Life is Nuts
One thing that is almost guaranteed to come up in any discussion on youth ministry is the crazy schedules that teenagers have now. And to be honest, up until this year I’ve dismissed a lot of those claims and have thought that if you think you’re too busy you should stop doing so much.
Most of that comes from what many would call my poor school habits (I prefer to call it my super human ability to avoid homework). For the most part I didn’t have homework in high school or I at least managed to get it done in class. My absolute busiest year of high school I woke up at 7, and between football and work I didn’t get home until around 11:00pm most nights. I loved it. It kept me busy of course, but it didn’t affect my grades which were still mostly A’s and B’s, and it didn’t let it get in the way of church. I still would hang out with friends on the weekends after work and made sure I got off work for any major activities that happened.
It was easy for me. And I don’t mean that to come across as bragging or conceited, because the fact is I haven’t experienced the kind of stress that most of my teens are facing now. Teenagers lives are ridiculously busy. If you look at the statistics, they are getting less than the nine and a half hours of sleep that they should, they are getting way more homework than they should. 10 minutes per day per grade level is the standard set by the National Education Association, which means your senior is supposed to have two hours of homework a night. Then there’s the added pressure of trying to create a high school resume that will look good on college applications. Maybe they have a legitimate chance of getting a college scholarship to play soccer and the way to stay on the team is to go to practice on Wednesday nights. I used to get so mad at people who would rather go to a sports practice than church. Nothing was so important to me that if it came time to drop it I would be devastated. Until I became a parent of a kindergartener.
The Struggle is Real
You see, for the first time I’ve come face to face with the struggles of too much going on and not enough time in the day. My kid has to be on the bus by 6:20am, which means he’s being dragged out of bed by 6:00am. Early mornings are killing him so we we’ve bumped his bedtime up to 7pm just so that he’s not a complete zombie in the morning. This past Wednesday we didn’t quite make his normal bedtime. In fact, because of the responsibilities we have on Wednesday nights he didn’t make it home until after 8. The next morning was awful trying to get him ready and he ended up making himself sick at school (his own nasty little super power) which then turned into him actually becoming sick later that night.
While your five year old kid is bent over a trash can emptying his stomach in front of hundreds of people at a high school football game, you start to rethink the decisions that led you to that point. And for the first time I had to ask myself, “Would I willingly bring my kid to church on Wednesday nights knowing it was going to cause him to get sick every Thursday if it wasn’t expected as part of my job?” Ten years ago I probably would have told a parent to make sure their priorities are straight and that they need to get to church no matter what. But faced with this new situation I’m not sure what I would say now. I know the new plan for our family is we’ll drive him to school on Thursdays to let him get an extra 15-30 minutes of sleep, and hopefully that will be enough.
But what if it’s not?
What if even after doing everything we can possibly do to try to make Wednesday nights work for our family we still have a kid who isn’t getting enough sleep? This is something I never would have thought I’d have to think about. For so long it was always clear cut for me, church over everything else. Now it’s not so clear.
What to Do?
Now before you go around spreading rumors that the Youth Director is telling you not to go to church, follow me for just a bit longer. There might be real, unavoidable reasons that you miss church. But there are hundreds of excuses that have simple solutions that might be revealing a bigger issue. My favorite one to pick on is the homework excuse. Saying you can’t come on a Sunday night because you have homework only makes sense if you’ve also been doing homework Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoon. Procrastination is a lame excuse (even though I procrastinate with the best of them). If, after going through every other possibility, you still struggle to make church happen on a regular basis, talk to one of us on staff. Seriously, I know it seems a bit like going to the principle’s/boss’ office but we know that not everyone can make our set times work. We’d much rather help you figure out other ways of discipling your family outside of church than you to not have anything at all.
Most things that eat up our time aren’t bad, but if we put them before God they become our idols. Protect the time with your family, protect time for church, but most importantly, think about what your schedule teaches your children about how important God is to you.