Do You Know What You’re Aiming For?

Archery may be easy if you’re trained. Just having a bull’s-eye in front of you doesn’t guarantee you’ll hit it. When I was a college student, I “learned” archery as one of the units in a PE class I was required to take as an elementary education major. Learned is in quotes because it would be more accurate to say I tried archery.

Just because the bull’s-eye was in front of me didn’t guarantee my arrow would come anywhere close. It wasn’t easy! People often recommend you have a goal to aim for. That certainly is true. But it doesn’t guarantee you’ll reach it or hit it.

What about bowling? I enjoy bowling with my family and with friends on occasion. One of my favorite bowling memories is bowling after a wedding reception with the bride, groom, and wedding party. To the others there, we must have looked ridiculous in our fancy dresses and tuxes. Continuing the celebration of my friends’ love and marriage in this way was very special.

There we were. We each chose a ball. The pins were right in front of us. There were even gutter boundaries to help us. Yet, there was no guarantee that when we released the ball it would knock down any of the pins much less score a strike. We needed to concentrate and think about everything – pulling the ball back, the release, the aim, the follow-through, where our feet were, and more.

Like with archery, knowing the direction and your goal is certainly valuable, but intentionality, strategy, and training are necessary to knock down the pins.

It’s the same for parenting. You have to know what you’re aiming for when you think about raising your children. What does your bull’s-eye look like? What would you consider a strike? Being intentional is wise. Having strategies to help you accomplish your goals makes it more likely that you will be successful.

I hope you will be blessed by a series of blog posts about how to intentionally raise children. I want to help you think about what your bull’s-eye is and what your strike is. Then I want to help you discover some ways to be successful.

It’s easy today to be distracted. It’s easy to think everything should be easy. But it never has been and it never will be easy to raise healthy children. This week, think about your goals and why you have them. I’d love you to let me know what they are. Come back for the next few weeks as I continue the series and give you some thoughts about hitting the bull’s-eye or making a strike as you develop children’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual sides and their character qualities, too.

Be blessed!

** Make sure to come back on Thursday to watch this week’s video where I address similar issues.

Create Opportunities For Children To Deepen Connections And Belonging

Do you collect things that are meaningful to you? I do, including pine cones that I suppose others might think are a rather strange thing to collect. But, each one on my living room shelf is important to me. I wrote about them here.

When teaching at a youth camp in early June, I was surrounded by pine trees and lots of beauty in New Mexico. I thought about going exploring to find a pine cone to take home as a memory. Because my back was acting up and I was using a cane, I knew walking on uneven ground would not be wise.

One day with the almost 400 7th graders I taught every morning, I mentioned my collection when explaining that nature-smart people often collect and categorize by patterns. I explained that I was sorry I couldn’t go find a new pine cone to add to those I already owned to represent our fabulous times together.

Before I knew it, I heard myself encouraging any child who wanted to find and give me one to do so. I was stunned by how many did this, eagerly looking for me later that day to hand theirs to me. Some shared their stories of where they found it and why they chose the one they did.

Some found a pine cone for me because they’re nature smart and it was easy and natural for them to do so. What I found more interesting was how many did it to further establish their relationship with me. It was a belonging issue. It was clear to me in the way they approached and interacted with me. They wanted to participate. They wanted to be known.

It’s not hard to create opportunities to help children and teens establish themselves in a group. It’s not hard to deepen connections and belonging. It’s not hard to help them feel important, recognized, and known. We just need to do it.

Let’s think of some ways to do that today. Then let’s follow through and do it. Watch for smiles. Confidence. Conversations. Connections.

Don’t just do it once. Keep it up. Thanks.

Baking Self-Respect by Tina Hollenbeck

At Celebrate Kids, we believe self-respect is a very important character quality to develop in ourselves and our children. It can be the one that motivates us to engage all the others.

Tina Hollenbeck, a staff writer who consistently contributes excellent work to our email newsletter, has allowed me to post her most recent newsletter column here at my blog.  It will be a part of tomorrow’s issue. If you want to read more of her excellence, subscribe to our newsletter here. I think you’ll find her analogy about raising children who have self-respect thought provoking and beneficial.

Why does self-respect matter? Among other things, as Tina includes below, it’s what can cause children to care about the long-term ramifications of their actions. Does that appeal to you?

Baking Self-Respect by Tina Hollenbeck

When my daughters were little, one of them regularly expressed her frustration over disagreements with her sister by biting. She’s since explained that after a certain age she unequivocally realized that verbally working out conflicts was right and more productive in the end – she was, after all, disciplined any time she bit her sister and usually had the very thing she’d wanted taken away for good. But she still bit because doing so was simpler and more satisfying in her young, immature way of thinking.

Of course, she doesn’t bite anymore and hasn’t for several years. But what ultimately influenced her to stop despite how “good” it felt to chomp at her sister’s arm?

Consistent discipline was critical. Brainstorming and role-playing alternative reactions had value. Fostering a spirit of cooperation between my daughters mattered. Modeling proper ways of responding to conflict helped. And praising her when she chose well was great reinforcement.

But all of those things were merely ingredients, the way eggs, milk, flour, and sugar serve as ingredients for cake. A bunch of eggs – even when cracked open and whisked – doesn’t transform into cake. A cupful of sugar cannot morph into a cake while it sits on the counter. In fact, we can have a ready supply of all those ingredients and use them liberally for various purposes. But unless we mix them together in the right proportions and then bake them – applying heat over time – we’ll never get the cake.

The same is true in regards to fixing childish behavior and poor choices our kids make. We do need good ingredients like consistent discipline and positive reinforcement. And we can’t skimp just because we’re tired; I had to keep at it with my daughter regardless of how her behavior exhausted me. But, honestly, just as a cake removed from the oven too soon will either ooze out of the pan or deflate before our eyes, we cannot rush the development of what it takes for kids to have a willing-good character.

My daughter is now an adolescent – a true young lady, not the stereotype of a “teen.” She would never dream of expressing frustration physically now. And, in fact, remembering her biting habit mortifies her. Why? Somehow – just like the mystery behind the chemical reactions inherent in cake baking – the combination of ingredients my husband and I chose “baked” in God’s “oven” of child development over time produced a beautiful “self-respect cake” in her.

My daughter knows right from wrong, but she knew it when she was still biting. The difference between then and now is that maturity has brought with it self-respect such that she now cares about the long-term ramifications of her actions within her own spirit. Being able to smile at herself in the mirror a month from now matters much more than instant gratification.

Again, working with good ingredients along the way is imperative; cake doesn’t get baked in an empty oven either! But the self-respect that has transformed our daughter into a young lady who is willing to make the right choices even when she doesn’t want to could only come over time.

As you’re “mixing up and baking” your child’s self-respect cake, anxious to taste it in all its glory, remember patience. Your child’s “cake” will be an amazing confectionary delight…in due time.

In addition to homeschooling her own children, Tina Hollenbeck directs The Homeschool Resource Roadmap and a Facebook group for homeschoolers.

She enjoys providing useful information and encouragement to those called to educate their own children. In addition to writing for our newsletter, she also co-authored Celebrating Children’s 12 Genius Qualities with me and Brad Sargent.

Taking A Spiritual Inventory

Because of some recent bumps and bruises as I do this thing called living, I was prompted to complete a spiritual inventory I always do at the end of the year. I think about these things regularly, but it’s rare that I sit down and deeply ponder each question, even writing out my responses, except at the end of the year.

I’m glad I took this seriously last week. My answers encouraged me and I was appropriately challenged, as well. I’m sharing the questions here because maybe you’ll benefit, too.

I really want my life’s focus to be Jesus, but it’s easy to get sidetracked by life’s busyness. For integrity, I want my life to line up with what I say is important. What about you? Asking and answering these questions helps me get back on track.

These questions come from various inventories and from my awareness of my own tendencies and what to be alert to. Use them if they appear complete for you and your situation. If not, adjust the list so you’re appropriately challenged to grow. And, how about helping children and teens use these, too? Imagine! To God be the glory!

  1. Do I know God better? Do I love Him more? Do I trust Him more?
  2. Is the Word of God refreshing to my soul? Do I know more of it? Do I willingly prioritize reading it, studying it, and meditating on it?
  3. Am I less attracted to the world now than I was before?
  4. Do I have a greater desire to do the will of God? Do I earnestly desire what God wants for me or do I want my own way?
  5. Do I present the Gospel when the Spirit prompts me to?
  6. Am I more disciplined? Do I more quickly recognize sin as sin and turn from it?
  7. When God chastens me, what’s my attitude? Do I choose to see God’s loving care for me?
  8. Am I more focused on pleasing God than people? Do I regularly respond to people as Christ would?
  9. Do I appropriately prioritize fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ?
  10. Are my times of worship rich, regular, personal, and meaningful? Do I generously and sacrificially give back to God?
  11. Do I pray confidently and expectantly? Do I wait for and recognize God’s answers? Am I appropriately grateful for all God is and does?
  12. Do I honor the Sabbath?

These questions were included in an earlier blog.

Favorite Bible Verses About God, My Father

On this day after Father’s Day, I’ve just read many of my favorite Bible verses about God, my Father. I thought you might be encouraged if you read them, too. (They’re all the English Standard Version.)

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” ~Psalm 68:5

“You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.” ~Psalm 89:6

“Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:15-17

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” ~Matthew 6:7-9

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” ~Matthew 6:14

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” ~Matthew 6:25-27

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” ~Matthew 7:11

“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 10:31-33

“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” ~Matthew 18:14

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” ~Luke 6:36

“I and the Father are one.” ~Jesus, in John 10:30

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~John 14:6

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” ~John 15:8-10

I am very, very grateful God is my Father. I hope you know Him, too.

Honoring Dave Koch, My Brother

My brother, Dave, turns 65 today. That’s hard to believe! When speaking to children and teens, I love telling them that their siblings can be their best friends. Dave and I were. We still are.

I’m blessed with many great memories of growing up with Dave. I’ll share just one. Our Great Aunt Tressie sometimes babysat for us. We enjoyed her. A main reason for liking her as our babysitter was that our bedrooms were on the second floor and she couldn’t climb the stairs. We were on our own.

Dave invited me into his bedroom, pulled the sheets loose on his bed, chose a book to read, grabbed his flashlight, and we went into “the tent” head first so he could read to me. Yes, this is a beautiful way my brother loved me years ago.

Although there’s much more I could say about the love he’s demonstrated toward me in our adult years and how proud of him I am, I’d rather have his three adult children honor him on his birthday. They have recommendations for you, too. I pray you’re blessed as we encourage my brother.

From Betsy:

Our dad is so consistent. He was always there for us every night, we always ate dinner as a family and discussed our day, he helped us with homework, and taught us skills like our instruments, sports, and fishing. He is also a very hard worker. He worked all week at his job and all weekend at home. I cannot remember him ever not working hard all the time, and it seemed the only time he ever relaxed was on our summer vacations.

To other dads: consistency and hard work are things that my dad showed us that left a lasting impact on me.

To kids: Know that even if your dad doesn’t say “I love you” all the time, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t. Sometimes they choose to show love through their actions which are much more powerful than just words.

From Katie:

Our dad was a great leader in every way. He led spiritually by studying his Bible, praying for us, and teaching us by example. He led financially by working so hard at every job he had to provide for us. He taught us to love sports-Go Pack Go! He taught us the value of hard work by giving us chores – thanks, dad. 🙂

One of the more impressive things he did was quit his job because it was taking too much time away from the family. It was such a huge sacrifice and leap of faith, but it really taught us what is most important in life.

His favorite phrase is “I suppose.” That usually meant I don’t want to say no, but I’m not totally excited about what’s about to happen. This cracked me up every time. He loved it when we repeated him as kids. You’ll never hear him laugh harder than when you’ve been doing that for 10 minutes.

To other dads: Be the leader your children need you to be. They will become like you regardless so do what you can to transfer positive traits.

To other kids: Appreciate the effort and the sacrifices your dad makes for you. Find something you like to do together and build in regular time to do it. Those end up being such special memories.

From Andy:

Dad taught me what it meant to be a man. He is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. Not only was he committed to his job, but he also constantly kept himself busy around the house – to the point where it is a bit of a family joke that he can’t sit still and watch an entire movie. 🙂

Even though he worked hard, he was still able to balance that with being incredibly present in our lives. We always ate dinner together as a family. He rarely missed sporting events or concerts, of which there were far too many.

He loved mom so well through the years. It might be a small example, but it stood out to me: mom would usually cook dinner, and he would always serve her by doing the dishes.

He led our family spiritually. He had a vision for his life and for our lives, and he made hard choices for the good of the family when needed. He taught me so much, and I am so grateful. I am the man I am today because of my dad.

To other dads: By God’s grace be the man you want your sons to grow up to be and the man you want your daughters to marry.

To kids: Cherish the short time you get to learn from your dad. Take time to appreciate all that he does for you.

Well said, kids. Well said. Happy birthday, Dave!

The Blessing of Flexibility

Today I’m posting a devotional from the book Steve Baker wrote. As a dad, grandfather, and Christian school administrator, he wrote the devotionals in O Taste and See to encourage parents and children to learn from God’s Word together. Each is related to one or more of the core needs I teach about often and that are taught in my book, Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness. He has seen their importance and wanted devotionals as another way of helping children meet the needs in healthy ways.

I chose to post a devotional about flexibility because those of us who are willing to be flexible will have a better summer than others. Would you agree that parents and children need to be willing to go with the flow? Sharing Steve’s thoughts with your children will provide an excellent avenue to talk about their attitudes this summer. Could it sometimes be the Holy Spirit redirecting us? Also, I love – love! – his “taste test” idea at the end. I think doing that would be a very rich experience.

FLEXIBILITY – the state of being able to easily change or adjust; ability to do different things, adapt to new and different or challenging requirements.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.

1 Peter 2:19-21

Scripture Text: Acts 16:6-12

When situations in life are a source of irritation, it may be because God is trying to move us in a different direction. God uses our circumstances to guide and direct us. It may be through suffering which He allows us to endure or through trials we face from others that God moves us to a place of constant service and worship in our journey with Him. Being flexible means being attentive and available to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

This was true in Paul’s life as he went on his missionary journey through Asia Minor. Paul desired to go one way toward Turkey, yet the Holy Spirit wanted Paul to go west and cross over into southern Europe. God gave Paul a vision of a man standing on the shore of Macedonia praying and calling out, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” This took great flexibility from the mission team to change their plans; and even a greater need for flexibility as they faced opposition.

In light of the vision, Paul made plans to sail to Macedonia. He and his team eventually arrived at Philippi. They had quick success in reaching a well-known and affluent woman named Lydia. She listened intently to their teachings and trusted the Lord Jesus as her Savior.

Their obedience was also met with suffering because they were followed about by a young demon possessed girl who was used by businessmen to tell the fortunes of people for a profit. Paul cast the demon out of the damsel and this ended the business practice of these local men. Outraged, they caught Paul and Silas, took them before the rulers, had them beaten, and thrown into prison.

Where was the blessing of being flexible to follow the Holy Spirit in all of this, one might ask? God always knows what He is doing. That night as Paul and Silas sang in prison, probably to the amazement of the other prisoners and the jailor, God shook the prison with an earthquake. The events that followed led to the jailor and his whole family’s salvation and the church at Philippi was born. None of this would have happened if Paul and Silas had not been flexible to listen to the leading of God’s Spirit, flexible to endure unjust suffering knowing that God was with them, and flexible to praise God in light of the irritations they endured.

Taste Test:

Take an elderly saint in your church out to lunch one day and visit with them about the character of flexibility.

  • Ask them to tell you stories of when God moved them or changed the direction of their life.
  • Was it hard?
  • How did they respond?
  • Was it worth it if they obeyed?
  • Ask them to tell you the blessing of listening to the Spirit of God.

Scraping the Plate:

Discuss the scripture text in Acts 16:6-40.

Read the whole story.

What might have been different in history if Paul and Silas had gone the other way into Bithynia? Would we have ever heard the gospel or would we have ever heard of Paul? Would God have had to raise someone else up to spread the gospel to Europe? We can be extremely grateful for Paul’s obedient flexibility.

Nanny’s Chocolate Pie:

Our identity as God’s children requires that we are growing in character and changing by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. This requires our flexibility in allowing God to lead us.

Steve Baker has served in ministry for over thirty-five years and is currently finishing his masters in divinity. With his heart for discipleship, he has worked as a senior pastor, associate pastor, teacher, coach, and hospice chaplain. In 2010, God called him and his wife, Joyce, to help launch a University-Model school. He is currently the Principal of Summit Christian Academy in Boerne, Texas. Steve has a passion for families and mentoring believers to walk in this world humbly and boldly as warriors sharing the powerful message of the gospel to all people.

Of Excellence, Passion, And Character: The Cliburn Piano Competition

Every four years, the Cliburn Piano Competition is held in Fort Worth, TX, where I live. It’s been described by The Boston Globe as a cross between the Miss America Pageant, the Olympic games, the Academy awards, and the Pulitzer prize. It attracts the best pianists ages 18-30 from around the world. This year, 290 people applied and 146 were selected for screening auditions in London, Hannover, Budapest, Moscow, Seoul, New York, and Fort Worth. The jurists chose 30 for the competition. It began May 25th and concludes on June 10th when three awards are presented.

With friends, I enjoyed one of the preliminary concerts last Saturday. We heard three of the competitors each play a 45-minute concert. They were stunning. I marveled at their ability to memorize such complex music. They played beautifully. My friends and I struggled to find adequate adjectives to express our opinions. (For someone who is word smart, this is frustrating.)

The top 20 were selected to play another 45-minute concert, including two of those we heard. The top 12 were chosen from this group last night, again including the two men we heard. They’ll play a 60-minute solo recital and a concerto with our symphony Thursday through the 5th. From this group, six competitors will be chosen to play a piano quintet and a concerto from June 7-10th. On the last night, the three winners will be announced. Their prize packages are impressive!

If you and/or your children play or just enjoy talent, you can watch live and on-demand here. The finals will be broadcast in theaters around the country.

Is there more to this post than just a commercial for a fabulous opportunity to enjoy classical piano music? Yes.

These music-smart pianists are still learning. They’re still being trained. They all have teachers and 24 of the 30 are working on undergraduate or graduate degrees. Most practice many hours each day. It’s humbling.

Let’s share this reality with our children. Excellence is birthed in talent. Passion is developed in the heart and mind with character.

If athletes make better examples for your kids, use them. The best athletes and sports teams practice. They warm up. They spend time in the gym.

At the same time Fort Worth hosted the beginning of the Van Cliburn, we hosted the Dean & DeLuca Invitational at the Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour stop. These body-smart golfers – the best in the world – have coaches and play many practice rounds of golf for every competitive 18 holes.

Sharing role models with children is wise. For logic-smart kids, we can use scientists who spent years developing their work. Word-smart kids may be shocked to discover how many rejection letters their favorite authors received. The possibilities are endless, both when thinking about who to use and the benefits of doing so.

Remind children that excellence is earned. Passion is developed. Skill grows. This summer, if they say they want to get good at something or you know they do, sit down and talk about what they think it will take. Then watch some amazing piano performances or a sporting event together. Read some biographies or autobiographies about people who are positively affecting the world. Talk about the elements observed and what your children need.

Excellence is birthed in talent. Passion is developed in the heart and mind with character. Which part or parts of these statements do you want to talk with your children about? Plan to do that soon.

Lie #4: “I Am My Own Authority”

Last Sunday, it was my great joy to facilitate a small group in my church who has been going through my book Screens and Teens. I was asked to teach about the fourth lie I address in my book: I am my own authority. I thought I would share what we did in hopes that you might find this a valuable way to spend some time with adults or teenagers in your life.

To review and to begin thinking about this lie, I asked what evidence they saw in the past week that each of the first three lies is believed by people. I also asked how that lie is related to the lie that we think we don’t need anyone else’s authority. We had a great discussion and I think you can as well.

  • Lie #1: I am the center of my own

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

  • Lie #2: I deserve to be happy all the time.

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

  • Lie #3: I must have choices.

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

Then, after reviewing information in the chapter from the book about the authority lie, I asked three questions.

  • What are the dangers of no authority?
  • What are the dangers of bad authority?
  • What are the benefits of good authority?

Discussing these questions with your teens could be profitable. Also, ask them to define “bad authority” and “good authority” and see if you agree. Share your definitions.

How would you discuss the benefits of God’s authority? Or maybe you could spend time discussing reasons God is a good authority for us to trust. That’s what I chose to do.

I listed some of the attributes of God to make the point that it’s Who He is that should allow us to trust Him as authority. And isn’t the same thing true of us? It’s who we are that is going to encourage people to view us as an authority and to trust us as authority. It is not the number of policies or rules we set. It is not how we do or do not deal with those who break them. It’s about our character, our identity, and our essence.

You could discuss this idea, too, if you believe it would be worthwhile or simply reflect on this list by yourself. In what ways do you see the quality related to God’s trusted authority?

  • Wisdom (The ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve these ends by the most perfect In other words, God makes no mistakes.)
  • Infinitude (God knows no boundaries.)
  • Sovereign (God is in control of everything that happens.)
  • Holy (God is set apart from all created beings. This refers to His majesty and His perfect moral purity.)
  • Omniscient (God is all-knowing.)
  • Faithful (Everything that God has promised will come to pass.)
  • Loving (God holds the well-being of others as His primary concern.)
  • Omnipotent (God is all-powerful.)
  • Self-sufficient (God has life in Himself. He has no needs and there is no way He can improve.)
  • Just (God does not conform to some outside criteria. Being just brings moral equity to everyone.)
  • Immutable (God never changes.)
  • Merciful (God is actively compassionate and kind toward those who don’t deserve it.)
  • Good (God is kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.)
  • Gracious (God enjoys acting on His love and giving great gifts to those who love Him, even when they do not deserve it.)
  • Omnipresent (God is always present.)

I’ll end the blog like I ended our group discussion. Here is your homework assignment. If you claim that God is your authority, what is the evidence? In other words, if I spent 24 or 48 hours with you, how would I know that God is your authority? As I thought about this last week in preparation for Sunday’s lesson, I was both encouraged and humbled. I set goals for this week. Perhaps you’ll do the same.

“How to Insure Your Kid Won’t Walk Away From the Faith After Graduation” Guest Post by Sue Bohlin

If you’ve heard me speak lately, you’ve probably heard me mention my concerns about young people leaving their faith and the church behind after graduating from high school. The statistics are discouraging. It’s a reason I was motivated to write Screens and Teens

For many years, I’ve respected the multi-faceted work of Probe Ministries Perhaps you’ve heard me interviewed on Point of View radio with Kerby Anderson, the president of Probe.

Because I want you to know about Mind Games, their summer one-week program for 17-21 year-olds held near Denton, TX, north of Fort Worth, I’ve asked Sue Bohlin to blog for me today. The first four recommendations are for you – no matter the age of your kids. #2 is my favorite. We should all do it. All of us! #5 is send them to Mind Games. I sincerely hope you’ll read through and consider the information if you have a 17-21 year-old.

How to Insure Your Kid Won’t Walk Away From the Faith After Graduation – by Sue Bohlin

That title sounds like clickbait, doesn’t it? What parent doesn’t want to make sure their not-ready-for-prime-time young adult will continue to walk with the Lord, honoring Him with their life, and making wise, biblically-based decisions? Wouldn’t it be great if such a 5-point guaranteed method existed?

Too bad. It’s doesn’t. Life isn’t like that. We can’t control other people like that.

But I can make some suggestions that have made a difference in other families.

  1. PRAY. And never stop. Our children are the targets of spiritual warfare. They are hated by the enemy of our souls who hates God, hates His people, and wants to destroy our children.
  2. From the time they are itty-bitty, play “Spot the Lie.” Pay attention to the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:16), and talk about them with your children when you’re sitting at home, when you’re walking and driving, when you’re putting them to bed, and when they get up in the morning (Deuteronomy 6:7). For example, one day when my now-grown children were in elementary school, the car radio played Bette Midler’s song “From a Distance,” which says that God is watching us from a distance. I asked, “Is that true?” My sons thought about it and said, “No! He’s right here with us!” Exactly. We spotted the lie. And called it what is was.
  3. Educate yourself about how to answer the Big Questions of Life so you can talk to your kids about them: How do we know there is a God? How do we know we can trust the Bible? How do we know Jesus is God? Why does a good God allow pain and evil and suffering?

What makes kids walk away from the faith is usually having unanswered questions. They might not ask for fear of a lame answer, or they might deduce that they shouldn’t doubt, shouldn’t question the things we teach them, and they should “just have faith.” Well, here’s the thing: we should trust our lives and our eternities to Christ not because of warm fuzzy feelings, but because Christianity is true!  Do you know WHY it’s true?

Let me recommend a couple of new books, written by moms to equip other parents to be confident in their own faith so they can effectively teach it to their kids.

Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith by Natasha Crain is super accessible and understandable. One of the best apologetics books I’ve seen.

Teaching Others to Defend Christianity by Cathryn Buse is written by a former NASA engineer (now a stay-at-home mom of littles) who uses her “mad logic skillz” to walk the reader through the basic Big Questions of Life in an organized way.

One other resource: a few months ago I was asked to speak to a group of moms on “Apologetics for Parents of Littles.” You can download the recording here and get the handout here.

4. Talk to your kids about these big questions of the Christian life: about God, the Bible, Jesus, pain and suffering. Ask them what they think and how they’re working through these very important issues. Talk about these things before they leave your nest after high school!

5. One final suggestion: send your kid(s) to Probe Ministries’ Mind Games camp, a one-week total immersion in worldview and apologetics, both classic apologetics (those Big Questions of Life) and cultural apologetics, such as Grace and Truth About LGBT, Genetic Engineering, The Differences Between Guys and Girls, How to Watch a Movie, Christian Views of Science and Earth History, and more. It’s a faith-builder and question-answerer, with lots of free time for fun and connecting with other campers. For many of the campers, it deeply impacts their hearts and souls, nailing down the glorious fact that Christianity is TRUE! My husband I have been privileged to pour into high school and college students through Mind Games for over 20 years; it is truly our joy! This year it’s June 11-17 at Camp Copass in Denton, Texas. Check out the videos and lots of information at

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women’s Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can’t Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor.

She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her “Proverbs 31 job” while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions.

Sue never met a cruise ship she didn’t like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.