From the Eyes of a Parent
The Ritchie’s were an amazing family. They had four teenagers in our student ministry at the same time. You heard me correctly, four! One senior, one junior and twins in their freshman year. Wow! They were one of those families which certainly didn’t need my help as a youth pastor. All four of their teens were amazing, highly involved and each exhibiting a deep walk with God.
I can remember one night in particular when the twins, Miriam and Ruth, had a musical concert. Rather than just showing up at the concert, Naomi and I decided to call their mom and dad and see if they wanted to make a night of it, they loved the idea. Our night included getting together early to talk over a meal, enjoying a great concert with each other watching their daughters, and then afterward going out with the whole family for desserts and coffee. It was a great night of memories.
I’ll never forget that during our time that night, mom and dad shared with Naomi and I how important our relationship and the student ministry had been to the spiritual development of their daughters. I was honored and humbled, but couldn’t help thinking, “You certainly didn’t need us!”
It Takes a Community
These days, almost 15 years later, we now have two teenagers of our own. Hard to believe, but at the end of the month when Grace turns 12 it’ll be reality. With Eli in his second year of student ministry and Grace a few months into her first, I’ve begun to revisit that old conversation with the Ritchie’s all those years ago.
It strikes me how similar their comments back then are to my comments to and feelings about key individuals intentionally investing into my teenagers. No matter how much I love being with Grace and Eli (and I do)… No matter how much Naomi and I invest into their spiritual lives (and we do)… We are realizing how important the broader community of the church is, in raising our family well.
The following are three key areas which have come to mean a great deal to us as parents of teenagers…
3 Keys to Being Community
Corporate as well as personal communication is essential. In a corporate manner, upcoming events, retreats, and even lesson plans are of significant help. This basic communication provides a basis for trust and connection to the broader vision. Yet, if the only communication comes via, e-mail, text or Facebook there is often an unintentional distancing which may take place. A personal conversation, meeting over coffee, or even hanging out together at a sporting or musical event of the teenager can be greatly appreciated. If you’re going to error in this area, error through over communicating.
Picking up on the cues of what teens enjoy provides the opportunity to be intentional. When someone intentionally invests in our son or daughter it means the world to us. These moments often go beyond program.
This past year, David Dixon, my son’s youth pastor noticed Eli loves playing Super Smash Bros. David, after picking up on cues, asked me if I would be good with him getting time with Eli. He then asked Eli if he would be up for a game night at his house with the family. Eli was totally in, loved the time and had a great night. It meant a tremendous amount to Naomi and I. The intentional investment by another adult means a significant amount to the spiritual development of an adolescent.
Be Involved in Our Lives…
If all you want is to hang out with my son or daughter but have no interest in what’s going on in our broader family, the vision seems somewhat myopic. Our teens and their spiritual development is part of a bigger system. To know Grace and Eli well, is to know us and our family to some extent. Being involved may involve having a meal with our family, being a part of church-wide small group or even going to a special outing with the family. Partnership being the key, it is essential to be involved in the lives of parents outside the church building.
15 years later we are still in touch with the Ritchie kids. They’re amazing people. I valued the time we spent with their family all those years ago, and now on special occasions. I am hopeful our future will hold a similar story with those who are investing in Grace and Eli as teenagers as well.
About the writer: Rick Rhoads
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.