After spending 20+ years working with teenagers, you'd think parenting teens would be a piece of cake, right?
I mean, surely with all that experience, raising your own teens would be easy. After all the study, all the counseling, all the hands-on opportunities to get down and dirty with teens, you'd think that somethine would be applicable when dealing with your own. RIGHT?
WRONG! Raising teenagers is nothing like ministry to teenagers.
I have two teenagers. By January 2015, I'll have three. All boys, thus far. And while I looked forward to these years, I am finding that I am not as prepared as you should be. In fact, if I was graded on my abilities to be a youth pastor versus being a dad of teenagers, I'd probably have to do summer school for the dad part.
Sadly, this is all caught me off guard. I mean, I really looked forward to the time when I'm kids would be teens. To be able to have the relationship with them that I've had with so many others... To be a part of their lives in ways that many parents are not able to be a part of... To share the kinds of adventures and learning exeriences that I once shared with my former students... And yet, I'm missing it.
And I wonder why? Why is this not easier? Why am I not more effective? Well, here's what I'm learning.
1. I'm their Dad, not the Youth Pastor.
Now you'd think that this would be one in the same, right? But it's not. You see, in my kids eyes, I am their dad. Being a youth pastor/pastor is what I do. When they see me, they see dad, not pastor. The same would be true if I was in a different career choise. I could be the best graphic artist, or a wildly successful architect, or New York Times Best Selling Author, but they would still only see, dad.
This little bit of realization came to me having sat down with my boys to ask how they felt about me serving in my current role, lead pastor/youth pastor. Both of them said it was hard for them, because when to looked at me, whether I was teaching or preaching, or whatever, all they saw was their dad, not their pastor.This has made me think about what my relationship with my kids should look like. Now that's not a bad thing. I am their dad, and I will always be their dad. Likewise, I will always be a pastor, and that too is good. But, when it comes to my kids, I am their dad, and that should have priority over being their pastor.
2. Be Authentic.
That same statement by my kids about being their dad and not their pastor jogged another thought for me, if I can't be both, be authentic about who I am. What does that look like? For me, it's the idea that I be consistent in who I am. That means, the guy they see up front teaching every week, needs to be the same guys who sits at the kitchen table every night. They need to see that what I teach is how I live. The call of pastor is more than a job, it's who I was created to be. To be authentic is to take the two and make them one in my life. The last thing I want to do is to discredit my faith, and possibly cause question in their own hearts, by living two separate lives, the good pastor on Sunday and the not so good dad the rest of the week.
To be authentic is to live with a certain level of humility, honesty, and openness. It's being the same wherever you find yourself, with whoever you're around. It's being the guy who speak Truth into peoples lives, AND being the dad who takes the time to speak Truth into his kids lives. And to be honest, this is a tough thing for me.
3. Let Grace and Love be Spoken Louder than My Voice of Correction.
Okay, here's the really big one. Being a parent of teens is quickly showing me, that I have more patience and tolerance for students, than I do for my own kids. As a youth pastor, I had no problem extending grace and love to my students. It was actually easy. But to do the same for my own kids is proving my difficult than expected.
Recently, I've been more and more convicted in how I parent my teenage boys. I have high expectations for them; not out of my own selfishness to see them do what I want the to do, but for them to be who God has created them to be. But even in those expectation, well intentioned as they may be, I am finding I have little room for grace and love. Now don't get me wrong, I love my kids ridiculously. But it's not always the same love that I believe God demonstrates in those momnets of my failures. That kind of grace and love comes a deeper place then wanting your kids to do what's right.
The difficulty is in the balancing of grace and love, and correction and consequences. You see, in my sin, I know that forgiveness is given. This is the grace and love. But sometime, I still have to face and deal with the consequences of the sin. I know this, and I want to protect my teens from making the same mistakes. But what I am learning is, sometimes graces and love is found in the consequences of our sin. I have to be able to allow my kids to make the mistakes that will teach them to understand the deep richness of grace and love.
Raising teenagers is nothing like ministering to teenagers. It's hard work. But I'm hoping to take what I have learned in my many years of ministry, AND what God is teaching me as a father and become a better dad. I may have made some mistakes, but I believe there is always time to learn, grow, and apply those lessons to whats still ahead.
Thanks for taking the time to read The Higham Family Blog. Each week we try to share new content about something we are learning, something we love, or something to offer encouragement to the family. We love to hear from our readers, so please share your thought in the comment section of each post.