Boundaries, Limitless Options and the Children of the Children of the 80s

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SimonIf you grew up in the 80s you were told all sorts of things that didn’t come true. Aside from the absence of flying cars and hoverboards is the gaping hole that was the promise that we can and will do anything we set our minds to. It just isn’t the case. There are so many other competing factors that no matter how hard you try, some things just won’t happen to you or for you or by you. We don’t like to hear that or think that but it is true. For instance, no matter how hard I dreamed or worked out or had all the right connections and skills I never had a shot at the NBA. I never even had a shot at high school basketball. At 5′ 6″ my hopes were slim to begin with but the truth is…no matter how hard I set my mind to it there was just no way it was ever going to happen.

In the middle of that well-intentioned statement was the message that we could be experts or at least above average in everything. Never mind the fact that it is statistically impossible for everyone to be above average…all the ribbons and trophies were tiny monuments to the perpetuation of the lie. We over involved ourselves in so many things that we never learned the art of placing boundaries. We never learned how to say no.

Those kids who once played with Rubik’s cubes and Simon are now parents…pretty scary thought. Somehow the gene of not setting boundaries or being able to say no has lodged itself squarely in my generation’s kiddos. Today, kids are more overcommitted than ever…as are their parents. Families are so busy that they no longer have time for what is most important. Because of that finding volunteers for ministry is extremely hard. The teeball is happening. The softball is getting played…baseball road trips with 3 years olds run all year long never seems to end but serving God and serving others often comes last.

Kids won’t set boundaries for themselves…it will only come from parents who know how to do it themselves. If we don’t know how to do that it is vitally important for our own spiritual well being as well as that of our children that we start.

11 Responses

  1. Those who are committed to everything are committed to nothing. Your post reminds me of the man who said, “I think I’ll shoot the next person who wants to give my kid an ‘advantage’.”

  2. There are plenty of people who stay busy because that gets their minds of the mundane parts of life. Also, kids love the sports because the adults are off the field, they can be very fun, and there is travel involved. They also get support and cheers for physical performance. As a kid, I did not want to get a lesson on everything all the time. Too many times the kids must be supervised and lectured to and are never allowed to be kids.

    1. Mark, what you are describing is how things worked for most families years ago…you should see the schedules of families today. It gets pretty insane and the competition gets way more fierce than just kids having fun. In anything we can point to the extremes to make a case for the other side. I do that more than I should.

  3. I work in children’s ministry — and man, are you ever right about the volunteer thing! I am also old enough to be a parent to many of our kids’ parents. I do see how they struggle with this issue. Who wants their kids to be left out? And chances are if they go to church camp, they aren’t making that all-star team. Many — not all — high school athletic programs get filled up with athletes who have played on those elite or traveling teams. Not sure I would make the same choices some are making, but my job is to encourage them to be Christians who use athletics (the coin of the realm) to show Jesus to the world, as opposed to being ball-players who sometimes go to church.

    1. I know exactly what you mean about the issue of athletics and young people in the church. The concern that I have as this increasingly becomes part of the culture is: Will those who spend sometimes more than half the Sunday mornings of the year outside of Sunday school, church services, and mid-week studies/services not suffer from their parents decision to prioritize athletics over worship and discipleship?

    2. But with athletics, you have a “doing” factor. They require skill and physical ability. I saw Sunday school and church and as a passive activity. You sat. You generally got a lecture on some obscure topic with proof texts that rarely made sense to anyone under 50. You did not discuss much if anything. Debates rarely occurred. The letter to the Romans and the gospel of St. Mark were addressed to people who did, not Greek thinkers like St. Luke addressed. Put some doing in the religion and you might have better participation.

    3. I see your point, but I don’t accept it fully.

      Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together and to exhort one another–both are actions. How can one exhort, or encourage, others to grow in the faith and be exhorted by others, if they forsake assembling as part of the church, namely the local church?

      I feel that the world facing the youth in our churches as the enter colleges and the workforce is one that requires them to have received teaching, exhortation, had experiences with the Holy Spirit, and had the opportunity to express and share their faith if we hope for them to continue to grow as Christians. I take it as my task as a teacher to engage my students in a way that demands that they think deeply and express themselves on issues pertaining to the Bible, their beliefs, and their experiences in the world. I see the church not as a place where one hears lectures about an archaic text that drive at points no one without an advanced degree could understand. Rather, it’s where we meet regularly to get better at being Christians and getting ready to face the world as Christians.

      In the realm of doing, the church is like the practice field: You spend far more time on the practice field than playing games if you expect to win. Typically, those who understand this are the most successful at what they do. Hence, it’s a matter of making practice a priority. The problem I see is that when Christian families commit themselves to a sport, or any other recreational activity, that will cause them to forsake assembling with the church on a regular basis, they seem to at the very least imply to their sons and daughters that while church and faith is important, there are some activities that come first when they come into conflict with church. In other words, they fail to make those things that will strengthen their childrens’ and their own faith the first priority in their lives.

  4. “Rather, it’s where we meet regularly to get better at being Christians and getting ready to face the world as Christians.”

    I was taken to church twice every Sunday for 2 decades and learned more Christianity from old Jewish men (obm) and seeing nuns in action than I did in the church house.

    Hopefully you teach both the tenets of the faith and how to defend Christianity.

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