Don’t Waste Your Parenthood: Preparing Children to be Adults

The majority of those 18 to 25:

  • Do not have a clear vocational focus nor the drive to move forward vocationally.
  • Do not feel motivated to achieve independence in their finances or life situation.
  • Do not feel ready to accept the lifetime commitments that marriage entails.
  • Do not feel ready to parent.
  • Do not like to delay gratification for a greater good.
  • Do not like to work hard for long hours at uninteresting tasks to achieve a goal.

Small changes in the home and church will not be adequate to create a generation of high school graduates who are far more mature, far more ready to take on adult roles, and far more ready to join King Jesus in bringing His kingdom on earth. Before considering new ways to accelerate growth, parents need to consider, “Am I ready to declare my independence from what is average in order to launch a generation that is mature and looks a lot like Jesus?”

God designed humankind before the foundation of the world. That included designing every facet of people who would move through the ages of 12 to 18. Observing such people in the biblical period and in early centuries reveals that God chose to build amazing potential in that age group.

Those same spiritual, mental, emotional, and social potentials exist within teenagers today. If parents respond to those teenagers in new ways, future young adults again can fulfill the possibilities they carry within them.

In just a few years, imagine launching 18-year-olds:

  • Who live for the glory of God.
  • Who invite the Spirit to empower them to enjoy and order life under the supreme lordship of High King Jesus.
  • Who have a deep understanding of the Gospel.
  • Who know the depth of the Father’s love toward them and display a lifetime of gratitude for the grace that has been extended to them.
  • Who invite Christ to live His powerful life through them.
  • Who join Him in making disciples among all peoples.
  • Who have an identity and a purpose on earth anchored in who they are in Christ.
  • Who love others more than they love themselves.
  • Who exhibit biblical servanthood and a willingness to sacrifice for others.
  • Who have a strong work ethic.
  • Who are willing to delay gratification.
  • Who are willing to do the mundane tasks for hours to accomplish a goal.
  • Who appreciate all the sacrifices parents have made but now are ready to get on with their lives.
  • Who have goals and know how to move toward those goals.
  • Who move toward lifetime marriages if God should so lead.
  • Who understand pregnancy, childbirth, and the care of babies.
  • Who are prepared to parent if God should allow.
  • Who know, understand, and can state their faith.
  • Who experience the spiritual disciplines in mature ways.
  • Who can defend their faith.
  • Who can share their faith.
  • Who have a uniquely biblical worldview.
  • Who feed themselves spiritually and take initiative for their own spiritual growth through the Spirit.
  • Who know how to lead and how to follow at church.
  • Who enjoy relationships and kingdom service with all the generations at church.
  • Who know how to find the will of God.
  • Who join Christ in changing the world.
  • Who go out to reach the last unreached people groups on the earth.
  • Who live and, if called on, die for the glory of God.
  • Who know how to care for their home, transportation, possessions, and health.
  • Who know how to make wise decisions about finances.
  • Who know how to form and sustain adult friendships.
  • Who know how to succeed in college or in whatever life preparation God ordains.

Parents prayerfully must consider major changes. Parents can choose to live and lead in ways that will make them very different from both the secular culture and, at times, even the prevailing church culture.

At minimum, I believe families need 30 minutes of focused conversations, three nights a week. One session can focus on building a lifetime faith and two can focus on the knowledge and skills people need to live and function as adults. Parents can and will find time to do what they come to believe is important. Tim Elmore, president of Growing Leaders, says it this way: “Mature, healthy people live by a set of values and principles. They don’t merely react to whatever the culture is doing around them. They act based on who they genuinely are.”

Here are three practical changes families can make:

  1. The Nielson Company confirms that adults watch an average of just over three hours of TV a night. Some parents do web surfing or social media some or all of that time. Moving from three hours to two hours of media would open up a new hour to connect with children.
  2. Many families have chaotic schedules because teenagers have too many extra-curricular activities. Trophies and ribbons are exciting, but they do not always prepare kids for real life as an adult. Parents can take the lead in finding a healthy balance of activities.
  3. Some parents still believe that giving kids economic advantages trumps spending time with them. Not a shred of research supports that thesis. Parents who leave work on time might discover new time to lift the eyes of a teenager to Jesus.

When a leader suggests taking 30 minutes to teach a teenager about taxes or caring for babies, parents can respond with:

  • Old Thinking: “We don’t have five extra minutes in an evening, so a half hour is ridiculous.”

or

  • New Thinking: “Now that we moved my son from three leagues to only one league, I think we can find the 30 minutes to get him ready to be an adult.”

Parents are on planet Earth to live in a grace-drenched love relationship with Christ and to glorify Him as they complete their mission on earth. They fulfill a major part of that purpose by rearing children who also love God and fulfill their unique purpose. Wise parents will make significant changes in schedules and lifestyles in order to see offspring who look a lot like Jesus and who fully are prepared for adult life.

Richard Ross

Richard Ross

Professor of Student Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. Ross serves as Professor of Student Ministry in the Jack D. Terry School of Church and Family Ministries. He is married to LaJuana and they are parents of Clayton.
Twitter: @richardaross
Website: RichardARoss.com
Richard Ross