Giving Youth Roots and Branches

The congregation I serve, First Christian Church, just celebrated a great weekend! On Saturday, we graduated 30 proud preschoolers, watched by their prouder families, from our Discovery Preschool. It was well organized, enjoyable and fun to see the soon-to-be kindergarteners celebrate what they have learned academically, socially and spiritually.

On Sunday, we celebrated the graduations of fifteen from our congregation: 10 from high school, 3 from college and 2 from graduate schools. By anyone’s standards (and mine are pretty high), they are a remarkable lot. Genuinely concerned for others and God’s world, musical, athletic, smart, informed, involved and interesting, this group is enough to restore some hope in our present and future.

Both celebrations were wonderful. Amid the smiles and joy, fond memories and hopeful dreams, and a few tears, both celebrations reminded me of the terrifying yet terrific work of parenting.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely find parenting to be easy. Yes, it is (often) enjoyable, but rarely easy – even during the stable, business-as-usual times.

When a major life transition hits, such as a graduation, knowing what to say or do can be downright tough! This is no business-as-usual. Now your child is passing from one season of life to a new one. And with that change in life are new challenges and chances, heartaches and hopes.

As a caring parent, what do you say? What do you do? On what should you focus during these times? Well, here’s one idea: focus during these times on roots and branches.

No, I’m not saying go plant a tree together – although that’s not a bad idea. I mean focus your conversations on roots and branches.

First, the roots. Help your children know who they are. Help them know whose they are. Help them know their values. Help them find their voice. Nourish those roots well so that they will grow deep and strong.

What are some good roots to strengthen? Here’s one: Don’t ridicule those different than you. Or, see what you can learn from every person you encounter. Or, finish what you start.

Help others. And, celebrate the successes of others with the same gusto you hope they celebrate yours. The phrase “thank you” is one of the most powerful in all of language, so use it.

Those are some roots. I’m sure you can think of more.

Second, don’t forget that the point of strong roots is to put forth healthy branches. The point of knowing who you and whose you are is to be able to reach out and grow more. If roots are needed to realize values and voice, so branches help us realize our vision; better yet, by branching out, we realize God’s vision for us.

What are some branches to give our kids? Here’s one of my favorites: Your history should not dictate your future.

Rarely is failure final. Try something new. Stand for what is right, even when it is costly. The world can change for the better, and you can help it. It is always a good time to change your mind when to do so will widen your heart.

Now I know that reminding kids of their roots is more comfortable than giving them branches on which to move forward. I also know that both are important and needed.

So I’ll conclude with perhaps my all-time favorite truth as we move forward: There is more forgiveness in God than sin in you.

These are days of graduations, days of transitions; these are days to celebrate!

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