GUEST POST by Gregg Farah serves as a teaching pastor and the student ministry pastor at Shelter Rock Church on Long Island. He and his wife, Janine have been married for 20+ years and are the parents of three amazing daughters. Gregg says besides hanging out and laughing with his family, he enjoys writing, pursuring the perfect pizza slice, cheering for the Mets, and playing sports. Gregg is trying something risky–click here to get involved.

“You’ve got to help me. My son won’t return my calls from college, he’s failing three of his classes, and he’s gotten written up two times in his dorm for alcohol use.”

I wish I didn’t have to deal with conversations like this but, sadly, I do.

I hope I won’t have these conversations as a parent and, prayerfully, I won’t.

But what makes the difference? What allows one college freshman to walk with courage and faith amidst temptation, while another leaves Jesus at home, succumbing to seemingly every impulse?

Please understand: there is NO magic formula, NOR is there a hidden parenting secret. But there are values and priorities which can help (not insure) teens to walk with Jesus after graduating from high school. One of those priorities is faithful church attendance and active involvement in a youth group. The challenge, of course, is that while that is a noble goal, parents are assaulted with the belief that their children must excel in everything. As a result, soccer games, choir competitions, SAT prep courses, and other laudable activities vie for the same limited time available to a family. And church attendance or youth group activity is often the first to go.

I have three children, two of them teenagers, and I want them to be physically fit, adept in social settings, and achieve all they can academically and in other endeavors. But my greatest desire, my biggest prayer, is that they would be spiritually mature. In fact, I am willing to sacrifice their education, their chair in the orchestra, or time on the playing field for them to walk out of my home and into the world prepared to succeed as best as possible.

Some might retort, “My child needs to do well in school or athletics in order to get into a top college. That has to take priority.” Again, hear my heart: I agree that is a valuable priority, but even if your son or daughter gets a full scholarship, unless he or she has the skills and knowledge necessary to overcome peer and intellectual pressure, that scholarship may end up being withdrawn or traded for unhealthy lifestyle choices. I’m all for education, but not at the expense of my children’s mental, emotional, or spiritual health.

Still, I’m a parent who wrestles with priorities, and whether or not my children can skip church this week or next. But I recognize now, more than ever, that the sand in my “kids at home” hourglass is all too quickly running out. I feel the pressure to do everything perfectly so that my kids don’t end up as statistics, don’t get hurt by their choices, and don’t miss out on all God has for them. Of course, perfect parenting is foolish. It’s both a heavy burden and an impossible aspiration. So, I don’t strive for perfection, but the cry of my heart is that I make a right decision…today. And maybe another one tomorrow. How about a few next week?

Priorities must be established for our children, and academic, athletic, or artistic goals have value. But be aware that they will compete with spiritual goals. Recognize the challenge and prepare for a battle, one that seeks to claim the souls of our families.

To be continued….

Talk About It As a Family:
1.What spiritual growth goals does our family have?
2.Is it ever OK for an activity or goal to take the place of church or youth group? When?
3.What are 1-2 things we can do as a family this week to help us connect with one another and with God?

Question: Do you agree with Gregg? Disagree? Thoughts? Share them here.

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