Claiming the Next Generation

by | Mar 30, 2011 | SpiritLed Living

Teen with a tudeWHETHER YOU’RE A PARENT OR NOT, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE LOOKING TO YOU FOR GUIDANCE. LET’S STEER THEM INTO GOD’S PURPOSE.

 “Lord,
have mercy on our souls,” I mumbled to myself as my friend Marvie
turned the key in the ignition. She was 16, did not have a driver’s
license and was behind the wheel of my father’s car. I was 15, was a
nervous wreck on the passenger side and had just pulled off an unlikely
scheme to fool my Dad into handing over the keys.

Our
mission was to make it to a gospel concert at Detroit’s Northwest
Activity Center. We were determined to fulfill that mission. After all,
we both loved good singing, and it wasn’t as if we were sneaking off to a
Jackson 5 concert. It was a gospel concert, for goodness’ sake.

Needless
to say, it didn’t take long for the whole plan to unravel. Although we
made it to the auditorium, we never heard one note of that good singing.

One
of my brothers was in the audience and spotted us right away. The
questions came fast and furiously. We were totally busted. Within the
hour, I was back in my bedroom on Woodingham Street.

When
Dad found out that Marvie had showed him a fake ID and that I had lied
to him, he didn’t say anything; he simply shook his head. The look of
disappointment on his face as I told him the entire story made me want
to run and hide in shame.

That
adolescent prank happened more than 25 years ago. But lessons learned
from the experience have stayed with me to this day and are helping me
to impact the next generation, including my own two teenagers.

The
first lesson I learned is that the heart dispenses its own retribution.
My father didn’t have to punish me with a whipping or a verbal tirade. I
had been raised in a godly, decent home. I had been taught what the
Bible said: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1, NKJV).

I
knew that I had brought dishonor to my family’s good name and (at least
for a moment) had lost the favor of my dad. It made me want to cry for
days. Guilt from betraying a loved one’s trust has its own sting.

The
second lesson I learned is one of forgiveness. I had disappointed a
wonderful man who had placed his trust in me. Dad could have shunned me
or made me walk around in disgrace for weeks, but he didn’t. Instead, he
chose to be an example of what it means to forgive someone you love.

My
parents knew the power of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way
he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Growing up
with the last name of Winans meant more than growing up in a house full
of music. Mom and Dad worked hard to create a home in which love took
priority over things. Discipline was second to love. And laughter ran a
close third.

Regardless of
all the hustle and bustle involved in bringing up seven boys and three
girls, my parents consistently pointed their children in the direction
of holiness. In a nutshell, this meant honoring your parents, respecting
your elders, not talking back and having a fear of God.

Throughout
the years, they gave us a firm foundation. As each of us matured and
set out on our own journeys, we took with us the truth of God’s
principles and the assurance of His grace.

Now
as I look back on that incident of teenage rebellion in my own life, it
seems rather innocent. The current temptations and dangers facing my
two teens, Alvin and Ashley, are overwhelming—even scary—at times.

The
young generation of today is literally bombarded with negative and
disturbing messages from all corners of the culture. Music, movies,
television and the Internet seem to invade our families with ungodly and
anti-Christian influences.

Instead
of talking about the joys of romance, fidelity and commitment, teens
are using phrases such as “casual sex,” “friends with benefits” and
“hooking up.”

They enter a
sports arena and, instead of finding heroes or role models, they’re
introduced to athletes who have violent outbursts, use dangerous drugs
and live immoral lifestyles.

Even
a simple trip to the mall can turn into a moral dilemma. Teenage girls
who still believe in modesty and purity receive little help from the
marketing and manufacturing professions. Being stylish without being
suggestive is difficult these days.

I
look into the eyes of these precious young people and think how unfair
it is for them to be faced with such choices. Although I’m disheartened
by it all, I believe there are ways to counteract the coarsening of our
culture—and it’s up to us to get involved.

SHARING THE RESPONSIBILITY
Recently,
I heard about a small county just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, in
which half the young female residents are suffering from HIV/AIDS. At
first I was astonished, then heartbroken, then convicted. This wasn’t a
big city statistic or news from a foreign country. This was coming from
my own backyard.

As my heart
was stirred, I began to think about my own generation and its
relationship to the next. I believe we’re letting the young people down.

In many ways, we’ve missed
the mark. The Bible tells us, “In all things show yourself to be an
example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in
speech which is beyond reproach” (Titus 2:7-8, NASB). Every mature
believer should be a good example—a godly role model—for those who are
younger.

As a parent, I’ve
never understood the idea of trying to be your child’s best friend.
Alvin and Ashley have many friends but only one set of parents. My
husband and I love them with all our hearts. We know it’s important to
show our love, not just by having fun with them, but also by nurturing,
teaching and protecting them. Every adult believer can do this for the
youth around him.

Nurturing
involves showing young people their true worth. They must be taught to
see themselves the way God sees them. He valued their lives so much that
He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to save and redeem them. Real
self-esteem comes from knowing Him and believing the words of Jeremiah
29:11: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord,
‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a
hope.'”

Teaching involves
introducing the next generation to the importance of God’s Word. I’ve
been thrilled to watch my children develop a real appetite for the ways
of the Lord. They’re beginning to experience a revelation of Matthew
5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for
they shall be satisfied.”

But
this desire didn’t grow by accident. Consistent exposure to the power
of the Scriptures came through attending church services, Sunday school,
youth group and Christian summer camp. I believe seeds were planted in
Alvin and Ashley even when they weren’t aware of it.

Honest
study of the Bible reveals that God’s Word is alive and active in our
lives. Psalm 119:105 says it this way: “Your word is a lamp to my feet,
and a light to my path.” When the next generation becomes full of the
Word of God, they’re also going to become the leaders God created them
to be.

Protecting our teens
in this day and age can be a real challenge. But we must make every
effort to offer them clear guidelines. Establishing parameters can
prevent many a broken heart and damaged spirit. I’ve told my children
often, “Anything that God does not smile upon is not good for you to
listen to or watch.” It’s a simple yet powerful reminder that we’re to
keep our senses sanctified.

The
opportunity to nurture, teach and protect is not available only to
parents. We all have a responsibility to encourage the next generation
to be bold for the Lord.

I
know from personal experience that it requires help to raise a godly
child. I clearly remember how the saints of Mack Avenue Church of God in
Christ made an impact on my life when I was young. They showed me love,
gave me correction and prayed for me.

Church
was a place where God-fearing people surrounded me: preachers, mothers,
deacons, trustees, teachers, elders and friends. We loved one another
as family, and we were taught to be accountable for one another’s care.

The
adults felt responsible for one another’s children. And everything my
parents taught me at home was reinforced at church. I grew to appreciate
being surrounded by that kind of love and protection.

When
believers take the time to sow truth and grace into a child’s life,
whether that child is theirs or not, they are blessed. These saints are
investing in their own future by helping to shape the values of
generations to come.

TURNING THE TIDE
There
are four practical steps Christian parents and the church community can
take to help empower the next generation to live for the Lord.

Talk to them.
Don’t be afraid to approach them about every aspect of their day. If
you sense something is wrong, ask questions—lots of them. My children
know I plan to “stay in their business.” I make sure they understand
that it’s my love for them that compels me to be involved.

Pray over them.
I remember hearing my mom and dad pray over all their children at
night. I can still hear their voices as they lifted each one of us to
the throne of grace. James 5:16 tells us, “The effective, fervent prayer
of a righteous man avails much” (NKJV). I have no doubt their earnest
prayers played a powerful role in my life.

Today,
I find myself doing the same thing on behalf of my family. When I stay
on my knees and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me, I receive guidance
and counsel. It’s one of the most valuable gifts I can ever give my
children.

Set the rules.
Help them guard their eyes, ears and hearts from influences that will
negatively affect their spirits. This takes effort and consistency, but
it’s extremely important.

At
the same time, allow them to enjoy acceptable entertainment that’s fun
and exciting. Plan family events and look for wholesome movies.
Encourage their creative, athletic and musical abilities.

Thankfully,
there’s a great deal of uplifting gospel and Christian music being
recorded today. It’s a wonderful alternative to what’s being offered in
the secular marketplace.

Encourage them to make right choices.
Remind young people that each time they stand up for what’s right in
the eyes of the Lord, they gain strength. The more strength they gain,
the better leaders they will become. Eventually, they’ll be the ones
influencing others to make godly choices.

Most
teenagers feel different from their peers in one way or another. Let
them know that being different on behalf of the Lord is a blessing, not a
curse.

I’ll always be
grateful that my parents provided a moral compass for my siblings, my
friends and me. I’m convinced that the biblical truths and ethical
principles they stood on a generation ago still work today.

They were steady and wise. Looking back, I realize I could always depend on Mom and Dad for certain things.

Although
the household rules were very strict, I knew that I could trust their
discipline. They were fair and reasonable. Even in the midst of being
punished, I never doubted their love for me because they showed it in so
many ways.

Church was my family’s second home. We had to go.

When
we weren’t at church service on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, we were
attending summer church camps, going to revivals, or off somewhere
singing in the young people’s choir. We were submerged in the things of
the Lord and discovered what it was like to be in His presence.

It
was a life-changing discovery. The Bible tells us, “You will show me
the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right
hand are pleasures forever” (Ps. 16:11).

Mom and Dad kept us motivated. They encouraged each of us to achieve our full potential.

Dad
in particular never lost sight of the fact that we were young and
needed something to do. He showed us that a saved life was not a bored
life.

When we weren’t
bowling, we were skating. When we weren’t skating, we were playing
baseball or running track. If we weren’t playing sports, we were having
concerts. Life was busy, and my parents were always involved.

Many
times, our instinct is to shield the next generation from every ungodly
thing. But that’s impossible. Instead, we must equip them for whatever
they may face.

Whether we’re
parents or not, we have a responsibility to plant a seed—say a
prayer—get involved—be a role model. There’s a generation counting on
us…and the time to start making a difference is now.

Read a companion devotional.


CeCe Winans is an award-winning vocalist, including 11 Grammy Awards and 20 Dove Awards.

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