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How NOT to earn the respect of a teenager

RespectRecently I heard a discussion between some adults who were pretty upset that their church’s teenagers were disrespectful and sometimes even resistant to authority. They went on and on about the influences of MTV and how culture is encouraging them to be anti-authority. Their solution was to teach Ephesians 6:1-2 again:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (NIV)

Beating them up with Ephesians 6 is not the solution! Kids will gladly follow those who they know genuinely love them and respect them. Respect isn’t something you demand, respect is something you earn and usually it starts by taking the initiative to set the example.


Posted on May 30, 2007

  • AMEN!

  • Unfortunately, the people that need to hear that message are not reading this blog. Most likely because the “internet is evil.” :-)

  • Tim

    @ Chris S.: lol Actually, they might read it. I dunno. They know my opinion either way. I don’t blog stuff about people that I don’t want them to see. I just assume everyone reads it. Keeps me outta trouble that way. ;)

  • I have seen this problem rear it’s head out here in Indiana as well.

    We have a weekly outreach program in a renovated firehouse that attracts around 120 students each week, most of whom are unchurched and have not been raised to respect authority in any form. I set up ground rules for effectively disciplining students (pull them aside, discuss with them the problem and why it is a problem – not chew them out – and remind them of our 2 rules, repecting each other and respecting property, and how what thye did falls under one of those rules) that all of our (vastly undernumbered) adult volunteers are to follow.

    But it doesn’t work all that well when teh Senior Pastor does not follow them – because he believes that there all teens are mush heads and will only understand being lectured to!

  • Tim

    @ Brett: Yeah, lectures don’t mean much to students. I guess I understand that because lectures don’t mean much to me either if they’re coming from someone who’s just upset or someone I don’t really care for anyway. The old cliche is really true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Gotta earn the right to be heard.

  • Sam

    I see your point, but at the same time I want to think that scripture is profitable for things like teaching and rebuking. obviously, people come off badly when they simply (or only) spout off verses without any relational wisdom, but i still want to say that scripture is useful.

  • This may be a bit ranty, but if parents focused on Ephesians 6:4 (Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ESV), verses 1 and 2 might be less of a problem. Modeling respect for others may go a long way.

  • Tim

    @ Sam: I totally agree with what you’re saying. What I’m addressing is the way it’s communicated, not the actual Word itself.

    @ Laura: Seriously. Somehow the speck in a student’s eye is easier to address than the log in our own, huh?

  • Tim, Indeed. Just one more reason to integrate parent and staff spiritual formation into youth and children’s ministry. It’s all too easy for us to get “righteous” and point fingers rather than take responsibility for living like Jesus and helping others to do so. Self righteousness is all too a tempting tidbit for a people who tried (and try) to play God (a la Genesis 3).

  • Tom

    Well while we are on the subject of parents…… I have just started in full time and was trying to figure out how to include them. Maybe this is another blog. How well do they respond healthy parenting tips and where do you find good information for that. I have heard some having parent meetings, but not sure what all that entails. thanks for any wisdom, tom

  • Tim

    Yeah Tom, sounds like a good blog idea. Thanks! I’ve been using The ParentLink newsletter at my past two churches and each have received it very well. In fact, the parents at my current church were asking for something like this when I first got here.

    I personally haven’t found that parent meetings go over too well unless you cover a topic that they all want to be educated about (MySpace, Facebook, blogging, for example).

  • Brian

    I agree that we should not beat the kids up with Eph 6:1-2. However, we should still teach it to them. And teach them that they should treat the adults with respect–that it is a two way street. My youth have voiced that they feel disrespected by the adults, so why should they respect them? Educating the adults who have forgotten what it was like to be (or have) teens in the house is also a must.

    By the way, the ParentLink newsletter looks awesome.

  • emily

    Wow. I read comments, i want to ask questions,& I live life every day.All I can say, if I may, is just be.Be the best you can.Please remember: 'you learn something every day. ' No matter how trivial it may seem.So are we not then "students"?We have to learn, as well as teach.(Jesus taught his disciples.)WWJD Thank you.

  • this helped me today. I had to fire/release a volunteer last week who wasn't respecting students. In fact he was yelling at them in public. Other volunteers said it's ok…because the students don't respect him. If the students would show respect to the adults, it would make things easier…blah blah blah. This is the message i was trying to get across to those other volunteers who disagreed. I know its an old blog…but super relevant to me this week.

    • Wow, yeah, yelling at kids isn't good, especially if they don't respect you. That's just making the problem worse. Sounds like you did the right thing, Jesse, both for the volunteer's sake and the sake of the kids.

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