Why Are People Taking Longer to Grow Up?

Extended adolescence. It’s something we’ve all heard about, seen, and maybe experienced: people are taking longer and longer to reach adulthood. What is adulthood? They say you’ve reached it when you finally leave home, finish school, become financially independent, get married (and possibly have a kid). In one of his lectures for the class Leadership and Family Ministry, Timothy Paul Jones identifies six reasons why adolescence is being pushed back into a person’s late 20s and even early 30s.

  1. Culture-wide loss of rite of passage. We don’t celebrate a young person’s coming of age, like many other cultures do.

  2. Affluence. To put it bluntly, we’re rich enough to feed people who are unwilling to work. Solomon wisely observed that “a worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on” (Proverbs 16:26). But in an affluent society such as ours, hunger is generally not a pressing motivation to seek financial independence, which is one of the marks of adulthood.

  3. Postponement of marriage and parenthood. Since marriage and parenthood are marks of adulthood, this point seems to simply repeat the statement rather than offer a reason for it.

  4. Insufficient generational interaction. Dr. Jones cites Barbara Hersch’s book A Tribe Apart, which claims that many adolescent issues are due to the lack of meaningful connections between teens and older adults. Dr. Jones observes that this trend is observable in evangelical churches that over-segregate the age groups.

  5. Insufficient training as a Christian to know what it means to be a follower of Christ to become mature. As a reason for the extension of adolescence, this point is less helpful since this can be said of nearly any culture and generation.

  6. Establishment of the teen and young adult years as a time to be wasteful. Our culture promotes the adolescent years as a time of maximum indulgence and minimum responsibility.

Dr. Jones suggests that churches should focus on moving young people toward mature Christian adulthood by re-envisioning the teenage years as a time of spiritual growth rather than as a time to indulge in trivial pursuits before burdened by the responsibilities of adult life. Churches can develop “rites of passage” to assess and celebrate movements toward maturity, and develop programs that integrate rather than segregate teens and older adults.

Are My Children Safe? A Christian Parent’s Response to the Boston Bombings

130416-martin-richard-jsw-654aWe saw blood where it should not be–on the sidewalk and in a convenience store. But perhaps the most heart-wrenching piece of news was what I heard last night: an eight-year-old boy waiting to hug his dad was among the casualties.

The horrific sidewalk scene sobered me in another way. Just two days prior, I had been at the finish line of the Charlotte Racefest Half Marathon, in a crowd similar to the one where the Boston blast took place. I had run the last part of the race with my wife, and was trying to find her amid the sea of people. With me, nestled in a double jogging stroller, were my two precious children, ages 3 and 1. What if the twisted minds behind the Boston marathon bombings had chosen Charlotte instead? Are my children safe?

In CNN’s Opinion section, LZ Granderson’s editorial “It Can Happen Anywhere” offers little comfort. He writes, “All of the laws, the creation of Homeland Security, the trillions spent, the political grandstanding and debates and yet the best we can do is make the country safer. We will never, ever be safe again. Not in the way many of us remember being safe growing up.”

Granderson is reflecting the sentiment that many feel right now. No one knows when or where terror will strike. Our sense of safety has been violated. For all our protective measures, we are still vulnerable to deadly evil–in our schools, in our churches, at work, and even at play. As recent events have shown us, no sphere of life is exempt from the ravages of murderous intent.

Yet as a Christian, I must contend that events like this don’t make us any less safe–they only highlight our vulnerability. In terms of where ultimate safety comes from, nothing has changed. In the Bible I read that “the horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31, KJV).

Rather than despairing of our loss of safety, the Christian must respond to the horrible Boston bombings in a way that is informed by Scripture. As my eyes brim with tears, I offer six Christian responses to our heightened sense of vulnerability and outrage at this evil:

  1. I will grieve with those who are grieving (Romans 12:15).

  2. I will pray and trust that justice will be done (Luke 18:1-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8).

  3. I will recognize that I am (as I always have been) totally dependent upon God for the well-being of my children and me (Psalm 4:8; 127:1; Matthew 6:31-33; Romans 8:31)

  4. I will exercise my God-given ability to use common sense and take precautions, but I will not let faithless fear bar me from doing God’s will (Matthew 4:5-7; Daniel 3:16-18).

  5. I will long for the consummation of that coming Kingdom in which God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

  6. I will more urgently tell others how God can deliver them from the domain of darkness, and transfer them to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).

How Can We Teach Children About Worship?

Fatherhood Religious Stock PhotosI’ve been reading Worship by the Book  (edited by D. A. Carson). This morning I came across a valuable insight for parents who wish to teach their children about true worship:

Kids of that age [10-12 years, and presumably younger] do not absorb abstract ideas very easily unless they are lived out and identified. The Christian home, or the Christian parent who obviously delights in corporate worship, in thoughtful evangelism, in self-effacing and self-sacrificing decisions within the home, in sacrificial giving for the poor and the needy and the lost–and who then explains to the child that these decisions and actions are part of gratitude and worship to the sovereign God who has loved us so much that he gave his own Son to pay the price of our sin–will have far more impact on the child’s notion of genuine worship than all the lecturing and classroom instruction in the world. Somewhere along the line it is important not only to explain that genuine worship is nothing more than loving God with heart and soul and mind and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves, but also to show what a statement like that means in the concrete decisions of life. How utterly different will that child’s thinking be than that of the child who is reared in a home where secularism rules all week but where people go to church on Sunday to “worship” for half an hour before the sermon.

I was struck by the fact that children learn what they see us do. What we do consistently and passionately they see as important. Conversely, what we do inconsistently or without passion, they see as unimportant. Not only that, but we must actively interpret our actions to them. We are going to church to worship with God’s people. We are giving this tithe because everything we have comes from God anyway.

Here are seven commitments with regard to teaching our children using concrete actions:

  1. If I will teach my children that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, then not only will I explain the Gospel to them, but also they will see me sharing the Gospel with others. When they are old enough, they and I will share the Gospel together.
  2. If I will teach my children that God can be trusted to provide for us, then we will be generous in giving to needy people together.
  3. If I will teach my children that corporate worship is essential, then we will consistently gather with God’s people together.
  4. If I will teach my children that the Bible is the Word of God, then we will read it, sing it, and memorize it together.
  5. If I will teach my children that marriage is a wonderful gift from God, then my children will see my wife and me treating each other with love and respect.
  6. If I will teach my children that sin dishonors God and always brings sorrow, I will abhor sin myself, shield my children from undue exposure to sin, correct them when they commit sin, and humbly admit it when I commit sin against them.
  7. If I will teach my children that God loves them, then I will do my best to show love to them–not only by providing for their physical needs, but also by listening carefully when they speak, playing with them, and treating them with tenderness.