How Do You Handle Your Teen’s Frustration With People in the Church?

young music player and band friends have training in home garage

Let’s be honest.  There is no perfect church.  Any time there are people involved human nature will play out and conflicting opinions will surface.  Part of life for us as parents is to navigate those difficult waters with our kids so that it doesn’t trample their desire to be part of the church and to follow Christ.

I love what Benjamin L. Corey says in his blog, “The Church of all places should look like Jesus!

Wouldn’t it be awesome if the church was filled with authentic people who were others  focused and conflict was worked through and resolved.  Truth is that everyone we come in contact with is on a journey and not everyone is at the same place of maturity in their faith.

So what do we do as parents when problems arise for our teens and they are hurt by people in the church?

Shaunti Feldhaun’s research in For Parents Only says that teens tend to stop talking because parents don’t listen. They want to feel heard.

It is only natural when we as parents feel strongly about our Faith that we would want to defend our decision as parents to attend a particular church.  After all, we want our kids to not only take on our faith and live it out in their lives but we also want them to see the value in being part of a church body.  All too often parents tend to freak out because of the emotion involved when our kids decide they don’t want to attend church any more which can turn the situation into a downward spiral.

When your kid tells you they no longer want to go to youth group or they don’t want to go to church anymore, take the time to listen and understand.  Don’t dish out judgment, condemnation, or threats.

LISTEN and problem solve. 

Here’s some suggestions:

  • Listen with ears to understand. Watch your body language and tone in the conversation.
  • Ask probing questions that lead to further understanding.
  • Once you’ve identified what you think the problem is, ask your child for time to look into it further and seek information from other trusted adults.
  • Don’t panic. What was a problem one week might totally blow away by the next week.  If it persists, continue investigating.
  • Know that sometimes a persistent problem may have been going on for some time and your child is just now telling you about it. Be aware that the wounds from the offense might be deeper than you think.
  • Be honest with your child about your concern that a situation could taint his view of God and the church.  Talk about it.
  • Work out a win-win for your child and you. Offer up options to solve the problem and try to do so, but know that in the end the goal is to make sure your child knows that you are on their team.

Several years ago one of my kids signed up to play keyboard on a rotating youth worship team.  He was so excited.  As a freshman, he would be playing with a group of mostly juniors and seniors who had been leading worship for several years.  I knew the kids and their parents.  They were awesome kids so I thought it would be a great experience for him.

I also had met the adult leader who had responsibility for the group.  She loved music and she loved the kids.  Another big plus and reason to believe it was a perfect situation.

His excitement was high initially.  Even though the youth group had a keyboard, it was marginal at best.  My husband went out and bought a case for my son’s keyboard so that he could be more successful.  We ended up hauling it back and forth for practices and Sunday worship—a huge commitment on our part.

About five months into the experience I sensed something might be going on.  I would cart my son and the keyboard to practice and sit in the parking lot only to find out that practice had been rescheduled but my son hadn’t been notified.  About a month later, my son started complaining that he didn’t think the other kids liked him.  Soon after he had not only quit the team but refused to go back to youth group.

What I discovered was that the older kids were leading the band.  The adult leader saw her job as supervisor only to make sure the kids didn’t do something stupid while they were in the building and to make sure they had a set list put together for Sunday morning.  She didn’t involve herself in the practice at all.  She was strictly in the building.

These kids didn’t have the experience of working with a keyboard player nor were they quite mature enough to lead a group of varying instruments.  I knew my son had the skill set to play well.  I heard him when he practiced regularly at home.  However, the kids didn’t realize that it is much more difficult to change keys for voice range on a keyboard than it was on a guitar.  So when they were giving my son the music, he was playing it in the key that it was written while the guitar players were using their capos to play it in the key they wanted.

The teen leader’s solution was to turn off the keyboard from the sound booth on Sunday morning.  This left my son frustrated because he didn’t understand the problem.  No one was invested enough in what was going on to try to hear the issue, let alone solve it.  My son’s solution was to leave the youth group because he felt excluded and humiliated.

After trying to fully understand the issue, I realized that it truly wasn’t anyone’s  malicious intent to exclude my son.  They were each trying to do the best they knew how in having teens lead in their sphere of influence.  My son’s feelings were a result of insufficiently skilled people doing the best they could do given what they knew.

Was my son hurt?  Absolutely!  Was my son justified in wanting to quit the team?  Absolutely!  Did I try to explain what was really happening and how sorry I was that he had been hurt?  You bet!

After a year of sitting in the main church service with us, I asked my son if he would be interested in trying the youth group again.  I even agreed to volunteer to work with the youth for the year if he wanted me to.  He said ‘yes’.

Luckily the next two years were a success for him.  He even played on the worship team that was now under the direction of someone who understood and worked the music issues.

As parents, our job is not to defend the church, but to defend our kids.  For that, we need to listen and help solve the problems or at least give them context for the imperfection of other humans.  The only way our kids will stay involved in the church as they mature is if the can come to realize that the church isn’t perfect but the benefits outweigh the difficulties.

“Let go…and let God”,


Sign up for our on-line eCourse which starts September 26, 2016.  You’ll have an opportunity to go through the new book With All Due Respect:40 days to a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens with me and a group of moms just like yourself.  Learn and interact while gaining new communication skills. Be sure to get in on the discounted price while it lasts.  I’ll be available for personal interaction in the class.  Hope you’ll join me.  Click here for more information.

Helping Your Tweens and Teens Deal With Those ‘Mean Kids’

Young female skater having headache outdoors

Have you ever wished you could put your kids in a bubble until they reached adulthood?  Maybe you’ve felt that if you moved to the middle of nowhere your tweens wouldn’t be hurt or scarred by those ‘mean kids’.

There was a time when I thought moving to the middle of nowhere would simplify life — that way I could be the primary influence in the life of my tweens and teens freeing them from those kids who didn’t know how to treat others.

Having survived the junior high and high school years with four children, I often wanted to run away from the culture and the people who could emotionally hurt my kids.  I remember having to deal with issues that took place in my home with people who lived in close proximity.

Like the time a 12 year old came into our home and stole a gaming system, holding my 11 year old hostage with threat of harm if he snitched.

Like the time a neighbor came over to get my daughter to show off her new birthday present and proceeded to send her back home because she wasn’t invited to the party.

Like the time my 15 year old’s best friend told him that he didn’t want to hang out with him anymore.

Like the nasty breakup where a girlfriend decided to do mean things to tear my son down.

Or the time I realized that my 11 year old daughter who was used to hanging out with boys because of her brothers was being used by a 16 year old girl to gain access to all the potential male friendships in the neighborhood–including my son.

Yes, it makes us want to run away and hide.  We want to protect our children from the horrible things called life.  But, we need to remember what scripture says…

John 16:33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Rather than put them in a bubble or move to the middle of nowhere, I believe there is a better way.  After all, our kids are going to encounter difficult relationships — for the rest of their lives.

I’ve discovered that by the time my kids hit junior high, it’s not mine to fix.  Even though I’d love to take my kid’s problem to the other kid’s parent or talk to that mean kid myself, tweens and teens need to learn to deal with the difficult people in their lives on their own.  I’ve also discovered  that pain brings teaching opportunities–and maturity.  If we can look at the offenses made against our kids as a launching place for discussion, it can help us be the safety net our kids need against a cruel world.  It helps them connect with us.

Truth is if you find that place in the middle of nowhere, or could put your kids in a bubble, they would grow up, but would they be mature adults?  At some point we all have to deal with the real world.

Home should be a place of refuge from the storms that can derail our kids.  Our job is to be there to soothe the emotion and help them deal with the pain.  We should also give them some skills for action.

So what are some of the ways we can help our kids when they encounter those ‘mean kid’ moments?

  1. Let them vent and work through their emotion.  A shoulder to cry on assuring them that you’ve been there and understand will go a long way.
  2. Ask your child how they think they should handle it.  Encourage them to deal with it rather than avoid the situation.
  3. Offer up other suggestions if they seem open to your input.  
  4. Resist the urge to fix it yourself or let your child talk you into fixing it.
  5. Role play different scenarios with them.  Let them try their conversation with you playing the ‘mean person’ so that they feel prepared to deal with the issue.
  6. Let them know you will be praying for them to have a good conversation and that God will intervene.

Helping our kids face those mean people in their lives will help them mature and be ready to work through emotional relationship issues with their co-workers, bosses, spouses, and friends as they move into adulthood. Know that the God of the universe will allow our children to experience things that He can use for His purpose in future times.

Dare you to equip your kids in solving their relationship problems.  If you do, you’ll gain stronger relationship with them and they’ll see you as a source of wisdom.  Not only that, but you’ll equip them for their future as mature adults.

“Let go…and let God”


Sign up for our on-line eCourse which starts September 26, 2016.  You’ll have an opportunity to go through the new book With All Due Respect:40 days to a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens with me and a group of moms just like yourself.  Learn and interact while gaining new communication skills. Be sure to get in on the discounted price while it lasts.  I’ll be available for personal interaction in the class.  Hope you’ll join me.  Click here for more information.

Church = Acceptance or Judgment?

brunette Cute young woman with colorful scarf posing outdoors in nature

Keeping our kids in church through the teen and twenty-something years requires many factors.  Peer friendships, adult community, and relevance to our teen’s world being several pieces to the pie.

Finding an accepting environment is also critical in the process.

Shaunti Feldhaun’s research  attempted to get into our teen’s head to understand them better.  The information she gathered indicates that kids at this age are insecure and are fearful of rejection. They want people to accept them for who they are and to be seen as a significant person within the group.  This is especially important as the child moves from junior high to high school.  Typically the freshman year is where the big shift in acceptance is made.  Still immature in their relationships, 14 year olds sometimes struggle with who they are because they are now at the bottom of the rung in age range with the shift in peers.  It’s as if they are suddenly found swimming in a pit with bigger, stronger, faster, prettier 15-18 year olds.

The problem is that clicks can easily form in any youth group, especially in churches where kids have grown up together. New faces might not be readily accepted or worse, be totally ostracized or go unnoticed.

Kids can sometimes be harsh in their “who’s in – who’s out” mentality.  While parents might not see it, kids typically identify rejection quickly.  While it is easy to think that our kids are not trying to connect, it is important for parents to see what “truth” is for the teen and encourage ways to get involved.

Keep in mind that this acceptance needs to also come from the adult youth workers.  I can’t say this strongly enough.  As parents we want to think that youth workers or pastors will connect and treat all the kids the same.  However, truth is that they are human just like us and some kids will naturally become favorites.

Every youth pastor and adult volunteer is serving in that capacity for a reason—and it may not necessarily be for the reason you want.  For some it is ministry and they want to connect with your child and love them unconditionally.  If that’s the case for your youth group, you’ve probably found the right church.  Just know that for others it is a job, not necessarily a calling.

Volunteers are often there because their child is part of the group and they want to protect their child or be part of their child’s world or they’ve been coerced by someone to get involved even though their goal isn’t necessarily to love the kids where they are at.  Maybe the adult leader is a big kid at heart and loves teenagers and enjoys the energy they breed, but doesn’t have the maturity to pour into your child in a healthy adult-like way.

Youth workers also have varying degrees of experience working with kids and parents.  Knowing who these people really are and their true heart’s calling can have a huge impact if your teen starts complaining about attending.

This played out with a friend of mine whose daughter attended an out of town youth conference.

Running a little behind to get to the arena, my friend’s daughter Rachel (name changed) rushed out of the hotel room to catch up with the other girls.  As luck would have it Rachel ran into one of the adult youth workers and was not only ordered on the spot to change her top but received a tongue lashing for breaking the rules for dress code.

Seems reasonable, right?  Depending on the amount of tongue lashing?

Here’s the rest of the story.

It turns out that Rachel who was 14 was sharing a hotel room with three older girls.  The four girls had gone shopping earlier in the day and one of them had suggested they buy matching tops to wear to the conference that night.  Rachel had bravely spoken up and told the girls that the tops they had chosen didn’t meet dress code.  However, the older girls told her that because it was so hot outside no one would question it.  She gave in wanting to be accepted into the group.

Truth is that all the girls wore the same top that night.  Only the 14 year old was reprimanded.  When Rachel questioned why she was the only one made to change she was told “The others just didn’t get caught; besides you have more to show than the rest of the girls.”

When the mother heard what had been said to her daughter, she invited the youth worker to lunch to apologize for her daughter’s behavior and to also try to connect with this woman and understand what really happened.   At lunch the youth worker responded with, “You know our job is to play traffic cop for these events.  If we see them break the rule, we nail them.”

No compassion. No apology. No pulling all the girls together to talk about the reason behind the dress code and make a heart connection — just judgment and sentencing.

Let’s face it, mistakes happen, relationships need to be mended, and hopefully our teens can learn from those experiences.  But sometimes when those difficult people in our teens’ lives are part of the church they can have a negative impact on our kid’s spiritual life.

When these things happen get involved.  Once you’ve had opportunity to assess the situation, use it as a launching pad for a spiritual conversation with your teen.  Talk about adults not always getting it right, forgiveness, and her mistakes in the situation.  Then decide for yourself if judgment is a congregation mindset or just a problem for the adult involved.  

If it is pervasive, find an environment where your child will be accepted and cherished.  You’ll be glad you did.

“Let go…and let God”,




5 Things You Can Ask Yourself if You Have an Angry Teen

Despair Or Hope Directions On A Metal Signpost

Sitting in the counselor’s office with her husband, Renee wondered how they had gotten to the place where they were. Their 13 year old son was filled with anger and resentment and it seemed hopeless that things would change. “Maybe the counselor can give us answers,” she had whispered hopefully to Jason as they were on the way to the appointment.

Listening to the psychologist’s interpretation of their son, his test scores, and his view of his life, made Renee’s heart pound. There was nothing new that the counselor was telling them. They were things Renee already knew about her son Brett. She just needed to know how to fix it!

As the session continued, the counselor was more interested in how she and Jason parented. What was life like at home? What were the relationships between Brett and his siblings? How was school? What was he like when he was younger? When was the change? What were the family rules?

Renee shared everything in an open fashion. She wanted her real son back. The one she remembered as a little boy.


Always happy.

She certainly had nothing to hide.

All she wanted was answers. How could she “fix” the situation?

As they left the office, it was obvious; this was going to take some time to sort through. But something from the conversation kept resonating in Renee’s mind.

“Renee, what could you and Jason do differently as you parent Brett? Think about that over the next few weeks and we’ll talk again at your next appointment.”

As parents, none of us is perfect. We sometimes get so caught up in responding to life circumstances that we forget to be proactive in assessing our own shortcomings. Unfortunately, it isn’t until life is off-kilter and our kids start responding in ways that we don’t understand, that we finally starting doing our own personal assessment.

Matthew 7:5

…first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Understanding what is causing your teen to respond with inappropriate behaviors that cause breakdown in relationships is something that we all need to do from time to time. I’ll admit, sometimes I’m much better at blaming my kid and dishing out consequences rather than looking at what I might have done to cause his reaction…or even more so, what I haven’t done to build our relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that all teenage inappropriate responses are due to our inability to get the parenting thing right. What I am saying is that sometimes our kids model our responses to them and we aren’t looking in the mirror to see reality.

So today, I’m asking you to take a personal inventory of your parenting. Don’t look at this as an opportunity for condemnation, but look at it as an opportunity for growth.  Parenting can be one of the most difficult places for our love to shine. We feel responsible to get it right. But we also live in such close proximity to these kids that God has blessed us with that we don’t pause long enough before we react in most situations.

So what about you? 

Dare you to answer these questions or better yet, take your teen out to lunch and ask them these questions about you.  

  • Do I apologize and seek forgiveness from my teen when I am wrong?
  • Am I considered a good listener?
  • Does my teen perceive me as a positive person more than a complainer?
  • Am I connected to my teen’s other parent in a healthy relationship?
  • Do my teens trust me?

I don’t know about you, but some of these make me pause for contemplation. My prayer is that you will boldly take inventory asking God to help you make changes to model relationship well.  If you have dialogue with your teen, you’ll have opportunity to not only look in the mirror and get some honest feedback, but you’ll have opportunity to make amends and move forward in your relationship.

Above all else…

“Let go…and let God,”


How to Keep Your Kids Connected at Church

Cute teens with headphones showing thumbs up and smiling at camera

One of the things our family struggled with over the years was trying to keep our kids connected with other kids at church.  Since we didn’t live in the community surrounding our church, our kids didn’t have the opportunity to see other kids who attended unless there was a 30 minute drive involved. We had tried churches close to home, but nothing fit for us.  Hence, the drive.

What we experienced during those junior high and high school years is probably even more prevalent today.  With the megachurch model more families are making a longer commute to church which can sometimes make it more difficult for kids to connect.   With kids attending several schools rather than the typical one or two represented in a smaller community setting, teens tend to congregate with the kids they see more than on Sunday morning  leaving many to sit back on the fringe.

If we want our kids to remain in the church through the junior high and high school years and then into college, they need to see the church as a basis for friendship and the benefit of connecting with other Christians.  Modeling that for our kids means we see the importance of church friendships for ourselves as well rather than just Sunday morning acquaintances.

Shaunti Feldhahn’s research in For Parents Only confirms that our teens need to feel accepted, included, and that others want to be around them. That’s why if we connect friendship to the church we have a better chance of keeping our kids engaged for the long haul. For us as parents, it means we need to connect with other parents with kids our kids’ ages and get to know them as well.  Making church activities central in planning our lives helps our teens see the relevance of church in our lives.

So what can we do to help our tweens and teens feel connected to other church kids?

  • Encourage your kids to invite church kids over.  Use this as opportunity to get to know the parents.
  • Plan a hangout date at the pool or some other popular location with friends from church.
  • Encourage your kids to text or call kids during the week.
  • Be willing to drive. 
  • Offer up your home as a place for a youth group activity.

Another great way to get our kids connected is to send them on retreats or to youth conferences with a group from church.  Not only do these conference typically speak to our kids spiritually as they see thousands of other kids in worship and praise but it allows kids to be in a different environment where deeper relationships can be cultivated.  If your church doesn’t typically do this, do some research on options for conferences and consider taking a group of teens yourself with a few other parents. 

One summer my high school senior had planned to go to a conference with the church youth group.  The conference was held several weeks throughout the summer, but as luck would have it, the youth ministry had decided to only take the junior high kids that year.  Since we knew this was the last year my son would be able to attend, my  husband and I got a group of high school kids together and went down to the conference in Florida on our own.  Not only did these kids get to interact with other Christian kids for a week, but we got to know the teens in our group really well.  My son would say it was one of our best vacations ever!  It was almost as if we created an extended family for him.

Four years out of high school those are the kids he is still connected to even though each of them has gone their separate way.  Re-connection for them is like a church homecoming and the friendships quickly start up again just where they left off.  When they come home during the summer sometimes they’ll grab high school kids from church just to go hang out with them.  They’ve discovered the importance of peer relationships in cultivating their faith.

How well are your kids connected to their peers at church?  What steps do you need to take to get your kids more engaged?  I’d love to engage with you on this topic.  Hope you’ll comment.

“Let go…and let God”,




Saying ‘No’ to Your Kids — 3 Things to Consider

vintage word NO on a rusty red metallic surface

Saying ‘No’ to our kids is part of parenting–for most of us, it comes with the job description on a daily basis.

‘No’, I’m not buying you a cell phone.  You are only 11!

‘No’, I’m not taking you to your friend’s house right now.  You haven’t finished your homework.

‘No’, you can’t go to the mall with Sara even if she did get her license today.

‘No’, you can’t go sleep over at a friend’s house when I haven’t met the friend or the parents.

And typically, the tween or teen stomps off letting you know that they wish they had been born into another family where the mom is much more ‘cool’ than you.  “You never listen to me.  You’re ruining my life.” And, of course, they can’t wait until they are old enough to move out!  The door slams, we start questioning our judgment in the situation, thinking am I being that unreasonable?, and the relationship is severed in a way that we begin to wonder if things will ever be the same or possibly wishing they were old enough to move out.

Sound familiar?

So what are some things that could possibly change the outcome?

  1. Before saying ‘no’, say tell me more.  Most kids need to feel heard.  Our natural tendency when our kids request something that we feel is out of the question is to just say ‘no’ and move on expecting them to intuitively know that the request is ridiculous.  Tell me more says I respect you enough to listen to why you are making the request.
  2. Before saying ‘no’, ask yourself if you have time for this conversation.  Typically teens will hit us with requests when we are in the middle of something.  What seems like an earth shattering matter to them is the last thing we want to have to deal with at that point in time.  Rather than saying ‘no’ try saying something like “This sounds important to you and I want to be able to understand what you are thinking, can you come back in ____ minutes when I can give you my undivided attention?”  When you re-engage in conversation say tell me more.
  3. When you do say ‘no’, empathize with your teen’s feelings.  After the tell me more discussionbe brave enough to say ‘no’.  Just know that there will probably be emotion.  Most of us will feel a rush of frustration when someone tells us ‘no’.  Depending on the emotional maturity of our tweens and teens, they may flash from hope to hurt and disappointment to anger and resentment within seconds.  Empathizing and addressing your teen’s feelings in the moment will help them become more aware not only of what they are feeling but also help teach them that those feelings are understandable.  Empathy allows us to connect with our teens in such a way that they can more easily regulate back to neutral.  Saying something as simple as “I know you are probably upset with me right now because I had to say ‘no’, but know that I love you and even though it may not feel like it right now, we both want the same thing.  We want you to be successful when you are old enough to leave our home.”

Proverbs 18:13

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

Saying ‘no’ can sometimes be hard, and yes, it does involve more time on our part to do it with respect and empathy; however, the payback in connection can be well worth the time invested.  When we say ‘no’ without taking the time to link arms emotionally, our kids may feel that it is an “us against them” mentality which can bring a host of resentment and defensiveness.  Our job as parents is to instill in our kids that no matter our decision, and especially when we say ‘no’, that we love them enough to connect in the midst of their disappointment.

“Let go…and let God”


I would love to have you join me as I take a group of women through our new e-Course using the book With All Due Respect: 40 days to a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens.  The class starts mid-September. Pre-register now at a discount.  I’d love to get to know you better.  There will be video and opportunity to share with other women as we grow to be more like Him in our parenting.