group magazine: January-February, 2000
1 WELCOME TO HIGH SCHOOL
During the summer before kids’ first year of high school, plan an intergenerational event to prepare them for this important transition. The goal is to get parents and teenagers together so they can focus on the issues they’ll face in the next three or four years. We divide these issues into The Four S’s: social life, spiritual life, studies, and sports.
At the event we coach parents and kids to develop expectations, goals, and hopes for each area. First we have all the parents get together and all the kids get together to brainstorm ideas related to each area—just to get them thinking. Next we get parents and their teenagers talking together one-on-one. Then we form groups consisting of two or more families and have each family unit share what they talked about. Then we come together as a large group and list the expectations, goals, and dreams of the group. This helps people evaluate their thinking against ideas from other families. Then we have parents get back together one-on-one with their teenagers to pray with each other.
Interspersed between these group discussions, we ask four Christian senior highers to give a presentation on each of the four areas. They talk about the choices they’ve made, what they’ve learned from their mistakes, and how God has influenced their journeys.
Search Institute has discovered that the two most important factors in kids’ faith development are (1) "Talking about faith with your mother" and (2) "Talking about faith with your father." This event funnels kids and parents right into powerful discussions that help them apply their faith to real life.
2 GETTING YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE
Early in kids’ sophomore year, plan an event that anticipates the day they earn that revered little piece of plastic. First take kids and parents to a go-cart track, and have teenagers race while parents watch. Then have them race together. Afterward get them together to talk about the experience. Ask: What surprised you? What delighted you? What worried you?
Then give a 30-minute presentation on driving do’s and don’ts (if you have a relationship with a traffic officer who speaks well, ask him or her to give this presentation). Afterward have kids and parents react to the presentation by answering these questions: Are there Christian foundations for any of these do’s and don’ts? If so, what are they? How does your relationship with Jesus infiltrate the choices you make as a driver? What are some widespread driving practices that conflict with your Christian faith? What would a Christlike driver look like?
After this discussion time, get parents together with their kids to talk about expectations and responsibilities in these areas: Who will teach the teenager to drive? How many hours will the parent spend coaching the teenager before he or she is allowed to drive alone? When and how will the teenager receive permission to use a family car? Who will pay for the car, the gas, and the insurance?
Give each family unit paper and pens, and ask them to come up with a Rules of the Road document signed by both parents and kids. Have each family present its rules; then give them a chance to amend them after they’ve heard others’ good ideas.
3 COLLEGE PREP
During kids’ junior year, plan an event that will help them spiritually prepare for a college experience. Kids’ faith will be sorely tested in college, and they need a "battle plan" before they get there. First have kids and their parents get together to answer these questions: So far, has your high school experience lived up to your expectations, hopes, and dreams? Why or why not? What are your expectations, hopes, and dreams for your college experience?
Ask four Christian college students—a freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior—to describe the struggles, opportunities, and spiritual growth they’ve experienced since they left home for school. Then have parent-only and teenager-only groups answer these questions: What scares you about [your teenager] leaving for college? what excites you? How will this transition likely challenge your faith?
Have parents get together with their teenager to share and pray through what they talked about in their groups. Then have them come up with a Spiritual Battle Plan for College that includes steps they’ll take to spiritually prepare for the most important test they’ve yet faced.1 Have them write their plan on paper and sign it.
Close in prayer. Then offer an epilogue session that focuses on practical issues, such as how to visit college campuses together, how to interview, how to fill out entrance applications, and how to find financial aid.
4 CHOOSING A MATE
During their senior year, get kids thinking about the kind of person they want to marry, and give parents a chance to share their hopes and dreams for their teenagers’ future marriage partners. Have parents get together with their kids to describe how they met and married their spouses (have them go through scrapbooks if they have them). Then ask several couples from your church to give a short presentation about how and why they met and married, and how they’ve tried to live out their Christian commitment to one another.
After the presentations, have teenager-only and parent-only groups answer this question: What’s one big "do" you gleaned from the presentations? What’s one big "don’t" you gleaned from the presentations? Then have kids get together with their parents to share what their groups talked about.
Have your senior pastor describe the church’s goals and priorities for marriage preparation—including its biblical vision for courtship, engagement, marriage (Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13 are good foundations), and the church’s role in supporting marriages. Afterward describe what a typical marriage ceremony involves. Then have kids and their parents get together to do a mock wedding plan. During this discussion, have parents and kids describe their "perfect" marriage partner.
Close by gathering in a circle with parents standing behind their teenagers. One by one, have parents pray for their teenager’s future marriage (for teenagers who don’t have parents attending, ask an adult volunteer to pray). Then pray a blessing over each family represented.
Ben Freudenburg is a minister to the Christian home at a church in Missouri, and he’s the co-author of The Family Friendly Church (Group Publishing, Inc.)