Revive Our Hearts Podcast

And Then I Had Teenagers: An Interview With Susan Yates, Part 4

Leslie Basham: Film that is never exposed can never be developed. It's Thursday, April 25; and you're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss.

Wouldn't it be silly to take a roll of film to the store to be developed when we never even put it in our camera? Of course, there wouldn't be any pictures on it. A teenager's life can be like a roll of film. If we don't expose them to spiritual truths again and again, the chances of their spiritual development are minimized. Today Nancy continues her discussion with Susan Yates. They'll be talking about various ways we can expose our teens to vital Christianity.

Nancy DeMoss: A couple of weeks ago I heard a statistic that really startled me. A preacher said that eight out of ten young people (once they graduate from high school) leave the church never to return again. We've been talking this week with Susan Yates who's written a very helpful book called And Then I Had Teenagers. Susan, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Susan Yates: Thanks, Nancy, it's great to be back with you.

Nancy DeMoss: Thank you for joining us for this conversation. I so appreciate the example God is giving you through your family. You had five teenagers. They're now grown and all married and starting families of their own. I know that they're going to be taking into their families many of the things you and your husband have taught them and trained them in over these past years. We started talking yesterday--and I want to pick up again today--on this theme of how to help children cultivate an appetite for spiritual things.

I got a letter not too long ago from a woman who said, "I'm struggling with disappointment with my teenage sons, who don't care about the things of the Lord; and with my failure to raise godly children." I hear this kind of thing over and over and over again from moms. They want their children to have an interest in spiritual things; but their kid is saying, "I don't even want to go to church, much less be a spiritual giant." How do you encourage parents when their children say, "I'm not interested in church; it's boring"?

Susan Yates: That's a great question, Nancy. The truth of the matter is, we've probably all been bored in church at some point. Church can be boring, but boring is not a sin. We have to think back to how we handled the issue when our child comes in from school and says, "I have the worst teacher; it's boring. I don't want to go to school anymore. I'm going to drop out. It's not relevant. I don't like it. It's boring."

We don't say to our child, "Oh, son, I'm so sorry you're bored. You don't really need to go anymore." We insist that our child go to school because we know that education is important.

If our child comes in and says, "Church is boring; I'm not getting anything out of it."

When we say, "Oh, I'm so sorry; you don't need to go anymore," what we're inadvertently communicating is that education is not negotiable--it's important--but God is optional. That's not what we want to communicate.

I feel that as long as our children are living under our roof--through their high school years--they need to go to church. It's a non-negotiable. You just have a sense of humor about it. You say, "Sweetheart, I'm so sorry you're bored. Maybe you can sit there and pray or you can sing or you can worship--but we go; it's a part of being a member of this family."

If you do this with the oldest child, it will trickle down to the younger children. Then you won't quite have the battle because they'll know it's simply a part of being a member of this family.

Nancy DeMoss: It's not an option.

Susan Yates: Right.

Nancy DeMoss: You're putting your children into a setting where at least they're getting the ministry of the Word, and they're being exposed to spiritual truth.

Susan Yates: Right, and if they're bored, that's okay. God's Word does not return void and someday it will come back. Let me balance that, Nancy, with saying that it's really crucial--the most important thing for parents of teenagers is the word exposure. It's really crucial in terms of our children's faith that we expose our kids to vital youth ministry--where mom and dad aren't. Teenagers are greatly impacted by peers, and during those junior high--or middle school--and senior high years, they need to be involved in an exciting youth ministry with peers and older adults. They will be far more likely to hear spiritual truths from someone other than mom or dad.

Nancy DeMoss: I know that when I was a teenager, there were some older adults who had a heart for the Lord and who had an enormous positive influence on my life and were able to say some things to me that my parents also said, but being the teenager that I was--self-centered and proud in many respects--I wasn't quite as willing to hear those things, at times, from my own parents as I was from a music director in high school--a teacher who took an interest me.

Talk about the whole area of how to get your children exposed to some older role models.

Susan Yates: Good question. We need to be intentional in doing this. One of the places we can do this is by making wise use of summers. A summer is a gift of time, and we don't have that gift of time for a very long period in any of our lives. We have to ask the question, What's more important this summer? That my child get a job to earn money to pay for wants--the latest clothes, the latest CDs, a new car--or that he experience a summer conference or a missions trip or summer camp, where he's going to be spiritually nourished.

Sometimes you can do a combination of both. It's one thing to work for food and clothing--the basics. It's another thing to have a job to work for simply wants. We have to ask the hard question--Where is my child going to be most nurtured in his faith? We've found personally that summers are a great opportunity to send your kids on missions trips, to a Young Life camp, a Fellowship of Christian Athletes' camp, on church programs--somewhere where mom and dad aren't, where they'll be exposed to exciting peers and older adults.

I remember we did this with our oldest daughter. We sent her to a conference in New England--a ministry called Focus. She did not want to go--but remember, you're the parent. We said, "This is family policy; you go." We did research. We knew this was a good thing we were sending her to. It needs to be well done; that's important. We sent her, and about midway through the second week she called her dad; and she said, "Hey dad. I've been reading this book. It's called Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. I don't know if you've ever heard of this, but I would like to discuss it with you."

It was the exact book that he'd been trying to get her to read, and she hadn't read it because Dad had recommended it. Now she was hearing it from somebody that she perceived to be "cool" and it made all the difference in the world. Parents of teens need to think Exposure! Exposure--where can I expose my child to exciting, vibrant believers who will have an impact on their life where I am not present?

Nancy DeMoss: Let me say a word of encouragement to those whose children may already be grown, those who may be Sunday school teachers or youth workers, or those like myself as single women--to say what a ministry you can have in the lives of other people's children. I have adopted children that I've kind of raised in one way or another over the years--not as my own children; but where I've been able to have a spiritual influence in the lives of those children and to come alongside of their parents and encourage those children in practical ways just by spending time with those kids, giving the gift of friendship, showing up at their ball games, being interested in their school work and in their friends and activities.

I went to a friend's house the other night. They have two teenage daughters. I had to pick up something at the house; but I just grabbed those teenage girls and I said, "You want to go out and get some ice cream?" We ran out, real spontaneously, and those were teachable moments--to develop a relationship and to create a climate where I could have input into those girls' lives--that their parents have as well--but it's so helpful to have someone else giving that same kind of input.

Susan Yates: That's the greatest gift you can do for that mom, Nancy. She is so blessed to have you because what you have said is absolutely true. Part of being in the Body of Christ is that we learn to stand in the gap for each other. I believe that every woman and every man should have an older mentor (same-sex friend) and a younger same-sex friend--so that you have someone to whom you can go for advice, but you have someone younger than you are into whose life you can pour love, affection, spiritual truths and encouragement. If we can become "sandwich" people, where we are in the middle and there's an older person above us and a younger person under us, it gives us a great way to minister within the Body of Christ.

Nancy DeMoss: Is there an older woman that you found you were able to go to and ask questions or look to for encouragement as your children were growing up?

Susan Yates: There was. I had a friend named Tucker who was ten years ahead of me, so her children were ten years ahead of mine. I would often go to Tucker and her husband, John, and say, "Now how did you handle curfews?" "What did you do about church?" "How did you handle all of these issues?" She would counsel me and advise me and encourage me. I also was blessed to be able to go to my mom. She's the wisest woman I know. I would frequently call her and say, "Okay, Mom, how do you handle this one?" and she would counsel me.

We all need older women who'll give us perspective because we feel like such failures so much of the time. What an older woman can do for us is give us perspective.

Nancy DeMoss: There again, let me encourage older women to be willing to take that responsibility and not feel they have to have a seminary degree or have been perfect parents themselves in order to have something of encouragement to offer to those younger moms who are struggling through those very difficult and challenging years.

Susan Yates: And you don't have to have had children yourselves either, Nancy. Just like you--you're going to have so many kids all over the country who look to you as Aunt Nancy.

Nancy DeMoss: That really is a great privilege. Susan, you mentioned prayer again. When we started yesterday talking about this matter of cultivating spiritual interest in your children, you said that moms need to pray, pray and pray. One of the paragraphs I really appreciated in your book was where you listed several things you said you have prayed for your teens through the years. I want to read that list, and we're going to post that list on our Web site so that moms can go to that--and may find this a helpful list as they want to pray for their teenagers.

You said you prayed that they would fall in love with the Word of God; that they would recognize temptation and run from it; that they would learn to make wise choices; that if they're doing anything wrong, they'd get caught; that they'd learn to ask forgiveness from God and others and to receive it; that God would send strong role models their way; that God would be preparing mates for them who know Him and love Him most of all and that they would remain sexually pure until marriage. You prayed that they develop close friendships with their parents and with their siblings; that they be thoughtful of others; that they'd have a teachable spirit; and that they would not be devastated by failure, but instead would learn from it.

Those are the things we need to pray for our children. As we pray, we need to believe that God is hearing and that He's in the process of answering those prayers.

Leslie Basham: That's Nancy DeMoss and her guest, Susan Yates, offering practical advice on how parents can expose their teenagers to vital Christianity. During the program, Nancy mentioned Susan's list of ways to pray for your teenager. That list is posted on our Web site, ReviveOurHearts.com and is actually an excerpt from Susan's latest book, And Then I Had Teenagers. We're glad to be offering that book this week for a donation of $13. It's available through our Web site, ReviveOurHearts.com, or by calling 1-800-569-5959.

As you can imagine, the cost for keeping a program like this on the air is high. God has faithfully provided, and we thank Him for each one of you who have supported and helped us. Your gifts are greatly appreciated. If you would like to contribute, just send your donations to Revive Our Hearts. Join us tomorrow as Nancy and Susan talk about ways we can prepare our teenagers to leave the nest. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministries.

 

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