Parenting Teens: Thought # 3 – Friends

Earlier this week I started a series seeking to encourage you as you seek to parent your team. Thanks for the feedback and comments. I pray this next blog is helpful for you.

Fear seems to be one of the biggest obstacles in parenting teens. In speaking to a lot of parents of teens I would say one of the greatest hindrances I see is fear. There is fear of the unknown, fear of the potential storms, and fear of the potential life choices teens may make. 

There seems to be this accepted notion that the teenage years are just filled with stress, conflict and pain. But who made that categorical statement and what evidence is there in the Bible to support this fear? 

While it is true that with puberty and hormones, so much change and identity development that fill the teen years and make them thoroughly unique, can’t this same dynamic of unique challenges be said for every age stage? From an old person looking back on their life and wondering if their life really meant much, to a young parent wondering how in the world are they ever going to raise and parent this new baby: every life stage has unique challenges and experiences. Some harder than others, but all are demanding. 

Let’s think about helping our teens and loving them selflessly and sacrificially. If there is any encouragement that I can share on this series it would be that one sentence. God has called you to love your teen selflessly and sacrificially, just like He loved you by dying for you! 

I encourage you with this central thought: Love your teen selflessly and sacrificially. 

One of the biggest and most understandable fears parents have with teens is a concern about who their friends are and what influence they have on their son or daughter. Thinking back to my previous blog and devices: I would say that, along with devices, who they hang out with is probably one of the most important pieces for parents to lean into. 

So many teens are influenced positively or negatively by their social circle. While I would never suggest that a parent have “arranged friendships” or manipulate their teen by strong-arming them. They need to make decisions and not have you make all the decisions for them…..

I do think that as parents we should seek to encourage, pray, and invest in our teens’ friendships. My mother-in-law did a tremendous job with her two kids in this area. She knew their friend’s names, she knew their friends’ families. She didn’t do this in a creepy way in order to manipulate or overstep into her teens’ lives. She did this to invest in her kids’ lives. She genuinely cared about their friends, and took an interest in their friends’ lives and families. 

I find that as a dad it is so important that I know who my kids are hanging out with. This encouragement doesn’t provide a waterproof guarantee, and while we should afford our teens growing autonomy, we should also invest in the relationship to the point that we are at least aware. 

This whole suggestion necessitates an ongoing relationship of respect between a parent and their teen. Parents, respect your teen’s ability to make wise decisions and take the opportunity to encourage and pray for the friends they hang out with. 

I often think of an illustration from a message I heard as a kid about a Christian dating a non-Christian and I think it paints a good picture for my point here today. The illustration is of one teen stood on the table and another teen stood on the ground. The question is asked of the group is it easier for the teen on the table to pull the teen on the floor up or the team on the floor to pull the team off the table? The answer is obvious – the teen on the ground can much more easily pull the teen off the table than the other way around. 

It is the same with our teen’s group of friends. It is a lot easier for our kids to fall into poor decisions under the influence of friends than it is for our teens to do that by themselves. Can I encourage you today to invest in your teen not only by knowing their friends but genuinely caring about their friends and by praying that God will provide godly friends? 

Thought # 2 – Be in relationship with your teen – part 1 devices –

The awesome thing about being a Christian is that we can have a relationship with God. In many places God refers to Himself as our Father. How incredible is it that we get to call the most powerful, most loving, and most knowing person in the universe Father?

We can be in a relationship with God because of what Jesus has done for us. Dying in our place, Jesus paid our sin debt; rising again Jesus defeated sin and death. I love what I John 4:19 says: “We love because he first loved us’. We love our family based on and because of God’s love for us. 

For the next couple of blogs I would like to encourage you with the experiences of the very best parents of teens I have ever met. It’s not that they are perfect, it’s not that their teens never had any problems. In fact, in lots of ways these families are very normal. These families that enjoy close relationships have one common piece that I have seen over and over. They have invested in their relationships. They are intentional about being there, knowing, living with, praying for, and loving each other. These teens grow up in homes that clearly communicate “you matter”. 

Let me start with this encouragement to intentional relationship with one of the biggest pieces we all have to think about in our families: devices. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, Social media, YouTube, and on and on. Devices can be great but they can be a disaster

Allow me this opportunity to share I’ve learned personally and what I learned from others:

  • Your teen knows 1000% more about devices than you do – accept it and embrace it! This is coming from the one in our family that has spent hours in the last few weeks trying to activate new phones and fix a crashed PS4. My kids know way more than I do. It’s so important that you live in that reality. Don’t be naive – it could cost your teen dearly. 
  • Understanding a device can be a great to keep entertained and connected. But devices can also be more dangerous than a loaded gun. So many times I’ve met with parents shocked by what their precious teens have done with their devices. But those same parents don’t have the first clue about what their teens are doing with their phones. I heard this question a while ago and have borrowed it many times: “Would you give your teen a loaded gun and say they can do whatever with it, they don’t have to have any training, no accountability and no partnership with you?” Every parent I’ve asked that question says a quick “no”. I would argue that an unlocked cell phone without training, equipping and partnership is even more dangerous than a loaded gun! Please trust me on this point and invest in doing what you can to help your teen enjoy and not be in bondage to their devices. 
  • In my experience one thing is universal – they will struggle. That might be massive or small. Some will struggle with porn, others with harsh comments on social media, others searching for something and still others becoming addicted in every sense of the word. I don’t think the solution is to not allow them to learn but I also don’t think you want to shove them into the deep end of a pool and tell them to learn to swim. This season is when you can draw on that relationship that you have invested in. They will come to you or you will see it in their face when they are struggling. Sometimes you need to lock the device away for awhile and other times you can talk and pray together. 
  • It takes a tribe to raise your teen. The older they get the more important it is that they have other voices speaking into their lives. Be secure enough to know it takes a tribe to raise your teen. Be secure enough to know as they get older others will start to guide and direct them. Do your best to invest in those friendships and relationships so you can invest in guiding them towards God-honoring connections. We are so grateful to strong families we know in our community and strong families in our church. I don’t know how I could parent without all of their investment in my kids. 
  • Spot checks are our reality. This is our starting point. Our 13 year old just got an iPhone. But he has no open internet or app access. I can spot check his phone at random times and if he deletes conversations he loses his phone for a while. The next stage is software that flags

As I finish, let me remind you of this truth: There is no verse in the Bible that says the teen years have to be nasty and hard for your family. It’s true the stage of the teen years involves so much for your precious son or daughter but God doesn’t say this stage is any harder than any other stage. The same realities exist as you parent teens as they do with any other stage of your life. God is with you. You need His help. The Gospel changes our lives. “Sorry” is one of the most powerful words in relationships. God has called us to love sacrificially and selflessly. 

If you only have the opportunity to teach your teen 2 things let them be this:

They are loved by God.

They are loved by you.

Five thoughts about parenting teens: Thought # 1 – Respect

13 – 13 – 13 

This past week our youngest child turned 13. That also means we have been parenting teens for 13 years! Sometimes we think we’ve got this parenting teen thing figured out, but many times we feel like we are still very much  learning.  I have also been a youth pastor for 13 years. 13 years learning from the best and the hardest of situations. 13 – 13 – 13!! 

I hope these next 5 blogs will help and encourage you to pick up what not to do from mine and others’ mistakes. I also hope you will see that parenting teens can be the very best of times as you move from your precious teen from dependency to independence and to see your relationship continue to grow to be one that you will treasure for your whole life. I love what Jesus said in John 15:6 “…apart from me you can do nothing”. I’m holding to that as I write this and encourage you to do the same! 

Let me start with a quick story. I was visiting my extended family in England a few years ago and we went to a British Walmart to get some amazing English chocolate (in my opinion Galaxy is the absolute best). As I walked to the front entrance I saw some teen guys hanging around the electric shopping carts meant for those needing assistance. I also saw the Walmart “welcomer” stood welcoming shoppers and watching the lads. I slowed down to watch the situation develop. One of the lads looked around and jumped on the electric cart and started to drive away. The welcomer shouted so loud I jumped, even though I was watching! He shouted “ooiiiii, get off that cart”. What do you think the teen said in return? I can’t repeat it to be honest. 

So what did I learn from this? Disrespect results in disrespect. If you expect someone to respect you then the least you can do is treat them with respect and that starts with your attitude and moves to your speech. When it comes to teens I’ve seen so many teens disrespect their parents with their attitude and speech but I’ve also seen so many parents do exactly the same. Both parents and teens are offended. But they are both guilty of doing what offends them. Does that make sense? 

Mutual respect was and is God’s idea. Romans 12:10 (NIV) says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves”.   Matthew 7:12 (NIV) “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”.  

Let me finish this first thought with a few other pieces to help us all understand this. 

A. Although respect is mutual God has called the parent to lead. So lead in a respectful way. Pray for patience cause I’m sure, like me, you don’t have enough. Don’t allow disagreements to fall into a shouting match to see who can shout loudest! 

B. Call your teen to a standard of mutual respect and don’t allow that standard to shift. Step back and take a moment to cool down if things get heated. Better to be respectful not forceful. Better to be consistent than to win! 

C. Work hard on respecting your teen by really listening. If need be, repeat what they say to make sure you’ve got it. Remember even murderers are allowed to have a defense before a verdict is given. 

Peace in a Covid world

Doesn’t it seem like there are a million voices all clamoring for our attention right now? 

Just this week I watched a video from some experts saying social distancing doesn’t make any difference. Then I saw another clip where others are saying you’ve got to maintain social distancing for the foreseeable future otherwise the death toll will be massive and our hospitals are going to be overwhelmed. 

What are you supposed to believe and how do you know the truth in all of this? 

Doesn’t it seem that the truth with this virus is fluid, politically influenced, and simply just a matter of opinion?

On top of that there are many Christian voices telling us not to worry and not to be afraid. Which is a much needed message, but, the reality is, people are losing their jobs. People I know and love are losing their jobs.

People’s futures are more uncertain now than they’ve probably been in all of our lifetimes. Many of us have just simply been wondering when can we be done with this, when can “normal” return and when can we get together as a church again? 

I read a quote recently of a pastor in Africa that painted a picture of his faith being tested in this season and he likened it to God edging him to the edge of a cliff not knowing what’s at the bottom. He said he sensed God asking him to trust Him. That picture really painted a powerful image in my mind. Our faith is being tested like no other time. 

Here’s a nutshell of what God has been teaching me this week: The peace of God isn’t focused upon the here and now or what’s going on in our circumstances or emotions. (Although true peace does impact all of our lives). 

I am learning that the peace of God that transcends all understanding, as it says in Philippians 4, is more about a God-focused life than my circumstances. I need a minute by minute, day by day reminder to keep my eyes on him. 

As I’ve said several other times in my blogs, I find that worship music helps me keep focused on God.  I have come to realize that whatever happens in life, whatever happens with this virus, I believe that God is in control and God has a plan. My peace comes from that and certainly not from what’s happening. 

That doesn’t mean to say I understand at all what’s going on and wouldn’t have 1000 different ideas for what God maybe could and should be doing in this time. But the peace that I’m experiencing, that I’ve got to tell you is totally uncharacteristic for me, comes because God has helped me to keep my eyes on him. 

To spend a little bit of time in his Word each day and to pray as often as I can for the people that I know and love and care about helps me keep my eyes on Him.

Just today I heard some news of how the Covid virus is impacting my extended family. I have friends that have lost jobs. I see my family wrestle with learning at home and so many of us wondering how we should adapt to all that happening. 

God’s peace doesn’t come because those things all get sorted or because I don’t think those things are gonna get resolved in the short term, as much as I would like that to be the case. 

The peace that comes to me and I pray to you is because we can trust God, and we can trust that God is good. Everything we know about God and his Word and, if we’re honest in and through our experience, tells us that God is good, all powerful and all knowing. I hope like me you’re able to know peace even when there’s so much stress in our lives. I would love to pray for you – just email me at and let me know how I can pray specifically. 

I am praying that at least one person reading this will know God’s peace in a deeper way than they had ever known before.

Sand or Rock

In these days, more than ever, it’s so hard to focus on Jesus and not circumstances. There’s those who’ve lost jobs, those who’ve lost loved ones. There is fear about the future. There is a growing desire to lift the stay at home orders but with that there is so much unknown.

I put this devotion together to encourage you in these times. There are no easy fixes and there are no answers. But God is still God and He is working our His plan, even if we can’t understand what that plan is.

I hope this encourages you today:

Rock or Sand

God is at work in the mess – Betty

In these days when many of us are not around a lot of people it’s easy to start perceiving that we are alone. A while ago I had an amazing encounter that I thought a lot about during the last few days. This experience reminded me that we are not alone.

As we are raising support to start serving in missions I have been working part time with my friend who owns a construction business. One of my jobs was to help remodel a hair salon. I have been knocking down walls and panting. I was working alone early one morning when a lady who I would guess was about 80 years old came in. My thoughts first of all was that she probably thought she had a hair appointment that day. So I explained that the salon was shut during the remodel. She seemed very confused and kept talking about an event for the Girl Scouts that she wanted to help with. I told her I didn’t know anything about that but I would check. I texted my boss and he didn’t know anything about any event. This lady came back into the salon probably another four or five times over the course of the next half an hour. I kept repeating the same thing that I didn’t know anything about any event. I was getting more and more concerned about this lady. Finally I asked her if she would be willing to just sit down and chat for a minute. She seemed both confused and embarrassed. So I tried to just sympathize and say I wanted to help. So we both sat and started talking. 

I asked her if she was feeling OK because she seemed to be very confused. She told me that her husband dropped her off but kept talking about wanting to help with the Girl Scouts. So I suggested that we try calling her husband. When we tried his number he didn’t answer. This lady let’s call her Betty, although that’s not her real name, kept apologizing and saying how embarrassed she felt. I then suggested that maybe I should try and take her home. I asked her if she knew where she lived and she replied that she wasn’t sure but she knew she lived by a school. I then asked her if the school was for younger kids or older kids, and she replied it was for younger kids. So I said let’s look at names of local schools and see if anyone rings a bell. I started reading the list of the elementary schools in the area. After about the third or fourth school she said that’s it that’s the one. So I said let’s head to that school and see if anything looks familiar. I prayed that God would help me to encourage this lady, and not let her feel scared or threatened. 

We both got into my car and we headed for the school that was about a mile away. As we got close to the school she said now I think I know where I’m at and she pointed to a side road. We drove down that side road and she pointed to a house. I went to the door with her but unfortunately no one was home. She then remembered that her daughter lived across the street, so we went and knocked on the door. A man answered the door and looked very surprised to see me and then confused to see what later I learned was his mother-in-law. He was so grateful that I brought her home and I was glad that she was now safely with family. 

I continued to work that morning wondering what the backstory was. The answers to my questions came later in the afternoon when one of the stylists came to pick up some supplies. I told him what had happened and he told me that the lady, Betty, was actually one of his clients who has been suffering with progressive dementia for the last few years. He was so glad that I was there and able to help this precious lady. 

The story reminds me that even in the midst of all of the stuff that’s going on with so much uncertainty and so much unknown and so much confusion, God is still at work in big and small ways. If we all keep our eyes open I’m sure God will give us regular opportunities, especially in this season, to be his hands and feet. God may seem silent but he is not at all. In fact I would say he is more active these days than I’ve seen for a long time. This is the time that is ripe for the hope of the gospel and the peace that Jesus alone can give. 

God is at work in what seems to be a mess. When so many are crying out to God, some are concluding that God is silent. Perhaps we are just looking in the wrong places. Maybe we are guilty of thinking God has to move in the ways we think He should, not in ways He knows are best.

Is God silent right now?

This is such a unique time, is it not? Can any one of us remember a time like this? Many of us have been impacted in big and small ways. Some of us have had to face huge lines at the store wondering where we can buy toilet paper, others have lost their jobs and still others have had first hand experience with the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus). 

We have seen schools closed and people encouraged to work from home. We have seen the rapidly escalating numbers of cases near and far. We have started to do church online and are encouraged to understand social distancing. So much has changed in such a short period of time. 

Like me you have probably seen and heard many things about faith and worry. Some of these things have been so helpful while others seem to simply state the obvious. This is a time when cliches don’t begin to help. 

Cliches don’t begin to help……

This virus is a macro example of what I have seen on a micro scale many times in my ministry as a pastor. I remember one time praying for God to heal a young child who was dying. I have seen lots of people dying of cancer. Most of the dying people I’ve sat next to in nursing homes and hospitals have been advanced in years. It seemed so wrong to see the tiny form of a child breathing her last breaths. People are praying but God seems silent. 

That seeming silence causes us to examine our faith. This is a season when our faith is examined in such a developed way. Here’s what many of us are finding: If our peace rises and falls based on circumstances we are probably struggling with the perception that God is silent. 

I have learned myself and seen in others that when tough times come we just want them over with as soon as possible. Isn’t that all  our hearts desire that this virus and all that has happened just stop already? 

But this virus isn’t going anywhere soon or so it seems. So the pressure mounts day by day as we wrestle with all that’s happening and the sense that God seems silent. Can I simply encourage you with this one thought as we unpack this tension in the coming blogs? What we feel and what is actually reality are often very different things.

I remember a while ago I thought my family was not giving me an appropriate level of understanding. I was so busy and feeling the weight of all that was happening and when a family member took offense at one of my responses I appealed for understanding and for space. My precious family member told me our whole family had, in actual reality, been extending understanding and space for days. What I perceived and what was reality were at odds. 

What I perceived and what was reality were at odds….. So no, I am not a genius….

Is that what is happening with you and God at the moment? Does God seem silent? Step back and simply ask God to open your eyes to His reality. Maybe start with reading some of John’s Gospel and ask yourself, “does Jesus show us in any way that God is silent and distant?”. 

More to come……

Stories that impacted me: “Try not to worry but dad’s had a heart attack”

When someone says “don’t worry”…. What do you do? 

I remember a few years ago I was sitting at my desk working and a close family member called me. I love this family member very much but their words stopped me in my steps that day: They said “Don’t worry, but dad’s in the hospital, they think he’s had a heart attack”. I know they were sincerely trying to care for me by sharing the news that way but I instantly started to do the opposite of what they said, I worried. I raced to the hospital thinking,  “what has happened?”, “would my dad be ok and about a thousand other things”. When I arrived at the hospital I went into his room and saw my dad hooked up to a bunch of machines. This seemed so surreal. My dad had been a policeman for my whole life and now he seemed so weak and vulnerable. 

Our world can change in a moment and we are told not to worry. 

My dad recovered and we were able to have some much needed chats and build bridges. I will always treasure those conversations with my dad. Crisis does that, it puts important things into perspective. My dad and I fought a lot because I was a pain in his backside. But seeing him in hospital changed everything. I just kept praying for God to spare his life. 

We are in a time when we hear a steady stream of “don’t worry” messages. But there is so much unknown. When someone says “Don’t worry” but close the schools, restaurants, bars and no group gatherings my mind races. Does yours? 

There is so much anxiety going around right now, you can taste it! Last Friday my wife and I went into our local Kroger to get ice cream. Friday night ice cream is medicinal so it’s not unhealthy……. But when we got to the front of the store the line was huge. It went from the front of the store to the back. The shelves were starting to empty quickly. I got home and clicked on Apple news and saw a bunch of messages that included the advice “Don’t worry”. 

So I have been thinking and praying about what to write to try and encourage people today. Here’s what I want to share: I started listening to worship music as I continue to work on projects to fix up our home in which we just moved. God met me in the worship music and lifted my eyes away from what was happening and onto Him. 

So let me encourage you with this, the next time someone says “Don’t worry”, instead of worrying – worship! I have found that the cure for fear is worship. Worship enables me to focus on God and not on panic-buying. 

Worship helps me remember what I know about my God:  

God is sovereign – in control 

God is all powerful – He moves and nothing can stand in His way 

God is all loving – He is selfless and sacrificial in His love 

God is all knowing – there is nothing that He doesn’t know about – He knows all 

The Psalms are a great place to go to read examples of worship even when people’s lives collapsed and uncertainty filled their hearts and minds. Can I encourage you to go to Psalm 46 to start with. Our pastor did an amazing job with that text yesterday – check out his message if you have time –

Please feel free to email me if I can pray for you –

Birds on a beach in Florida

Our family loves the beach. There is just something about the ocean that speaks vacation, rest and time with the family for me. As a child growing up in England, we vacationed in an amazing, beautiful place called Cornwall. (Insert pic of Sennon) The surf, the smell, the beach and the time away with my family are some of the best memories I have of my childhood. Now that I have a family of my own, we have been blessed to use our friend’s house in Southwest Florida for ten years in a row. 

A few years ago I was sat on the shore line with the tiny waves running over my feet. It was a typically beautiful day at Siesta Key. (Insert pic of Siesta Key). My youngest two sons were having a blast in the ocean, my wife and daughter were chatting away to each other when I noticed an awesome scene that God really used to speak to me.

As these tiny birds with long beaks flew down it was clear they were on the hunt for food. Using their bills to dig quickly down for whatever was just under the surface of the sand. But I also noticed something else as they flew up and down with the coming and going of the waves. These beautiful birds who get to spend their lives in amazing beauty, fused with each other. One would land and another would come and stalk, fuss and prod to battle for a few inches of wet beach. In fact I noticed they wasted so much time fighting each other they had just a split second to dig for food. Why waste all that time and energy and miss the most important part of what they were doing?

I thought to myself as I watched the birds come down, fuss, peck and then fly back up, “this is such a strong picture of worry, fear and anxiety in my life”. Worrying doesn’t change anything, fear often paralyzes me and anxiety can sometimes keep me up at night. But worrying, being filled with fear or anxiety doesn’t change anything!! Just like the birds on the beach fussing with each other rather than feeding, worrying misses the key piece of our lives. Worrying says, “I need to fix this”, it plays the “what if tapes” and it keeps our focus on the here and now. Faith on the other hand looks up and remembers God is all powerful, God is all loving and I can trust Him. 

Rather than fuss, fret and worry God invites you and I to pray. I love these verses: Philippians 4:6-7 “ Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

I hope and pray this story encourages and challenges you this day!