When Parenting Gets Tough, PRESS IN!
Today we are speaking with Christian Tucker about the parent-child relationship, and specifically the teenage years. Christian shares his experiences with us, both as a youth pastor and from his own teenage years.
Christian: Before we get started, I want to introduce myself. I am Christian Tucker, and a true Christian indeed (as in I believe in Jesus as my everything). I am Diane Paddison’s son, and I work as the neighborhood children’s director of Antioch Community Church in Waco, TX. First, I want you to know that I am speaking as a man who knows that the only worthwhile life is in Christ. Wholehearted devotion in Spirit and Truth to Him is number one.
I also want you to know that my mom, Diane Paddison, founder of 4word, is the most amazing woman on the face of the planet. She is physically gorgeous, absolutely loving, consistently joyful and selfless, constantly fruitful and hard-working, deeply Spiritual, and confidently and regularly overcoming. It is worth pointing out that one cannot overcome without shortfalls. But if you don’t agree with me that God rocks and my mom rocks, then you might not agree with any of this blog post.
4word: What led you to pastor inner city kids?
Christian: Dr. Reiland Rabaka, my Ethnic Studies professor at University of Colorado, taught me that my “privilege” in this society, which is based on being a wealthy, heterosexual, white, male Christian, was given to me for a purpose, not to use for my own advantage.
I had never thought that the slavery I heard about from “a long time ago” still had effects today. His classes were the first time I understood that millions of Africans had died, and their families were destroyed as they were trafficked to the Americas for the benefit of families like mine. I left his class every day thinking about how I could help the world.
When processing this with my uncle, Greig Detering, he showed me that in order to impact the world for good, you need God. He intrigued me further by saying that Jesus wants to serve the disenfranchised more than anyone. I was amazed to hear that, after living in such an affluent “Christian” city, where Jesus was depicted as a nice guy who was happy with us and was waiting to see us in Heaven.
My old religious views were challenged. It made me think that we could live our lives in expectation of God’s return, rather than in security in death. At that point, I told Father God, if you are just waiting for me to die and be with you in Heaven, then I will see you there. But if you will use my life to impact the poor, I will do anything you ask.
That day, He changed my heart and led me to show love to a poverty-stricken mom and her two sons. I went home crying, thinking that I had wasted my whole life up until that point. God showed me that a life serving Him was much more fun than any of the time I had spent trying to keep myself happy. God made every day about showing love to children who need it, and empowering kids to change the world.
Specifically, after graduating from CU Boulder, I went to work at a Native American church. There I realized I had a love, a passion, and a gifting to work with kids. As relationships were growing deeper, a high school friend had a dream where God told him that I was to move to Waco, Texas for a training school with a church that I had never heard of. Of course, I had questions, but when I (and every adviser I had) prayed, it was obvious that it was the Word of the Lord.
So I packed up, went through the discipleship school at Antioch Community Church, and served daily with the Children’s Outreach Ministry. When I graduated, they asked me to be the ministry’s director. And that is how God led me to pastor a diverse group of kids.
4word: What needs do you see in today’s youth? What role do parents play in meeting these needs?
Christian: I would say parents are the need! My job would be unnecessary if parents were strong leaders of their families. I don’t mean to say that the parents of kids in my ministry are bad, but rather that all kids need their parents to be involved in their lives in order to be trained up and thrive as men and women of God.
You might have read my mom’s story in Work, Love, Pray about the divorce. This was a confusing time for me, and I felt alone, with no one who understood me. My mom was dealing with the drama herself, not leaving much emotional capacity to deal with my sister and me.
So I turned towards isolation and control for every situation I was in. These things still affect me. For a parent to love their child, they must spend time together in the day-to-day moments. Isolated children who are unfamiliar with healthy involvement will seek out anyone who will show any amount of interest in their lives. This is one reason abused children do not tell someone when they are abused.
If a parent shuts the kid down multiple times, he/she might regress from that parent and find comfort in the pursuit of an abuser. Even though I was aware of the negative aspects of drug use, I embraced teens who did drugs, because they would call me or pick me up in the evenings, whereas my parents would regularly be preoccupied on their week nights. Buying marijuana for the group or being taken advantage of appeared worth the destruction when compared with loneliness.
Life without safe, committed people is always disastrous. Parents are meant to be the safest and most committed. Though I mentioned not receiving all I needed from my mom, I am not trying to bash her; as you saw above, she is my hero. I find it necessary to give stories as depictions to accompany the advice with the understanding that my mom is amazing and has grown more amazing.
Parents grow; they do not start perfect. As I got older, my mom was much more mature. When I got in trouble with the police at 17, she took off work to stay home with me in order to make sure I obeyed our rules. At 18, I found out the horrible things my dad had done, and my mom was there to talk it through with my sister and me.
In summary, kids need parents to be involved, not to expect the church, society, television, or school to figure life out for them.
4word: Given your experience- your teenage years and now as a pastor, what is the best thing parents can do for their kids?
Christian: I would say the best thing is to press in. Jimmy Seibert, Lead Pastor of our congregation, told us that he would press in to arguments with his kids instead of letting the kids run over him.
My mom ardently held on when I was acting out during my teen years. I remember strongly mistreating her, and she did not send me off to camp or ignore me. Instead, she stuck with me, no matter how awful I spoke to her. I think most teens struggling with life blame their parents for something, but instead of getting offended, parents need to press in.
This principle holds true even in our spiritual lives. God the Father created us, provided for us, and sent His Son to die for us. How have we often responded? With pride, entitlement, and rejection. Still, He pursues each of us personally, through the still small voice, the Scriptures, and the church made up of individual believers. Every God-fearing Christian has repented from pride, entitlement, and rejection and turned towards gratitude, obedience, and love.
If you are reading this and feeling rejected by your kids, keep pressing in! Even if it never works, you are doing your duty. Stay involved, know their fears and failures, encourage them, guide them, and pray for them. I believe that if my parents pressed in and demonstrated truth and love, then they could have curbed the deviance of my youth.
4word: How important is communication between parent and child during the teenage years?
Christian: From knowing different parents, and seeing my mom grow over the years, communication is vital. Discipleship is like mentoring to the max. Throughout the Bible and so much of history, parents’ discipleship provided the only opportunity any child had in life.
Occupational life does not strictly flow from parent to child today as it has throughout history, but the health of a child’s emotional, mental, and even physical life still rest on the parent’s shoulders. The goal of discipleship is to teach and train the disciple to look like the “master.”
If the master is not healthy, then the disciple stands no chance. In other words, if a parent does not have a healthy, deep, loving relationship with Father God, then there is nothing worthwhile to pass on to their child.
4word: What is your advice to parents who want a better relationship with their teenager?
Christian: I would say better relationships come through having fun with your teen, asking them questions, and hearing what God is saying about their lives.
At my ministry, the Feast, we know that every kid’s love language is “fun.” When kids come celebrate with us, we play games, build/make things together, and teach them through asking questions. I think families need to use fun to get close.
They also need to let the kids discover things by providing experiences, not by letting them go on their own. So be close, and have fun.
Also, having “Family Devotionals” helps kids and parents connect on a deeper level. You could use a Bible study in order to allow God to communicate with your family. Read a portion of Scripture and ask the kids what they can do to obey it. Or you can listen to God for them, by waiting and asking Him, “How do you see my child?” My mom would tell me the dreams she would have of me, and they were often exactly what had happened.
4word: What else would you like working moms to know?
Christian: I just want to say that being a part of 4word is a big deal, because life is too difficult to thrive in without a solid community. Take God to work, follow Him even in the office, and make money.
Search out a body of Christ that wants to support you, but take a step to support them with something other than finances. Remember that your finances are not to be selfish with but to be given freely. Tithe to your church and support missionaries like me! My salary is based on a financial support team of monthly donors. I would love for each of you to consider joining my team, and there are many more out there like me.
I pray that God would reveal Himself to each of your hearts, and your will would be aligned with His. God, be glorified. I know that no parent has messed up too much, and children can forgive anything if you go to them in humility and repentance.
It is possible to have a strong relationship with your teenager. Remember that the most important thing they need is direct, quality interaction with you. Press in, love on them, and disciple them in Christ.
What impact can you have on your family relationships by pressing into them?
If you are interested in learning more about joining Christian’s support team, or making a financial gift, please click here. If you would like to learn more about Christian and his ministry to inner-city youth, sign up for his e-newsletter below.