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Category: Volunteering

4 Ways To Grow Your Parenting

Every little kid that loves the idea of growing up.  And most of the time, we know what it takes to get from one level to the next.

Chances are it’s been a while since you hit a growth spurt,  but we all go through spurts where we grow, learn, and change. We are challenged to learn new things at work, in our marriage, in relationships, and in other areas of our lives. And, that challenge to grow is a good thing.  Today we are going to ask you to consider how you are growing in regards to parenting.

We all need growth spurts in our lives.  That’s why companies provide professional development classes. It’s why gyms have fitness training programs. And, parenting is no different. Just like the rest of life, there will be times when we need to stretch and grow our parenting.  So here’s 4 thoughts to consider:

We are constantly advising our students, giving them insight so they’ll make good choices. We say, “Eat healthy food.” “Get enough sleep.” “Be kind to others.” “Keep good boundaries in relationships.” And if our teenagers would just listen to us, that would be great. The problem is they watch us, too! They pay more attention to what we do than what we say.  That’s why, even in the exhausting and complicated world of careers and adult responsibilities, it’s important that our students don’t just hear our advice but see us acting it out in our daily lives. Words are important, but actions make our words believable for students. In other words, they’re more likely to believe what you say when you do what you say.

The truth is, there will be times when your student doesn’t want to talk to you and won’t seek your advice. That’s why it’s so important to have other adults in their lives that you (and they) trust. Maybe that’s a church small group leader, a school coach, or a friend’s parent. Make a list of a few other adults who you both like and trust. Then decide together who your student will go to when they don’t feel they can come to you.

There’s no question that serving benefits teenagers. The Minneapolis based Search Institute has reported that children and teens who volunteer just 1 hour a week are 50% less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or engage in harmful behaviors. But the benefits aren’t just limited to the student. When families serve together they create situations where they will have to depend on each other, work together, and have real conversations.

Teenage years are full of big moments. Dances. Big games. Hard tests. Award Ceremonies. Breakups. Drivers licenses. But every once in a while, our students experience a different king of big moment, one that can cause their entire life to pivot or go in a new direction. Maybe its when the family moves to a new state, or dad loses his job, or there’s a divorce or the death of a friend. When those moments come, as parents, it’s more important than ever that we lean in and let our students know that we’re going to walk through this tough stuff with them. It’s never easy, and there’s no manual for what to say or how to respond. But just knowing you’re there, you’re present with them, through the biggest life-changes may give your student the anchor they need to weather whatever storm may come.


Sometimes the best way to grow an area of our life up is to figure out where we are now. Take a look at each of the four areas above and…

•GIVE YOURSELF A SCORE. On a scale of one to ten, how are you doing in the 4 areas above?  No need to be a 10, who is really?!?  I can tell you, not only am I not a 10, I’m pretty close to 0 in some areas.  This just helps find a starting place.

•CELEBRATE THE WINS. Did you give yourself a high mark on something? Then celebrate that! Parenting isn’t easy, and it’s great to celebrate the areas where you’re doing well.

•TAKE ONE STEP. Take a look at the area with your lowest score. What’s one step you could take to move up one point? Maybe it’s signing up to bring meals to the homeless one time. Or perhaps it’s time to brainstorm the names of a few other adults that your student could go to with questions.

©2015 The reThink Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Don’t Waste Your Breath

It’s that time of year that brings about reflection, anxiety, hope, and the desire to make the most of the time left.  This applies to any parent whose students are experiencing a transition (preschool to elementary, MS to HS) but any parents of seniors out there???

We’ve been walking our seniors through a College Prep series.  We’ve been looking at tough questions of the faith and throwing in a few life skills as well.  That go me thinking…

Have you ever had a conversation with your teenager that felt like a complete flop? Like your words bounced off a brick wall? You’re probably not alone. Most parents feel incredible pressure to have meaningful conversations with their students, and yet those conversations are met with resistance if not total refusal to engage. This is especially true when it comes to matters of faith.

When parents seem willing enough to talk, why is it that teens often feel so resistant to listening?

It may be all in the approach.


Many teens feel like every parent-initiated conversation has an agenda. And let’s be honest, they may be right. During the teen years, as parents realize their time with their teen is limited, there is a sense of urgency surrounding all of the life lessons and important conversations that they feel they SHOULD have with their child before college. With the pressure mounting to work in all of these lessons, it is easy for parents to resort to talking at their student instead of talking with them.

While the intentions are good, if the majority of conversations center around a lesson, teens can end up feeling like they don’t measure up. Like their parents care more about “fixing them” or “setting them straight” than they do about connecting with them. Who wants to feel that way all the time?

This sort of dynamic can make conversations about faith even more tricky. It can set up students to feel inadequate and then tune out the parents. And tuned out parents feel equally inadequate and want to stop trying.  No thanks, there has to be a better way.


Helping students live out their faith, helping them develop values and habits they will carry into adulthood is one of the most important parts of a parent’s job. So how do you teach those lessons without running the risk of being shut out? How do you have a conversation without having “a talk”? How do you begin to move forward in your relationship and not backwards?

Maybe the answer is actually to talk less.

Don’t you remember when your kids were little and they were often imitating you, maybe a little bit too accurately?  While teens don’t make it as obvious, they still take cues about what is important by watching their parents. What you prioritize, what you organize your schedule and budget around will communicate loudly what you believe is important-without ever having to tell them.

So maybe instead of talking about the importance of spending money wisely, you invite them to help you figure out the family budget this month. Maybe instead of working “church” into the conversation, you simply trust that your example, that your commitment, is sending the message.  (Or at least approach the conversation differently, “Have I ever shared how Jesus became so important in my life…”.  I’d be way more interested in hearing that than why I should make sure and wake up on Sunday morning to fulfill my duty of attendance.  Now back to the main point…)  Maybe instead of talking about the importance of serving others, it’s just something you do together.

When you lead with your actions, it takes a lot of pressure off the conversation. And the more conversations you have, without a lesson attached, the more your teen will trust that you like them, as a person.  It might even open the door to more meaningful conversation—because now you’re talking with them and not at them.


Let’s get practical.

Developing a habit of serving, or moving on behalf of others as a family, can seem daunting when family schedules and budgets are already stretched to the max. But serving doesn’t mean that you have to volunteer at a soup kitchen every week or build a well in Africa on your own. Simply meeting one person’s need is a big step and will go a long way in helping your teenager develop an awareness for the needs around him or her.

Choose one elderly neighbor or single mom in your community and invite your student to help you decide on ONE THING you can do for that person. Something as simple as making them dinner and bringing it over could make their day. And every member of the family can be involved. Invite your student to help you decide on the menu, buy the groceries, prepare and deliver the meal.

Serving somewhere every week or every month may not be a possibility for your family, but simply developing an awareness of the needs around you and moving on behalf of one person can help students develop the habit of caring for the world around them.


Adapted with permission.  ©2013 The reThink Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Get connected to a wider community of parents at

Volunteering Your Way to a Meaningful Conversation

I imagine there are times when you wish you could just have one meaningful conversation with your son or daughter.  The kind of conversation where you feel like you are making headway on the things that matter most in life.  I also imagine they are hard to come by sometimes.  It can feel like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, especially as they get older.

I just got back from spending a week in San Antonio serving with Blueprint Ministries.  Blueprint works with homeowners in the city to help make their homes “warmer, safer, drier”.  Notice that “aesthetically pleasing” wasn’t on the list, hence the middle school labor force we were allowed to bring.  Not that the kids didn’t work hard to make their work look great for these wonderful people.  We had 4 teams doing all kinds of projects – roofing, flooring, drywall, installing cabinets, and more!  It was an incredible trip and there were rewarded after 4 days of hard work with roller coasters at Six Flags!

One of my favorite things about this trip is the conversations that happen.  We are in someone’s home from a different part of town than most of us live.  Often the homeowner’s are there with us and the students get a chance to form relationships with them and see their daily life up close and personal.  Students get to see their disposition as well as their possessions.  Conversations about life, happiness, wealth, stuff, relationships, and family are discussed almost everyday!

If you are looking for an opportunity to have a significant conversation with your kids, volunteering together is a great way to accomplish this goal.  Here are three reasons volunteering together can lead to significant conversations:

  • In volunteering you are often put in a situation that is outside of your norm.  Contrast has a way of bringing about clarity.  One of the most common quotes on our trip was, “I just was able to see how much I have and how much I take for granted.  They didn’t have near the stuff I have, but they were so happy and full of joy.”  Conversations of gratitude and how to live with a thankful attitude happen naturally.  More importantly, conversations about what truly brings joy in life can bring great perspective to a teenager in the midst of the world of adolescence.
  • In volunteering you are allowed to do something outside of yourself and it often feels like you’ve stumbled upon the right way to live.  I hate to admit it, but much of my day is spent worrying about myself and my needs.  When we can get outside of this, often life opens up and you realize the joy found in giving yourself away.  Our speaker for the week said, “you were hardwired to give and love sacrificially.  It’s how God created you.  That’s why this feels so good.”  Not much of the world is telling your son or daughter to live this way.  Volunteering together gives you this opportunity.
  • In volunteering you are in it together and there is mutual discovery taking place.  Here’s the best part, most likely you are learning and processing life just as much as they are!  Your kids will have a front row seat watching you learn and grow and process and open yourself up.  What a gift!  Instead of being in a situation where you might be tempted to lecture from your vast knowledge and life understanding, you are put in a place where you can mutually discover what matters most in life and process your experience together!

I’m sure many of you have already experienced this, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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