No matter what we say, our children usually imitate what they see us do. If you're a dreamer, your teen is likely to be a dreamer. If you believe God has plans for using your time and talents, if you're serving Him regularly in your church and community, if you're open to things like short-term missions trips or even a change in careers as He might lead – then your teen is apt to believe and do the same kinds of things.
This is an influence that no one but you (and your spouse, if you're married) as a parent can wield.
Have you stopped dreaming? That's easy to do when you're raising a family and established in a career – one that perhaps pays the bills but doesn't satisfy. It's easy to stop picturing and planning for a brighter future other than eventual retirement. It's easy to fall into a rut, a mindset often labeled "being realistic." But if we do that, and stay stuck there, our children are likely to imitate us and to think and live in ruts as well.
If we want our teens to be dreamers – to picture and pursue a challenging and fulfilling future – we need to be (or become) blue-sky thinkers ourselves. We need to believe that whatever our lives have held so far, God isn't through with us yet. He still wants to work in and through us, to challenge us, and to bring us meaning by employing our unique blend of talents, gifts and interests. If we believe that blue skies lie ahead – that life is still full of possibilities and opportunities provided by a loving heavenly Father – then our teens will believe it, too.
Steve and Donna Thurman found out how true this is. The popular founding pastor and his wife of a large and growing church in Colorado, they might have stayed comfortably and indefinitely on the beautiful Front Range. God, however, had wired them differently and had a new dream for them.
As Steve explained in his sermon announcing their intention to leave, God made some people to be pioneers and others to be settlers. He and Donna were pioneers, he said, and God had been growing in them the dream of moving halfway around the world to help develop church leaders in the spiritually needy land of New Zealand. It was time for them to take the first steps of faith leading Down Under.
Years later, Steve and Donna can see how their willingness to dream and pursue big things for God affected their own teenagers: "Today our kids – the two youngest, anyway – are 'adventurers' by nature and by the fact that they've followed us around for over 20 years and seen that 'traveling light' and chasing dreams and taking risks are all 'the way to go.' 'What's the worst that can happen?' they ask. Not much, except that you'll have some great memories and some stories to tell and some new friends you've met along the way. To the kids, God is big – a lot bigger than the fear of taking risks and making changes."
You don't have to become a missionary and move 8,000 miles to be a blue-sky thinker. But you do need to remain open to the possibility – and demonstrate it to your teen – that God may want to use you and your family in new and exciting ways in the future.
Adapted from Wired by God: Empowering Your Teen for a Life of Passion and Purpose by Joe White with Larry Weeden, Copyright © 2004, Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.