At the end of a seminar I led on boys a man in his 70’s pulled me aside to ask a few questions. In doing so he made some interesting observations. He noted that, in his opinion:
- Far too many parents today over-program their children often at the expense of building character in them. Rather than starting with the question: What kind of person do I want my child to be?, parents today seem to be asking, What kinds of activities does my child need to participate in in order to keep up with the other kids? Or to build up a strong resume for later in life? The pressure to over-program, he suggests, comes from culture, not necessarily from an internal character-shaping desire in mom and/or dad.
- In this over-programmed culture, church is usually at the bottom of the list for families today. Miss a soccer or football practice, and you don’t play the next game. Miss church…nothing. And while soccer or football or dance or music does shape character, only the church forges a depth of character that transforms.
He finished by saying, “But then again, I’m just an old man from a different world!”
My youth director made some similar observations when I interviewed him about youth during worship one weekend. One of his comments was particularly insightful: Kids are yearning for more time with mom and dad and are feeling stressed out by over-programming parents and over-programmed lives.
As is true for every generation of parents, it’s good to step back and ask, “To what end?” To what end am I involving my child in 5-6 extra-curricular activities? To what end am I working extra hours in order to maybe have money for when the kids are older? To what end am I skipping worship yet again?
Every “priority” has a counter “non-priority.” No one can do everything. Making “this” a priority means that “that” can’t be. What are the trade offs? What are the unintended consequences?
From time to time a parent of a teenager will come to me in tears wondering why his/her son has dropped out of church. These are parents who attend worship sporadically, once a month or less because their son’s activities always conflicted with worship. Why did their teenager drop out of church? Because he was taught all of his young life that everything is more important than church.
What does it profit parents to over-program their kids…only for their kids to lose their souls in the process?
Few calls in life are more sacred, significant, compelling, and daunting than parenting. But what a ride it is.
But to state the obvious, parenting is the call to Parent! To take the lead in the lives of our kids and set priorities that will instill in them faith and character.
What opportunities will empower you to forge faith and character in your son? Your daughter?