Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Open Letter to Parents of Teenagers

My dear moms and dads,

I know that parenting a teenager is tough. Well, I don't know from personal experience, but I know how difficult I made things on my parents, and I've worked with teenagers in school and youth ministry settings. They are difficult, moody, and generally miserable 95% of the time.

And for those of you who make the effort to get your kids to church, I applaud you. Again, I know how hard that is.

But please, for the love of God and your fellow parishioners, if you can convince them to go to church, make them leave their cell phones at home, or at least in the car. Even if you have to search pockets and purses to do it, please, please do it.

What brings this up today, you ask? Well, there was a family sitting behind me in church. The have three teenagers (17, 15, and 13), and the youngest had a friend who was obviously a non-churchgoer. Now this family has issues with their kids and church. The kids are almost always there, but the two girls (the two youngest) are always dressed incredibly inappropriately, and the oldest spends most of the service in the bathroom, or any place else in the church building other than the sanctuary.

Well, today, during the readings, one of their cell phones went off. It was on vibrate, but against the wood of the pew, it was plenty loud. Apparently it was a text message, because all throughout the rest of the service, I could hear her (the middle one) punching keys on the phone. The parents had to see it - they were sitting right next to her. I could see it out of my peripheral vision. Then, during everything that was sung (and we do a lot of singing), the boy was texting as well, thinking that the music covered the beeping of the keys on his phone (it did not).

The parents did not correct those children, or the younger girl and her friend who were mocking pretty much every prayer and song we prayed.

Parents, you are not doing yourselves, your kids, or your fellow parishioners any favors by dragging kids who don't want to be at church to church, then letting them do whatever they want without correction or consequence during the service. What does that teach them? That they can do whatever they want or act however they want as long as they show up? Who does that help.

So parents, either teach your kids the right way to behave in church (and in public for that matter), or leave them home. That is something I never thought I'd say.

Thank you.

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