My Freshman Year of College Almost Killed My Parents

Navigating an Awkward Transition in the Parent Child Relationship

Recently my dad and I had a heart to heart conversation reliving some of the details of my freshman year of college. In his words, it was one of the hardest years of his and my mom’s life. For me, it was probably the most confusing year of my life.

To give you just a bit of backstory: I was a “good kid” growing up. Pretty smart. Room stayed clean and organized. I wasn’t perfect by any means, but I didn’t do a lot of the normal stupid teenage stuff. I wouldn’t say my parents were strict, but they had pretty specific expectations for me and my brother.

So I moved away to college and experienced my first taste of true freedom. I didn’t go to class like I should. I rarely went to church that year. My grades were AWFUL! I didn’t come home to visit and called less frequently than they would have hoped. I made other VERY poor decisions.

I realize in the greater scheme of things there are still worse things I could have done, or that others have experienced. However, within our context it was a very trying year.

From over a decade working in Student Ministry and  another 5 years or so walking with families that are making similar transitions I believe there are several reasons parents and children struggle in the “off to college/moving out” phase.

  • Distance

For most, it is the first extended period of time that distance is created between parent and child. Whether they are moving across the country, going to backpack around the world, or moving into the dorm across town, the physical separation is a huge adjustment for both parties.

  • Decisions

Again, this is perhaps the first time that decisions are being made completely autonomous from parents. These are no longer petty decisions. They are choosing majors, potential life-long relationships, and financial decisions with long-term effects. Which leads us to…

  • Dollars

Often, parents are, wholly or partly, invested financially in the decisions their kids are making in this college season. They are paying tuition, co-signed on the student loan, or sending living money. So when they see their kids making poor decisions or not honoring the time and resource being invested in them it creates stress and strain on the relationship.

So, if you are a parent (or child) who is trying to navigate “the first year away from home” transition season I would offer the following advice. I am a parent of 4 kids not yet in high school, so I offer the advice as someone who lived on the “child” side of this equation and as a “spy” in a foreign land through my years in ministry to students and families.

Try to maintain proper perspective

I once read a quote that was attributed to John Maxwell. I haven’t been able to corroborate that it was actually him, but I’ll attribute it to him nonetheless. He said, “If someone overreacts in a situation involving someone else they are saying they value the situation more than they value the person.”

Now please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I realize some things need a reaction, maybe even a big one. However, if you can maintain a proper perspective you might be able to correct a wrong and still convey your love for the other person without overreacting. If you overreact you run the risk of losing the relationship over something that may or may not be important 5 years from now.

The reality for a lot of parents is that they are reacting out of a desire to help their children avoid some of the mistakes they made themselves. I heard a parent say not too long ago, “Walking through some dark days and living with the consequence of my poor decisions made me the person I am today. But I want my children to just become those kinds of people while avoiding the things I didn’t avoid. I’m not sure how that’s possible.”

While we want the best for our children there are various stages in their lives where we have to let them live with their decisions and the consequences. As long as their life isn’t in jeopardy and their future is still possible, it may require parents to step back for a season. On the flip side the son or daughter has to realize that mom and dad really are trying to help. They aren’t trying to rob you of fun experiences or get in your business, they just see with a little more clarity the possible repercussions of the things you are doing.

Keep talking

When I do premarital counseling I probably say the word communication 25-30 times an hour. It is that important. Well the same could be said for parents and young adults during this season of their lives. Keep talking. Communication is the key.

Some conversations will be better than others. Some conversations will end with one or both of you hanging up angry. Just keep talking. Maintaining the relationship and open lines of communication now will help to have a relationship in the next season.

Take the long view

While this may seem like it fits within “Maintaining proper perspective”, it’s somewhat different. The difference here is realizing that this season won’t last forever. Yes, I know, some students may take the 10 year plan toward graduation. But it won’t last forever.

Ultimately you want to be sitting in the crowd cheering at their graduation. You want to be standing beside them or sitting on the front row when they get married. And you want them to want you there.

Try to remember those future moments in the present moments you’re not sure you can live through.

Every situation is different and I realize you could read this and say, “Well you just don’t know our set of circumstances.” And you’d be right. But I lived through this season in my life. And my dad and I were able to talk about it and laugh the other day. I pray you can too one day!

Keep going. You can make it!

What advice would you offer to others in this season? Comment below.

 

Oh the Places You’ll Stay

Today is a big day in our house. Today is the first day of school. It’s also a milestone first day of school in our house because our oldest starts middle school and our youngest starts kindergarten (the middle 2 aren’t being overlooked, they start 2nd and 4th grade).

One of the really cool things about our daughter going to Kindergarten is that she has the same teacher that each of her 3 older brothers had.

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While I think this would be a cool thing for any family, it’s especially cool for me because my family moved around a good bit when I was growing up. My mom and dad were in ministry, but their administrative position with the church had a 4 year term limit. So we knew when we moved to a state that 4 years later we would be moving to a new state. It didn’t really make it easier, but at least that part was consistent. There were so many positives in my childhood, and I wouldn’t change it at all, but for the sake of this post, the moving was a negative in this one area.

While I know that military families, some ministry families, and other vocations require people to move more often than we did, I attended a different school for Kindergarten, 1st-4th grades, 5th-7th grades, 8th-11th grades, and 12th grade.

Again, our family moved because of term limitations on their job and not just randomly switching jobs, but switching jobs is pretty prevalent in our culture.

The average person born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957-1964) held 11.7 jobs from age 18 to age 48, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As you might imagine in the current generation where loyalty is even further down the list of priorities the numbers are even crazier.

Ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. That means they would have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives!

The average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half that.

I get that many of these situations have legitimate reasons. Boredom in the present job. Conditions changed, so a new job was necessary. New skills or education compels us to find a place to use our new skills…

But sometimes…it just “looks greener on the other side”. Sometimes, if we’re honest, we just move to move.

Pastors aren’t exempt from this reality. While statistics are hard to find on pastoral tenure, most studies show that pastors stay 3-4 years at a church before moving on to another assignment.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that the average megachurch pastor has been at their church 13 years+. Every successful, long-term pastor I know has made some statement similar to this:

“I wanted to leave in year __ , but I stuck it out. I’m so thankful I did, because the next few years after were some of (greatest/most fruitful/most fulfilling/etc) years thus far.”

 

 

It has been said that “we tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short-term, and underestimate what we can accomplish in the long-term.”

I’m trying to take the long-view. I’m blessed to be in a city I love, at a church I love, working with people I love and I’m looking to be here for a long time.

My grandparents on my dad’s side of the family pastored the same church for 31 years. I’m hoping to break his family record.

When times are good I file it away for later. When times are tough I remember when it was good and remind myself that there would be problems “there” too.

Obviously there are benefits to staying somewhere longterm beyond family. However, today my daughter is reaping the benefit of 10 years at the same church, living in the same town. I’m thankful for that. I pray that 12 years from now she has the same homeroom teacher her Senior year of high school that my oldest son has 6 years from now.

Pastor, be encouraged today to stick it out. Don’t look with longing to greener pastures. Keep watering the grass on your side of the fence and trust God to bless you where you’re at.

Millennials & the Holy Spirit

A few Sundays ago at MPNCanton we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. For those who follow the Hebraic calendar yes we did move it back one week to get it off of Memorial Day weekend. I spoke on “Pentecost, the Power of God, and the Holy Spirit”. You can listen or subscribe to the podcast HERE.

In the message I tried to be as transparent as possible regarding my own journey with the Holy Spirit. I grew up in a minister’s home and Pentecostal churches. I was in charismatic worship services from birth. I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues as a young teenager and continue to do so (if you don’t know what this is I encourage you to listen to the message at the link above or contact me so we can talk). I hold the highest rank of ministerial credentials in a Pentecostal denomination. And yet, I have struggled at different times in my life managing a tension related to some of the things I experienced in and out of those worship services and how it continues to shape what I believe about the Holy Spirit.

While there were many faithful saints in my life who modeled Christ, the Holy Spirit, authentic worship, and Christian discipleship…I watched as some people, including some of my friends in the youth group or in college, would experience various manifestations described in several places in the New Testament as “Gifts of the Spirit” and then I would watch those same people act in ways that seemed so contrary to anyone God would use. If I’m being completely honest I was just as guilty of this at times. So how could these manifestations be real coming from people that I wasn’t even sure were Christians in that moment? As I put it in my message (and reaches far beyond just Holy Spirit manifestations)

“One reason I believe my generation (and others) became skeptical of the work of the Holy Spirit is because we couldn’t rationalize how the same mouth speaking so holy inside the church could talk so foul outside the church.”

Later in life I increased my childhood obsession for answers to the question “Why?” I wanted to know how things worked, why things were the way they were, and I wanted to understand everything I could possibly understand about…well, everything. I was on a quest for knowledge and my attempt to understand all things supernatural was often frustrating.

I was again confronted with a tension between my head and my heart. My faith and my feelings. My experiences and my doubt.

I don’t believe I’m alone. I believe there are many, like me, who have experienced the power of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, or desire so deeply to do so…but they aren’t sure how to reconcile that with their doubt about these supernatural things.

The problem is that we have allowed our skepticism to turn us cynical.

We have replaced our awe and hope for the supernatural with our comfort of the explainability of the natural.

I don’t believe everything I’ve ever seen that was credited to the Holy Spirit was really Him.

I also believe that there are things I’ve been convinced wasn’t the Holy Spirit, that actually was.

I’m just trying to find a healthy balance. Not in an attempt to “quench” a move of God, but in an attempt to better manifest all of God’s nature in my life and not just the “wow” ones.

I have a personal conviction that a person’s manifested “Gifts of the Spirit” and their displayed “Fruit of the Spirit” shouldn’t cause an observer to wonder which part they are lying about. Meaning that where someone claims the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through their lives, and it is manifested through certain gifts of the Spirit, that same person should reflect the nature of God through the fruit of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

This is not a call to perfection. It’s a call to authenticity.

Paul couched it this way: Right in between 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 where he lays out much of the doctrine we utilize related to gifts in our personal lives and corporate settings we find this:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I told our campus that we are a Pentecostal church. I am a Pentecostal and proud of it. I speak in tongues. I desire the works I read about in the Bible to be the reality in our church.

I don’t think Millennials like me are afraid of the Holy Spirit. I think Millennials like me are scared to be lumped together with people that sound a lot like God, but don’t act like Him at all.

What are your thoughts on the Holy Spirit? I really do want to know.