Katie, our oldest daughter, started attending the youth group at Coats Baptist toward the end of the summer in 2007. Letting her attend was more of a struggle than you might believe. Katie had been homeschooled since first grade. We knew all Katie’s friends. We knew what she watched, what she read, and what she did with her time.
It was our conviction to preserve the innocence of our children for as long as we could. For example, why burden them with conversations of sex and all that entailed before they even hit puberty? One of the benefits of home schooling is that we never had to worry about what our children would hear from other students whose parents had different values than ours.
Youth group would change that. Any youth pastor worth his salt would talk about topics we had not had to deal with yet.
But, we also knew that Katie would become a teenager in January of 2008. We understood that she would need opportunities to fail. Not just her, but all our children. As they grew older, they would need more chances to make their own decisions, and live with the consequences.
Not that we had any intention of throwing them into the deep end of the pool, so to speak. We wanted to gradually progress toward adulthood by allowing them to stretch their wings, bit by bit.
With that in mind, youth group appeared to be a safe first step. Katie would be allowed to attend, with conditions:
- If we saw any negative changes in Katie as a person, she would be out of youth.
- Either Amy or myself would attend everything Katie did. Our primary concerns stemmed from not knowing the youth pastor’s theology or approach to the Bible. We wanted to know what she was exposed to.
Needless to say, Katie was not excited about this second requirement. But, God makes a way. We found out that our youth pastor at the time wanted someone to run sound. That gave me a reason to attend other than just being with Katie. (On a side note, if you ask our children I do not think any of them have minded our involvement with them in Bible Study or youth trips and events. If you are a parent, I encourage you to be involved with our youth group.)
And, so began the Beasley family journey into youth involvement.
By October 2013 I had somewhat, unofficially, inherited the role of youth leader. At that time I began writing the Youth Pastor article for the monthly newsletter. More recently the newsletter has evolved into the weekly blog posts you now read.
But this is a special blog post for me. After this month Tommy Austin will start his tenure as the Student Pastor for Coats Baptist Church, and he will be responsible for the blog post.
This is my last one.
There is freedom in last things, because you no longer have to worry about what comes next.
As I close out nearly 8 years of articles, I feel a freedom to share insights I have found as a parent, youth leader…and juvenile probation officer (from way, way back).
There are two primary objectives that guide me as a dad, and as a youth leader.
- Whether my own child or someone else’s, I must let them know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I love them.
- God’s word is the highest authority there is, and we should all read it. I list this second because if I get the first one right they are more likely to trust the second.
It is my sincere belief that charting a course based on these two pillars will provide wisdom in all other concerns.
There are other things that are important, such as treating our youth, or my children, as young men and women, not big boys and girls. We all understand raising expectations encourages growth and maturity. Yet time and again I have seen teenagers by-passed simply because their chronological age has not met some magic mark, regardless of their spiritual maturity or capability.
Our youth are not our future. They are our present. If we miss opportunities to show them Jesus now, if we do not emphasize spiritual disciplines now, if we do not give them opportunities to grow and fail now, what makes us think they will be ready for the future?
And for you parents and grand parents, you must live these now so your children will see this in you. If you do not study your Bible or ever talk about Biblical things, you are telling your children these things are not important. Actions will always speak louder than words.
We have an incredible youth group. I believe that with all my heart. Furthermore, I choose to believe it, even if they let me down. I choose to put faith in them and expect them to rise to it. If they stumble I will help them. But my expectations will not change. Our youth are too important for me to think less of them.
And with this, my blog posts will end. But Tommy’s are just beginning. A new day dawns, and it will be bright.