Tag Archive for: relationships

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”,




Do Your Teens Have Adult Community?

Young man consulting his business partner at meeting in office

Did you know that teenagers who seem to have the best success moving into healthy adulthood have a “community” of adults walking beside them?

The first place to look for that community is obviously at home.  Are both you and your spouse invested in your children in a positive way—daily? If not, find ways to connect on a relational level and not just a transactional level.  In other words, talk about something that is important to your child.  Don’t just focus on what he needs to do.

The next thing to consider is extended family.  Are grandparents and maybe some aunts, uncles, and cousins engaged enough to add to the spiritual connection aspect with your kids?  Extended family helps most kids figure out who they are, where they belong, and is an essential piece in helping our tweens and teens understand the bigger picture.

However, let’s face it, with the transient nature of our world today, it’s not the norm for extended family to live in close proximity.  If your family is like ours, we’re scattered from one coast to the other and even across the Atlantic.  Family get-togethers are next to impossible.  Cousins see each other at weddings and barely know the other. Aunts and uncles sometimes have only bits and pieces of information about our kids.  Our kids are not truly known by the family.

That’s why community is so important.  We need to help our kids connect to people who can impact their lives in a positive way.  They need to have relationship with people that have similar values to your own.

I love what Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof say in their book, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. “When you widen your circle, the goal is to have other trusted adults in the lives of your children before they need them so they will be there when they need them.

Think about that.  What Joiner and Nieuwhof are really saying is that those relationships need to be forged now while your kids are still under your roof.

We’re not talking about acquaintances here.  We’re talking about people who are willing to pour into your kids, affirming them, giving them sound advice, and building trust.  These are people who are actively choosing to connect with your teens.

If these people are in place early in our kid’s lives, then when trouble brews (and it most likely will), and your kids don’t feel as though they can come to you, there is someone who can be there for them pointing them in the right direction.

Here’s a statistic for you–  

Mark Kelly from LifeWay Christian Resources says “Teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives…were more likely to keep attending church. Of those who stayed in church—by a margin of 46 to 28 percent—said five or more adults at church had invested time with them personally and spiritually.”

That means we need to help our kids find meaningful relationships in the church—and lots of them.

So where do we start?

Create community with those who live near you and have similar values.

I didn’t realize the significance of that community until my son’s graduation party several years ago. 

The whirlwind day had been planned and the only thing left was execution—or so I thought.  As we hurried out of church to start the setup before guests arrived, I saw my son walk up to a man and shake his hand.  “I’m looking forward to seeing you this afternoon at my graduation party.”

Shocked beyond belief and feeling like I wanted to hide under a rock, it hit me that I had obviously left someone important to my son off the guest list. Somehow I managed to pull myself together enough to apologize profusely and invited the man and his wife to our home for the celebration.  In the car on our way home my son rattled off his list of memories with this important man in his life.  I was absolutely amazed at the depth of their relationship.

Even though my son has graduated from college and been out on his own for several years now, he has maintained a relationship with this dear man—and to think that as a mother I had no idea as to the significance of their connection. 

What I discovered was that this man had impacted my son from AWANA and continued connecting with him regularly—just to say “hi” and ask him what he was doing in his life.  He made my son feel important and significant.

What more could a mom want for her child?

So how do you build that community? 

  • Encourage your kids to participate in activities that will naturally breed relationship. I mentioned AWANA which is a fun kid’s program that focuses on scripture memory, but good youth programs or retreats will do the same thing.  Find a program where the leaders want to be there and love kids.  Make sure your kids are encouraged by the adult leaders and that relationship is built one-on-one.
  • Find families with similar age kids and create your own community. Have a cookout, go camping together, find ways to engage the families such that the adults get to know the kids and are willing to pour into them.  Create activities where your kids will be known by the other adults.
  • Become friends with parents who are further along in the parenting process. Empty-nesters are a great place to connect.  Not only do they have time to pour into your kids but they have the experience to help you navigate the bumps in the road when things get difficult.  Treasure these people like pure gold.

My oldest had one of those ‘pure gold’ people in his life.  This gentleman met with my son weekly over coffee from the time my son was 16.  Not only would they meet at my son’s favorite place, but I’d frequently see them together in the hallway at church on Sunday morning.  On occasion, after my son had given him permission, I would get a call from this dear soul asking to pray with me about a particular situation my son had shared with him. 

Wow!  Talk about connection.

There was a time in my son’s life when he was contemplating some heavy decisions about his then upcoming marriage.  Yes, my son spoke to both my husband and me about what he was wrestling with, but his first thought was to go to this beloved mentor.  I thank God for this awesome man who has so touched our family.

Whether we want to believe it or not, our teens don’t want to tell us everything.  They need people who will pour into them and bridge the gap just like this ‘pure gold’ man did for us.

Dare You to start looking for adults outside the family to create connection for your teens.  I guarantee it will be worth the time invested!

“Let go…and let God”,


The book is out!  If you want a more fulfilling and deeper connection with your tweens and teens, With All Due Respect can help you pave the way.  Or sign up for our free Parenting Tips! here.

We’re also excited to announce that you can pre-register for our With All Due Respect eCourse that begins mid-September!  Check it out here.  We’d love to have you join us as we learn in community. 🙂

The Respect Dare – Dare One

Expectations! I can tell you emphatically that I have them for my kids. I can’t tell you my entire list of all my expectations for my tweens and teens because there wouldn’t be enough space to list them!

You know the drill…Keep your room clean, don’t talk back to me, don’t fight with your siblings, get your homework done…

And the list goes on…and on…

But the most important one would be. Don’t embarrass me!

You know what I mean here. Don’t do something that my friends will see…that would make them think I was a bad parent. Don’t lie, cheat, steal, drink, or get someone pregnant would probably be at the top of the list. Of course, you have your own list based on how you were raised.

The Respect Dare may have been written for married women, but as I sat in a Daughters of Sarah classroom (the class that the book is based on) I was focused on my relationship with one of my teens. I’ll admit it needed lots of work. I had expectations that this teen had no desire to fulfill. Every step I took toward attempting to move this one forward toward adulthood ended in more anger, more frustration, and more tears for both of us. Rules didn’t apply. Fun didn’t work. This one wanted to move out and I was ready to see that happen. Nothing I attempted brought us together.

Until Daughters of Sarah

It was all about my expectations.

You see, I wanted this teen to change! I wanted relationship! Why couldn’t this teen and I have a connection like I had with my other kids?

And Daughters of Sarah taught me that it was about letting go of expectations for other people…even my children. It was time to start focusing on my relationship with God. I needed to rely on Him to solve the problem. The only person I could really change was me!

I love how Sarah Young puts it in her devotional Jesus Calling, “When your private world feels unsteady and you grip (Jesus’) hand for support, you are living in conscious dependence on Me.”

That’s what I want as I go through The Respect Dare again; this time with you. I want to know Him more and depend on Him to change me.

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Isn’t that what we want for our kids? Maturity.

Well, the same goes for us. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I hear something come out of my mouth to my teens, I wonder if I’ve arrived at that place of maturity! I have screamed, I have been known to use condescending language and flippant remarks, I have issued ultimatums in anger, and truth be told, if the video camera was rolling…those watching would be laughing their heads off! Maturity? My behavior is anything but.

As we go through Nina Roesner’s book together, I would encourage you to focus on expectations for yourself and think of the expectations you need to let go of for your teen. What areas would God like you to change in dealing with your teens? Most likely, it is an area where there is the most conflict.

My list looks like this:

  • Allow my teen to manage his own daily schedule without me continually asking if his homework is done.
  • If anger starts to rise, I will request that we have a cooling off period and resume conversation when the sparks have died down.
  • No longer harp at my daughter when she speeds into the driveway.

If you are like me and have multiple teens, having more than three goals might be overwhelming. If all three can apply to all the kids, then it will be easier to build relationship with each of them.

I would encourage you to spend some time in prayer with the God who can change lives!

Philippians 1:6

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Thanks for joining me on this journey~

Wherever this journey takes you…TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

My desire above all else is for you to strengthen your relationship with God and your tweens and teens!

“Let go…and let God.”


Dare you to bravely share the three things you are going to work on changing “in His strength” as we take this path together.

Double dare you to subscribe to my blog!

Be sure to join Nina Roesner, www.ninaroesner.com, and Leah Heffner, www.leahheffner.com as they take The Respect Dare journey with me. You can visit our website at www.GreaterImpact.com for more information about our ministry.

Expectations – Looking back or side-to-side?

Sitting at a local coffee shop with a woman whose son I had recently met, Lana poured out her heart as we sipped cappuccino. I wasn’t sure why she wanted to speak to me; but as she began to fill in the details, I realized that I was an anomaly in her world.

“Your family is the only one I’ve met with both a mom and dad,” she muttered behind a look of disbelief. And with that, I realized that I had become her “relationship expert”. Yikes!

“Well, at least she had come to at least one right conclusion. Both parents do have an impact on their children,” I thought to myself as she continued to sputter all the sins of her ex-husband.

Having chewed up her ex, she soon launched into the real reason she has asked me to meet her.

090412_2156_Expectation1.png“I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to get my 15 year old to do what he should be doing!” she blubbered. “At his age, I was on the honor roll in school, playing a sport every season, and working 20 hours a week.” (Translate – expectations!)

“Tom’s grades are awful and he just got suspended from the football team because he wasn’t making it to practice on time. Not only that, but I’ve been trying to get him to look for a part-time job for the last six months. He won’t even try! Getting him to get up on Saturday morning to mow the lawn and do his chores is next to impossible. Without his dad living at home anymore, I have to depend on Tom to help out around the house more. He’s just not pulling his weight. I do everything I can to be his friend and do what he asks me to do, but I just don’t understand …”

I sat frustrated as Lana continued to ramble on, not really wanting any advice. I knew God must have me there for a reason. (I’d sort that out with Him later.) Obviously, she just needed to vent to someone that she thought had it all together. Ha! Guess I didn’t have to share all my parenting shortcomings after all!

After listening for over an hour while attempting to ask questions to help her recognize her unrealistic expectations, I managed to extract myself from this woman’s woes. I laughed at myself as I pulled away in the van, “My expectations for our meeting were obviously out of sync as well. J I thought she wanted some “words of wisdom” and was coming with a heart “willing to listen”. Strike that expectation off the list!!

As I lay awake that night sorting through my conversation with Lana, pouring out my heart to God as to why he wanted me to be her sounding board, a still small voice seemed to speak to me, “You have expectations of your children too, Debbie. Are they realistic? Is anyone in your family bucking the system?”

“Oh, my…”

“Just like Lana wants to be her son’s friend, what kind of expectations do you have of yourself to justify you being a “good” mom?


As I contemplate the expectations I have for my children, I am reminded of Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers (and mothers), do not exasperate your children…” Lord, forgive me. I’ve certainly done that. Sometimes I still do that even though they are now adults!!

But then I realize that the verse goes on, “…instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ah-ha! “God, this is the standard YOU want for me to be a “good” mom!” Lord, how I fail miserably at this.

Bottom Line: No matter what the stage of life for our kids, tweens, teens, or twenty-something, our expectations are usually based on where we were at that age or where we think our friends’ kids are in the journey. Instead of looking back or side-to-side, I encourage you to look into your child’s face with a true desire for relationship wanting to help him discover who God designed him to be.

Dare you to discuss the expectations you are letting go of with your child.

Double dare you to have the discussion over a hot cup of cappuccino or mocha asking your child to hold you accountable for truly letting the expectation go. (Trust me when I say this one will really be hard. You may have to graciously eat humble pie when your child gives you feedback. If you can’t handle the “accountability” part just yet, at least enjoy the cappuccino and mocha!)

Privileged to learn alongside you!

“Let go and let God…”