Volume 13, Number 3, September-October 2009
by Norman Edwards
Feast of Tabernacles 2009,
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
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
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
What did you like about this Feast of Tabernacles?
1. Lots of
talent of people.
friends that we have not seen in several months.
friends all close together in one area
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.
sermons shorter—they can be concise and still have a good message.
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
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.
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
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
6. Open Bible
study allowing people to bring up things they want to talk about.
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.
discussion about irrelevant stuff—no filibustering!
4. More youth
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?
2. Caring for
sacrifices for us.
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.
to us without judging.
9. Asking us
10. Having a voice: listening to our opinions
treating us like a dumb kid.
12. Trusting us
to do the right thing.
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?
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
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”.
7. When you
ask us something, don’t forget it!!!
expecting us to read your mind!!!
that High School is different now than it was back then!
10. Things were
not better in the old days.
concentrate on the one thing we messed up on, when we did everything else
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
15. Do not ask
for our input and then get angry when we give it.
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
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
Comments on a few of the specific points, above, follow:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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”.
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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