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New Year, New Start: New Habits

Iiiiiiiiiiiit's a new year! It's almost here! Fresh starts feel so good! It is always sad to take down the Christmas tree and pack up the ornaments as if saying goodbye to old friends until next year. It still somehow feels good to feel a new perspective coming and hope for a new year. I am looking forward to roller skating with the new skates Santa brought us all!

We said goodbye to our tree and took down the Christmas cards hanging on the kitchen wall. I still am leaving up my flocked trees for "winter decor" though.

We are enjoying the break from normal routines and spent time watching Frozen II from a tent in the living room yesterday.A movie day is always welcome when it is chilly and drizzly outside.Of course, the Frozen II chunky blanket is a must for this viewing event. No, they all did not last through the entire movie this way, and a few arguments broke out regarding space issues in such a small area, but went well for the most part (wink).

With fresh starts come new dreams, goals, and hopes. The end of this year became hectic with three birthdays in our household plus Christmas and New Year celebrations in one month. I have found it difficult to get my quiet time in before others awake in the mornings where I can just sit still and be with God. As important as it is, next week, I will reconfigure my schedule and make a better plan for that. Life always changes, doesn't it?

With studying God's Word, one of my favorite verses to remember is Psalm 5:8, "Every morning I lay out the pieces of. my life on the altar and wait for Your fire to fall upon my heart." I love this because it really is that way each day when I am able to spend time quietly at the kitchen table. Everyone in our home received journaling Bibles this year, who can read, anyway. I got a new one for Christmas because I ran out of margin space to write in my old one, complete with cracking turquoise leather and crumpled corners. You can find it here.

Even the school age girls were excited to open their journaling Bibles for Christmas! These are so special and perfect for them! You can find them here.

I posted not too long ago on discipleship in the home for kids, but I want to get one in before the new year about teenagers. I am not a parent of any teens yet, but have worked with them as a counselor and student pastor's wife and I truly find them all so intriguing and wonderful. You may not be a parent of a teen either, but may have influence to this age group, or be teenager yourself! Whatever the situation, these points are relevant to us all.

Parents may not believe it, but they have more of an influence on their teenagers at home than they think, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Studies show that parental influence actually makes more difference to their teenagers than peer influence! Since teenagers spend more time with parents than other leaders in their lives, home is the central place for discipleship.

When we hear disciple, we often think of the followers of Jesus in the Gospels and Acts, as they were students of Jesus, which is exactly what a disciple is. Parents have the privilege of discipling their students at home! Many parents have the desire to teach their teenage children to follow Christ but do not know how, while some question the importance of discipleship at home, when so many people and activities compete for attention. When it comes to discipleship, intentionality is vital, and there are several specific areas in which to make Christ real in teenagers’ lives at home.

Church - Discipleship is a partnership between parents and church. Contacting the student minister at church and staying informed about student ministry events is a great place to start. To truly understand the student ministry, ask the student pastor what the strategy is for discipling teenagers, the goal based on that strategy, and what steps the student pastor intends to take to achieve the goal of the student ministry. By having this information, parents will have a better grasp of how to reach them at home through reinforcement of topics at church.

Become active in their activities at church. If there is a meal at church, volunteer to serve it! If people are needed to run the sound board, step up to work it! If student choir needs a pianist, play as the accompanist! By engaging as an active participant in your teenager’s student ministry, it connects you to your child and gives you the knowledge you need to know how to communicate about the lessons they are learning at church for a winning situation!

Attend worship services as a family. Hebrews 10:25 states we “should not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” They personally see the importance of gathering together as a family of believers because it is modeled by their parents.

Love – Love on your children every chance possible. Be an accurate image of God’s love. 1 John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” Parents have the privilege to show God’s love to their children daily.

Affirm them in person and in writing. Grab a post-it note and stick an encouraging message in a lunchbox. Write a message in dry erase marker on the bathroom mirror. Tell your son or daughter in person how proud you are of them.

Spend time with them. If they enjoy the coffee shop atmosphere, jump in the car and hang out for a bit at a local coffee shop. It may not necessarily be your favorite place, but that small sacrifice to meet them where they are can exemplify Christ’s love to them.

Listen to them. It means a lot to a teenager to be heard, even when we as parents may not agree or when the answer is no. Sometimes just being heard makes all the difference. You will know your teenager better through listening, and because of the care you show, you have a greater impact for God in the life of your teenager. They will be much more likely to hear your Godly perspective on life issues when they know you care enough to listen. Your teenager may roll his or her eyes and dismiss it as sappy or silly, but it truly is meaningful.

Prayer – Pray together and often. In Colossians 4:2, Paul instructs the believers at Colossae to devote themselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Life is busy, especially with teenagers who have school, jobs, friends, and other activities. Making prayer a habit is vital to discipleship at home. Each family is unique, so how and when they pray together is also unique. Throw a chalkboard on the wall in the kitchen and have family members write prayer concerns on it. Make time to look at the board as a family and pray together in person for the written requests. This will encourage personal prayer time during busy days, and will also draw the family together to pray as well. If your family has dinner together, be intentional to take time to discuss prayer concerns going on in each other’s lives. If there is time in the morning before everyone heads out the door for the day, take a few moments to pray for people your family knows. Modeling prayer enables them to see the priority of prayer in their parents’ lives and demonstrates compassion for others.

Bible – Read together and often. In Job 23:12, Job states he values God’s Word more than food. If your family has time in the morning, take turns reading through a Bible reading plan. If your family has more time in the evenings, open up a Bible before everyone heads to bed. Creating these intentional moments to read through God’s Word demonstrates the importance of knowing it and instills this habit in their lives as well.

Discussion – Keep communication open about everyday issues. In Ephesians 6:1-4, Paul instructs parents to bring children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Communication is a perfect way to lead and guide. Ask about quiet time, school, Bible study groups, and friends. Show interest in what they do and who they know. Much information may not come out of your busy socialite, but he or she will know you care and you will create opportunities for when they want to share.

Schedule family dinnertime when everyone will be at home and be intentional about the discussion that happens. Family dinner every night would be ideal, but as children grow older, activities and jobs happen in the evenings, so it becomes more challenging. Intentionality to create this time is meaningful to the family and is a place for laughter and meaningful conversation.

Discuss topics going on in the world and allow expression of opinions freely without judgment. Discuss local news, national news, and topics going on in the country. Their brains are changing from concrete thinking to abstract thinking, so it is a perfect opportunity to guide them to think critically, especially when it comes to right and wrong. Whether you agree or not, let them talk and think through issues aloud. As a teaching opportunity, encourage them to open up Scripture, even as a family, and discover what God has to say regarding social issues and controversial topics. Be gentle and allow God to speak through His Word. There is no need to be shy about real life topics, since they are most likely hearing about social issues at school and with friends. It is beneficial to chat about them at home, at an age-appropriate level, from a Godly point of view. This will ensure they do not just hear information from a worldly perspective, but parents have an opportunity to shine light from a holy perspective.

Family priorities – Live out your priorities to your children. Teenagers are excellent at perceiving real or fake. They watch parents and know if they are living what they are saying. As a family, evaluate and talk about where time is spent and why. Include your teenagers in the conversation and ask them what they think about where your family spends time and if there are any changes needed. Where time is spent shows what is important in life.

Media – Be involved in media at home. Jesus prays in John 17:15-16 for protection of the disciples as they live in the world, though as believers, they are not a part of it. The comfort of television, fun of social media, and entertainment of music is a blessing in America, but can also be used negatively. Be sure to keep communication open about television, movies, music, and social media, as many teaching opportunities will be presented. Teenagers will encounter topics that cause them to question their stance on issues, which lead to excellent opportunities to guide them to figure out what God says and help them to own their faith. It is difficult to make choices that glorify God, especially when it may not be easy or a popular choice. Leading them to be brave and face tough choices will benefit them later on when mom and dad are not there to guide them daily.

Service – Show teenagers what it means to serve. Paul, in Galatians 5:13, instructs believers in Galatia to serve one another. It is no secret that teenagers are naturally egocentric due to the brain’s state of growth. Serving others guides them to be aware of the needs of others and outgrow a me-centered mindset.

Let them create ways to show God’s love to those around. Everyone loves having a place and a purpose, so actively participating in serving is personal and makes a lifetime impact. Bake cookies and take them to the homebound. Take a meal to the local fire station and serve the first responders. If a family at church is moving across town, grab a cleaning bucket and scrub the new house before they move, or build some muscles by helping carry some furniture. When actively looking, opportunities to serve are everywhere. Their lives are only going to become busier, so learning to take time to serve now, they will already be in the habit of serving when they live independently.

God has given parents an honor to teach children to follow Him! According to Barna Research, 59% of 18-29 year olds with a Christian background have dropped out of attending church after going regularly. Parents have a chance to change that statistic with their teenagers at home. Difficult as discipleship may seem with people and activities vying for attention, in eternity, what we do for Christ is all that matters!

Have a wonderful new year and I pray peace and joy for each of you! God bless! Talk soon!




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