009, Utica, Illinois

Teens’ Message to Parents

Older believers should not think church teens are opposed to God and that we must force Him upon them. Most want to grow to live a righteous life and to responsibly take care of themselves. Here is how they are asking for help.

Most of the teens at 2009 Feast in Utica, Ill, listened to the four sermons and the dozen teen seminars. This writer felt it was worth spending part of a study listening to the teens. Than happened at the Thursday, 10:30 a.m. seminar. It with a brief lesson, then the teens were asked to give their answers to six questions: what was going well and what needed improvement at this Feast, with their church, and with their parents. Their answers can be a great blessing to parents and servants in the Body of Christ.

The study started with a brief admonition to let living things forever remind us or our creator God. If we were to put old electronic circuit boards in a washing machine and turn it on, how long would it take to create a working electronic device? If a working device emerged—maybe a battery lodged in some metal that would light an LED—would we expect every part of this newfound gizmo to work? Or would we expect mostly junk with only a few parts working?

The young people agreed that only a small part of the device would have any function at all. Then they were asked to look at themselves, and living things in nature. They noticed that everything works: hands, feet, eyes, ears. Every part has a function and works very well. Would we expect that washing machine gizmo to be able to reproduce more gizmos like itself? That is utterly ridiculous. Yet, that is what we see in God’s creation: millions of distinct species all reproducing themselves.

While scientists disagree greatly on the total number of distinct species on earth, 20 million is about the middle of the estimates. Evolutionists say that life has been on earth for about 2 billion years. What is 2 billion divided by 20 million? One young person quickly said 100 (right!). If evolution is true, a new successful species must be evolving on earth every 100 years. But if only one in ten thousand of newly evolved species are successful—able to reproduce themselves—then we should be seeing a hundred unsuccessful new species trying to evolve every year. Yet scientists never observe it. If it does happen by random chance, why can’t scientist make new species evolve in the laboratory?

Teens Answer Six Questions

About thirty teens were present when these questions were asked.  At the beginning, this writer began to type summaries of their answers on a computer connected to a projection screen so that everyone could see them. As the young people began snickering at all of the mistakes and corrections displayed before them, one of the teens, whom this writer did not know, volunteered to do the typing—which made the seminar so much easier to manage. Thanks a lot, Krissy!

Below, we list the responses given by the teens—edited slightly for easier reading. The young people were not prompted for answers—these are their suggestions. This writer added his comments at each section’s end.

What did you like about this Feast of Tabernacles?

1.    Lots of family activities.

2.    Amazing talent of people.

3.    Seeing friends that we have not seen in several months.

4.    Having friends all close together in one area

5.    Teen seminars with a variety of different teachers

6.    Making new friends from the many people who come.

Comment: We could summarize this by saying that the teens want to be with their peers—and also their parents. They enjoy learning—and they like the diversity, rather than just the same person all of the time. They did not mention the water park, the fancy meals, or other entertainment. They liked having all of the people close together. Feast and church activity planners should take note of this: plan a family and friendly Feast, not a fancy and frivolous Feast.

How could future Feasts be improved?

1.    Add some break time between seminars!!!

2.    Allow more free time—which might mean less music, less announcements, etc.

3.    Make sermons shorter—they can be concise and still have a good message.

4.    Presentation people need to be more organized.

5.    Add some organized teen socials or “mixers”—activities where new teens that did not know a lot of the other people would find it easy to fit in and get to know others.

Comment: The first teen suggestion here was probably the single most simple thing that could have been done to improve the Feast. Seminars were scheduled in hour blocks with no space in-between. Long-winded speakers (like this writer) tended to start at the beginning and talk right up the scheduled end. This left no scheduled time for setup, going to other rooms, water/rest-room stops, etc.

The other suggestions again emphasize the theme of friendship and involving all teens who attend.

What do you like about your church services?

The young people were about evenly divided between those who attended church services 1) at home with just their family, 2) in homes with other people and 3) in a building with other people. Some teens who did not meet with others wished that they could. Others said the place doesn’t matter, where you are is where God wants you to be.

1.    Hearing from people who spoke because they wanted to, rather than a minister who speaks all the time.

2.    Seeing a diversity of videos.

3.    Good fellowship without conflict.

4.    Being involved in reading through the books of the Bible and discussing them, rather than someone talking to you and trying to remember everything.

5.    Hymns and new songs.

6.    Open Bible study allowing people to bring up things they want to talk about.

7.    Praise Worship.

8.    Variety in Bible studies and sermons.

Comment: After considering this, I realized that church services should largely be geared for the teen and young adult. These are the ones who most need instruction to run their lives. The same messages will be useful to new believers who are just beginning to attend. Long-time believers are most able to study on their own and most likely to organize a study with other believers. The place for advanced and technical study is an adult Bible study.

How could church services be improved?

1.    Keep “down time” to a minimum. Presentations should be thought out and organized.

2.    Have more songs we know! Provide hymn books with words and music.

3.    Avoid discussion about irrelevant stuff—no filibustering!

4.    More youth stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!

5.    Churches should be more interactive, more interesting, keep your attention! People should want to go, not go because they think they should.

6.    Work with (service projects, evangelism) or meet together with other groups!

Comment: Those who plan services must always keep in mind: what is interesting to all of the people who are listening. When a presenter runs out of time for organization or preparation, it is easy to think “the people will be patient with me, they are going to be their anyway”. After too many difficult presentations, they may not be.

As a minor correction to point 2 above, the way most people learn new songs is to listen to songs that, initially, “they don’t know”. Nevertheless, services should contain a mix of songs familiar to those who attend (whatever their background may be) and new songs.

What do you like about your parents?

1.    Encouragement.

2.    Caring for us.

3.    Appreciation!

4.    Making sacrifices for us.

5.    Doing things so we can have a good time.

6.    Helping us do things with our friends: providing a place for our friends to come, buying food and yummies for us.

7.    Being able to talk to them about anything.

8.    Listening to us without judging.

9.    Asking us positive questions.

10.  Having a voice: listening to our opinions and concerns.

11.  Not treating us like a dumb kid.

12.  Trusting us to do the right thing.

13.  Talking about God!!!!

14.  Having expectations—preparing us for the rest of our life!

15.  Giving us a reasonable amount of work.

16.  Freedom to make some choices ourselves.

Comment: This list is a mixture of receiving nice things from parents and a demonstration that teens realize they need their parents to help them grow into adults. It is so difficult for parents to make the transition from telling their children what to do and to think when they are little, to asking them why they do and what they think when they are older. Even when a teen tells a parent they did something awful, it is better for the parent to ask: Is that what you wanted to do? Did it work out the way you expected? Would you do it again? What does the Bible say about it? Do you think it is what God wanted for you?

How could parents improve?

1.    Explain their reasoning for what they do. “Because I said so!!” or “I’m in charge and that’s the way it is” are not a good answer for young people learning to manage their own lives!!!

2.    Do not run a family like a dictatorship.

3.    Give us more appreciation!!!

4.    Trust us more! It is unfair when we do everything right and we still are not trusted!

5.    Listen to how we feel, especially when you are telling us “no”.

6.    Stop assuming!!!!

7.    When you ask us something, don’t forget it!!!

8.    Stop expecting us to read your mind!!!

9.    Realize that High School is different now than it was back then!

10.  Things were not better in the old days.

11.  Don’t concentrate on the one thing we messed up on, when we did everything else right.

12.  Let us know about the major things happening in your lives, do not spring major family changes on us (moves, loss of jobs, etc) at the last minute.

13.  Do not fear our independence! It is not a personal attack! We are not being rebellious.

14.  Stop interrogating us!!!!

15.  Do not ask for our input and then get angry when we give it.

16.  Our constructive criticism should not be interpreted as a personal attack!

17.  Have more family discussions! Do not have discussions about us when we are not even there.

18.  Do not talk about us like we are not there when we really are.

19.  Don’t judge us over little things and ignore the big things.

20.  Do not deliberately give us GUILT TRIPS!!!!! (We are in debt to you, etc.)

21.  Let us make our own mistakes and learn!!!!

22.  Deal with us in peace, instead of yelling.

Comment: Most of these are good advice to parents. This is not to say that if parents were to do all of these things the difficulties with raising young people would suddenly be over. There are many areas where young people need to make changes also. But parents, with years of Christianity under their belts, and the controlling hand in the household, can do far more to bring peace to the household than their children.

Comments on a few of the specific points, above, follow:

#1.       Parents of teens must always remember that it is their mission to explain biblical and successful principles to their young people so that they will continue in them by their own decision. Without understanding, they are not likely to continue. Parents tend to say “because I said so” when they do not want to get into an argument with their child—maybe they don’t have the time right now. There may be times when a parent does not even know why they want something done a certain way, but they sure know. It is best for a parent to give whatever honest explanation they have and then say that you are doing it this way in your family, and when the child has their own family, they will be free to do it their way.

#4.       Perfectionism is a very common and dangerous tendency in parents. They want their child to do everything right. While it would be wonderful to have a “perfect child”, it is unreasonable and destructive to expect such. Children see their parents imperfections and their hypocrisy. Children of perfectionist parents tend to leave home (sometimes early) and not come back.

#5.       A lot can be accomplished by acknowledging the feelings of our teens, even when we do not believe in doing what they want us to do.

#6.       When children are young, they learn almost everything they know from their parents. It is reasonable for parents to assume the child doesn’t know anything the parent doesn’t know. But as the teen years progress, that concept crumbles as teens read and learn from school and friends.

#7.       Two issues are probably at play here. Parents have a tendency to not remember answers they do not want to hear, so they ask their teen again hoping to get a different answer. This bugs the teen because they think they are being coaxed to change their mind. On the other hand, older people’s memories are not as good as teen’s and if they forget in innocence, the teen should be patient.

#8.       It is easy for parents to think about things, talk about them between each other, but never actually say them to their teens--but still expect them to know.

#12.     This writer has heard parents say they do not deliberately tell their teens about fun things the family is doing until immediately before because their teen will be so excited about it they will not get work done. That is saying: “my child will have to go elsewhere to learn the skill of doing their work while something exciting is planned”. It also drives the child away from the parents who deprive them of the pre-excitement, and to their teen friends who would not withhold information like that from them. How much better is it to take the up-front approach of telling the teen, “we have something exciting planned, will you promise to try to get your work done if I tell you about it now?” Similarly, if parents have some difficulty, like a loss of their job or living place, teens want to know as soon as possible so they can make their plans accordingly.

#14.     Parents who want communication with their children should not interrogate them till they confess to some mistake and then punish them for it. When parents discovers child’s sin, it is good to bring appropriate consequences. But when a child realizes they have made a mistake and comes to confess it, consequences are often not helpful. The child’s own repentance is often more valuable.

#15.     This may sound trivial to the point of being unnecessary, but it happens frequently. When parents ask their teens what they think, they should not insist that the teens think like the parents. Even if the child’s thinking is clearly unbiblical, the parent should not be angry at the child for thinking it. A peaceful teaching of the biblical truth, and asking of the teen to consider it is all that is necessary.

#21.     Allowing young people to make mistakes—hopefully not destructive mistakes, is a good thing for parents to do. That does not mean that the parent should pull out the money box and continuously pay the cost of their teen’s mistakes. Letting the teen pay for their own mistakes is a very worthwhile thing for someone who wants to be “grown up”.

#22.     Deal in peace instead of yelling. That is great advice for both parents and teens.

May parents strive to be better parents, and young people strive to be better children. May we all strive to be better children of our Father in Heaven.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:1-4).               &


by Norman Edwards

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