Note: This is a sample of the Parents Guide in Hollow Faith: How Andy Griffith, Facebook, and the American Dream neutered the Gospel
It is a commonly held belief that teenagers think they are the center of the universe. It is a common practice that teenagers act like they are the center of the universe. For all intents and purposes our students live life like there is no one else besides themselves.
Our youth practice what I call the “two weeks five feet” rule. This means that not only do they believe that they are the center of the universe but that their universe has a very small orbit. Commonly this fleshes itself out that they can only see two weeks out and what is happening in a five foot radius.
Because of this phenomenon, it is very difficult for youth to see the greater picture of the world around them as well as how God is working and calling them to work in that world.
Our youth, like ourselves have the natural inclination to turn inwards. The difference in youth and their adult counterparts is that adults have responsibilities that force them beyond themselves (more often than youth do). Things like paying bills, working in an office or a factory, taking care of children, etc. cause adults to have to live beyond themselves to varying degrees. Most youth are really just learning to take care of themselves at certain levels. For many parents if a teenager picks up her room, does his homework and is reasonably clean they consider their teen to be a responsible teenager. Often parents feel, rightfully so, that the job of parenting is so overwhelming and takes so much time and energy that our focus is solely on getting them to be self-sufficient. The problem with this line of thinking is that we are not preparing our teens for a life that does anything but take care of themselves. This is not the life that God has called any of us to, adults or youth. We have a responsibility to our youth to make sure that we not only tell them that they are not the center of the universe but we also have to act towards and treat them like that as well. When we pull them out of that understanding and help them to see that God has called to something so much bigger, a life of love, sacrifice, helping others and following God closely. When this awareness happens they not only realize their place in the world but they are enabled to live fully into that place and stop saying living a life of “me, me, me!”
I think this is one of the easiest things to talk to parents about. The majority of parents I talk to are completely overwhelmed with their kids sports, school, homework, extracurricular activities, etc. The kids’ lives tell them it is all about them. Their school’s, coaches’ and instructors’ requirements are telling them the same thing. There is a demand on family’s time like never before. I am sure this subject will not have to be explained to very many parents. I imagine many of them are already talking to you about this pretty regularly. This intense focus on our kids by these entities, and often by parents, helps perpetuate this five feet two week world.
Sit down as a family and ask the question, “What prioritizes and consumes the majority of our ‘family time?’ This means the non-work, non-school times (i.e. after 6:00 p.m. on weekdays and what we do on the weekends.)” As you do list activities, the most helpful way to think about it is in terms of seasons. If you make a list in three month periods it will not only make more sense but will be much more manageable. One of the easiest ways to make a list like this is to give everyone a different color marker and a paper calendar, and write and mark down everything from practices to recitals to business dinners. You’ll have a visual representation of what things and which members of the family are consuming the majority of the family’s time.
Once you have done this exercise look at the calendar as a family and decide a few things:
When are the really busy times in the year? You will usually find that early fall and late spring are the busiest seasons.
What are things you can cut out? Is there an overly busy person?
Look at the times where the calendar is not as busy and think about some family priorities during these times.
Use this time to purge and take away things from your calendar. It will be difficult at first but you need to make sure to take away enough to calm the schedule but also to be able to add some things that are outside the realm of “me.”
Finally, decide as a family how you are going to use your newly balanced schedules to go outside yourselves. How are you going to help others, be involved in your community, take Sabbath, prioritize family worship times, do a family mission trip instead of a vacation, clean up a neighborhood. The possibilities are endless. Make sure that these are not token excursions but that they are decided upon by the family, regularly scheduled and prioritized like the baseball practice or piano lessons. Constantly remind the youth that the family is not doing this as an add-on. Help them understand that sports, homework and extracurricular activities are the add-ons and therefore receive less priority. Thinking in the prioritizing manner is a huge conceptual shift. Make sure to take it slowly; it’s a long process. What you are doing now, intentional family time and helping others is a central part to your family. Work to develop and ingrain that sense into your teens’ understanding of family and personal time management.
Our youth want to be engaged and challenged with race and justice issues. And, we need to provide them a theological framework and opportunities to do so. Here are some resources that have come to our attention we recommend as you explore these conversations with your youth, families, and congregations:
Racism in America is a tragic reality. It’s part of our history and unfortunately, it’s still evident in today’s world. One of the things we can do as faithful Christians to fight racism is to grow in our own knowledge and understanding of those with different experiences than our own. To help get you started, check out these resources...
The Center for Youth Ministry Training joins the millions of people around the country and the world crying out for justice. We are praying for the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, for all impacted by racial injustice, and for all who are experiencing anger, fear, sorrow, and pain from these horrific incidents. We are concerned about how these killings and the deep divisions of our country are impacting all young people.