I recently spoke with a mother about the negative influences her children have received from other children at church. I could relate. I remember the night that our daughter Bethany called me from a teen girls’ sleepover at the home of a church family. The girls were watching a movie that she did not want to watch because of inappropriate content. “What should I do?” she wanted to know.
I suggested that Bethany hang out in the kitchen with the mom in charge of the gathering, but the incident was a turning point for us. This was not okay. Our youth group involvement had to change radically — and it did.
Our children were deeply involved in church — after all, my husband was its minister, for crying out loud! Though he was the church’s preaching minister, he did not call the shots for the entire church. Ray served under our elders and the youth minister was in charge of the youth group.
We were on our own about how to handle this, just as any other member would have been, except that the church had higher expectations of us than it did for other folks. We decided we had to do what we believed was right for our family. If it caused friction, it would just cause friction. I am hesitant to share how we handled this because I don’t want it to come across as, “Hey! Look here at all the good stuff we did!” But, I think practical ways to handle this issue might encourage you, so here is a summary of ways our children were involved in church as teenagers without letting the youth group lead them in a way we didn’t want (some of these activities were before the incident described above and some were after).
- The youth group provided our son John with opportunities to lead other teens in devotionals. He seemed to be handling that okay and we let him continue to be involved.
- Our girls quit their involvement in the youth group, even in its Bible classes. Instead of going to youth classes, they taught young children, often serving as co-teachers with godly young mothers. They also volunteered in our Bible class teachers’ workroom. They organized, made visual aids, and helped in lots of ways.
- Bethany volunteered at another church’s mothers’ day out program.
- Each of our children volunteered in a different public school as helpers to Christian teachers. I might not do that again today because of physical danger in some schools, but it worked out okay for us in that place and time. John helped a Spanish teacher, Bethany worked with a special education teacher, and Mary Evelyn volunteered in a second grade classroom.
- Sometimes we and our children participated with members of our church’s senior citizens program. We maintained close relationships with a couple of special older friends. One even helped us with geography, as I wrote about back in 2013.
- Bethany and Mary Evelyn became involved in an active children’s library at our church. Still in her teens, Bethany became its librarian. She purchased and cataloged books, decorated the bulletin board, worked at the desk checking out books after many church services, and planned and executed a reading program each summer.
- Ray began an age-integrated Sunday School class that had students in their forties down to a newborn.
- When the youth group went on two different foreign mission trips, I went along the first time; Ray and I both went along the second time.
- Our children wrote and acted in elaborate plays and invited members of the church youth group to be involved in them. This experience was one of the influences that led to Mary Evelyn doing the same thing for homeschoolers, an activity that she has done every year since. This is the eighteenth year of the Homeschool Dramatic Society which she leads in our area.
I think a key to a positive church experience for our children while they were teenagers was that they learned how to give and were actively giving rather than simply taking in what was offered by the youth group and what was offered by the youth involved in that group.
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the evil days come and the years draw near
when you will say, “I have no delight in them” . . .