Originally Posted by Mike Young September 2007
Our oldest son, Timothy, started middle school this year. Elementary school is one thing but middle school is a big step, especially for the oldest in the family. Tim was a bit anxious about the transition but we knew he would be fine.
The challenge is this. As parents, we want to make sure that our children don’t fall victim to influences that are unsavory at best and in many cases just downright evil.
Stacy and I have had some interesting discussions about just how much exposure our children should have to ‘the real world’ and how much we can and should ‘protect’ them from those forces.
As you might guess, we have different opinions about the degree to which our children should be shielded from all these influences that we consider opposing to a Biblical world view. We resolve our differences on a case by case basis but both agree that a real key is making sure we do all we can to arm them for the battles we are sure they’ll face. Now, please understand that we haven’t figured this thing out. But I have listened to and read stories about how a number of families have navigated these waters.
Stacy and I are working to craft a plan for our family. The plan must be flexible because each child is different.
Here are some elements that we have incorporated so far.
We constantly and consistently pray with and for our children.
I put the boys to bed at night and pray with them in the process. Sometimes we read some scripture, sometimes we don’t.
Just before school started, I took Tim on a two-day camping trip in the Shenandoah forest area.
We spent one night in the Shenandoah national park, camping and hiking. It was a blast to spend two days of one-on-one time with my son. We talked about all sorts of things. I worked at talking to him about the challenges he would face and the physical, social and emotional changes that were coming. I said I worked at conversation because it was work. It didn’t come easily, and Tim really wasn’t as interested in that stuff as he was in talking about other things that interest him. But, here’s the key. I think, hope and pray that I was able to establish an open door for future conversations that can and should occur when he’s ready, troubled or curious.
I reminded Tim that God created everything he could see and he is in control.
We enjoyed a 7.5 mile hike that took us on a couple sections of the Appalachian Trail as well as some other trails. We saw wildlife, great scenery (including two impressive waterfalls) and ate lunch with our feet in a mountain stream. In the afternoon we did another shorter but pretty challenging hike with a significant rock scramble that took us to the top of Bearfence Mountain and a 360 degree view of the mountains. At the top of this peak, sitting on the rocks we talked about God. I reminded Tim that God created everything he could see and he is in control. I introduced Tim to Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good pleasing and perfect will. I reminded Tim that there would be many who would try to get him to conform to the pattern of the world but that he should stay close the God who is powerful enough to create all we could see. I challenged him to memorize the verse.
We talked about safety and responsibility.
We spent a second night camping at a friend’s cabin about 15 miles away from the National Park. I gave Tim a real pocket knife of his own (just like the one I carry). We talked about safety and responsibility. I also let him shoot a .22 rifle all he wanted. We just had a blast together. He shot so much that he finally said, “Dad, I’m going to stop now. My arms are tired.”
As a follow-up to our trip, I gave Tim a set of dog tags with his name and the first letter of each word from Romans 12:2.
He has memorized the verse. My prayer is that the tags will serve as a reminder to stay close to God and not compromise with the world. (I’ve already purchased the same dog tags for the other two boys with whom I plan to share a similar experience when they transition to middle school.)
Another thing we are working on is memorizing scripture as a family.
I want my boys to have sure footing on some issues. Currently we’re working on “The Armor of God”, Ephesians 6:10-18. If you are near one of our boys and say “Finally:” they will likely say, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…” It’s really turning into a fun exercise.
An obvious question is this: “Will this have any impact on his decision-making and his life in general?” The obvious answer is “I don’t know. I’ll tell you in about 15 years.”
I will say this though. Stacy and I are going to do everything we can to stack the deck for God to impact the lives of our children.
I guess there is some risk in telling you what we are doing because they have free will and may choose a course for their lives that would be disheartening to us and dishonorable to God. But, I think it’s worth the risk to share these things with you because we believe they will have an impact and maybe others will be encouraged to include similar strategies in their parenting. Hopefully you’ll have some great ideas you’ll be willing to share with us.
If you missed it, be sure to check out last year’s Back to School Throwback, Fresh Starts & Strong Finishes.