Parenting is hard. We get it. Still, you are the exact person your child needs.
Research demonstrates that parents are the #1 influencers when it comes to spirituality in young people—yes, even teenagers. Therefore, we at Chapelwood Students are developing ways to partner with parents, empowering them to nurture faith in their families. To that end, this page is a collection of resources designed to support you in your parenting endeavors.
The 5 Pillars of Parenting
We don't pretend to be the end-all on parenting wisdom, but here are 5 pieces of wisdom that we stand on in our own parenting.
ATTEND YOUR OWN FAITH.
What's the number 1 thing you can do to disciple your child? Take care of your whole self. Take care of your soul because your child needs you. They long for you, your affirmation, time, love, and boundaries. Therefore, take care of your soul, and be authentic in your faith. Pursue Jesus, and let Him transform you. The goal isn't perfection. Students can see through a facade like it's their job, and that's not what your student needs. They're desperate for something authentic and real. We are all broken, messed up people trying to follow Jesus, so, be honest with yourself and them when things are hard. Not only that, but just as the saying goes, "Hurt people hurt people." You will find healing in your own soul as you pursue Jesus and lay your broken parts before him, and as that happens, you'll begin to parent out of healing and health. That's transformative. That's a testimony your student can feel on a daily basis.
Faith is caught more than taught. We catch it when we watch, observe, and interact with people who are living it. Students are professional observers. They observe everything constantly. Their newly developing skills of abstract & critical thinking, third person perspectives, and the ability to process doubt are filtering the way they see the world. As much as push and criticize, they're just trying to figure it out, and in the midst of it, they are observing you. They want to know if you really believe this stuff. When your teen sees continuity between what you're telling them is important and the way you lead your life, it speaks volumes.
Resource: Practicing the Way
KNOW WHAT RESOURCES YOU HAVE.
By being a part of this church, you have access to a plethora of resources. The biggest resource is people. One of the leading factors in students developing a lifelong faith in Christ is having 5+ adults in their life who are active in their faith (insert cliche about it takes a village here). Chapelwood Student Ministries is equipped to add a number of those to your child's life. We are building community for our students to thrive in their faith, to take their next steps in discipleship, and to do the kingdom work that Jesus did.
Beyond that, we have parenting resources, books, bible studies, and a number of other things to support you. The easiest of which to point you to are our parent equipping nights, which take place at the same time as our connect nights for students. You can drop your student off, come join some other parents and learn from resources such as panels, pastors, counselors, specialists, and much more. Some people carry this weight of trying to parent alone, and we just weren't meant to.
Resource: Us... I know, you were thinking something else.
DEVELOP A PLAN.
We approach our jobs with vision, goals, and a plan. Why don't we do this with our own families? What's your vision for your family? What does your family value most? Where do you want to be as a family by the time your children graduate? Start by spending a day fasting and praying for your children. Pray and listen for how the Lord might be leading you to parent them. Think through your own story: what were the most influential relationships, moments, seasons, and experiences. What did your peaks and valleys look like in life? What about those people and seasons shaped you?
Now, pray and think about who you want your student to be when they step out from under your stewardship into independence? What do you want them to know, experience, and do? It doesn't all have to be spiritual. It may be changing a tire. It may be visiting significant place from your past or family history. It may be a challenge for them to complete, which on the other side, they know they've stepped into adulthood in your eyes. Think through the time you have with them and the things you can do to instill those experiences, values, and knowledge.
Resource: The Intentional Father by Jon Tyson
LISTEN. (GROW WITH YOUR KIDS)
Like we stated above, your student is gaining some awesome new cognitive skills in middle school and high school. The ability to process abstract thoughts and doubts, to think in the third person, and to think critically are just a few. Their prefrontal cortex is developing like crazy, and they are gaining new abilities to process a personal God. They are also experiencing all kinds of change internally and externally, and oh! the hormones... All that to say, they're changing. It's important that our parenting style grows with them.
Transitioning into a parenting style that listens and coaches instead of commands can be hard on parents, including myself. Admittedly, it's much easier for me as a youth pastor to listen to a student this way than my own children. I can more easily seperate myself from students' struggles and choices. The older our children get, the more parenting becomes like coaching. The goal of a coach is to teach their players how to process and how to think about the game, so they can go on the field, play fast and smart, and succeed. As a coach gains trust in his quarterback, his role transitions from risk management and limiting mistakes to helping them see the field and open possibilities. He always remains the coach, but he learns to trust what his quarterback sees and they become much more of a team - one with eyes on the sideline and one with eyes on the field. It's the same way with us and parenting. Our job is to teach them how to see the world with a biblical worldview, how to live with wisdom, how to recognize the voice of the Spirit, and how follow Jesus. That way we don't have to mow down a path for them as they leave for college. We can send them out with confidence and anticipation of what God is going to do in and through them in their new context.
Resource: The Neurowhereabouts Guide by Crystal Collier
Teaming up has layers to it, but the ultimate point is this - don't parent alone. I'm the worst at forgetting to ask for help, but when I'm parenting the best is when my wife and I have a shared vision. When our children are having a hard night and pressing my buttons in the way that only they can, my wife knows exactly how to de-escalate the situation. Sometimes I need to step in. Beyond that, we have circles of friends we call on for wisdom. I have two close friends that I meet with regularly to process all of life, but because we are all dads, we help and challenge each other to be more Christ-like in our parenting. For example, when I struggle with boundaries with work, they encourage me to put my family first. My wife has sought out those friends too. If you don't have those friends, lean into the community here at the church. There are many other parents like you seeking to lead their families in faith.
On a different level, team up with your family. We often think of our purpose as parents as helping each individual child find their individual happiness, but I'm not sure that's biblical. Your family is a unit that God has put together for a purpose. Together your family lives and moves in a way that builds (or doesn't) God's kingdom in your neighborhoods, at your childrens' schools, at sports, etc. This changes the family dynamic. When I see my children as people who add something to the table instead of being consumers or another responsibility. It changes how and why we discipline too. I what my children to obey me, so they can know how to obey the Father. This changes the emphasis on developing a prayer life and depth of character in my children. I want my children to know Christ personally and walk in His Spirit because team Patty is here to bring the Kingdom.
Resource: Take Back Your Family by Jefferson Bethke
PILLARS AS TOOLS, NOT A BAROMETER
These five pillars are helpful to me as tools and wisdom. They're great tools until I forget and make them a litmus test for my own success. I'm still growing in them. I'm a mess as a human, but I know God is passionately pursuing my children and loving them more than I can even fathom. God continues to pursue me and lavish His grace on me too, and He tells me that I am His beloved child. I think that may be the most important piece of all this parenting stuff. My calling is first and foremost to be faithful to Jesus. When I parent out of his love and grace for me, I extend that love and grace to my kids.