A few years ago, in the run-up to the Indianapolis 500, sportscaster Dan Patrick interviewed driver Danica Patrick. Dan asked her, “If you could take a performance enhancing drug and win the Indy 500, would you consider that to be cheating?” Danica replied, “Not if you don’t get caught.” Perhaps the shocking thing about this sort of reply is that in today’s culture, few are shocked.
Today’s students are growing up in an amoral culture where “each person does what is right in his/her own eyes.” It’s no surprise they are living in a world that has grown increasingly hostile to the traditional values of the Christian faith.
Complicating matters today is the role, or frankly lack thereof, that parents play when it comes to being proactive in teaching their kids values.
Some years back, a study done by LifeWay Research found that:
- While nine of 10 parents say they need encouragement in their parenting roles, 61% said that they completely ignore parenting seminars, and 53% “have no use for books by religious parenting experts.”
- Less than a third (31%) of families surveyed have devotions or studies together at least once a month.
- Over 80% of parents say they have an excellent family life, but a third rate their family’s spiritual life as only fair or poor.
- Spiritual growth is often trumped by other priorities when it comes to parenting.
So, one of our challenges in youth ministry is to identify ways to partner with parents that motivates them to instill in their kids’ lives godly values, and to help them build a clear sense of authority, particularly the authority of the Scriptures, in a world that largely denies such authority.
We’re all familiar with Deuteronomy 6:4-7, where we read “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you lie down and when you get up.” This passage provides us with clear marching orders when it comes to teaching a primary standard for our values.
- We must raise the bar on the amount of attention given to intergenerational teaching of God’s Word as the ultimate standard of truth and authority for the church, the family, and all of life. Similarly, much attention ought to be paid to ensuring that parents truly understand that raising kids to love and obey God, begins with parents loving God with their heart, soul and strength.
- Partner with parents to teach kids the value of authority and truth, particularly that of the Scriptures, when kids are young. Start early! Even today, kids still respect the authority of their parents. The younger kids are, the better in this regard, as it gives more years to build Biblical values into kids’ lives.
- Teach parents about the key influence they have upon their children’s perception of the concept of authority through their role modeling. Kids who see their parents living out a healthy sense of authority are more likely to learn to embrace the concept of authority themselves. Parents need to be encouraged to live lives of integrity and authenticity. Kids don’t have to see parents as perfect, but as Christ-followers who are authentic and demonstrate a life of faith, even in failure, and in times of crisis.
- In your youth ministry setting, set a high standard for volunteer workers as role models; people your students can look up to, learn from, and pattern their lives after.
Most parents make the decision to teach their kids positive, healthy morals and values and to foster those values. And most parents are frightened by the amount of negative distractions and temptations facing their kids. However, as you partner with parents and support them along the way, you can help your students make it through the maze of negative influences and develop positive morals and values that they, in turn, can pass on to their own children.
Join me at NYWC 2016 for a more in-depth look these and other issues in my workshop, “Building Morals and Values for Teenagers.”
JIM BURNS is the president of HomeWord and the executive director of the HOMEWORD CENTER FOR YOUTH AND FAMILY at Azusa Pacific University. Jim speaks to people around the world about how to have strong marriages, be confident parents, raise empowered kids, and become healthy leaders. He’s also the author of several books, including CONFIDENT PARENTING, THE PURITY CODE,CREATING AN INTIMATE MARRIAGE, and CLOSER. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live Southern California and have three grown daughters.