Updated: Mar 4, 2022
There’s a joke around camp that Fall is the “slow time” of year. Once upon a time, in years long gone by, the fall season at camp was a significantly less busy time. We didn’t have as many retreat groups coming out to camp each weekend, and summer camp registration and summer staff hiring didn’t kick into full gear until after the new year. These days, however, there are events and retreats going on every week, and preparation for the next summer begins weeks, not months, after the previous summer ends.
A large part of that summer preparation involves processing potential summer staff applications, and during the decidedly-not-slow fall months, we interview dozens of high school and college-aged applicants for staff. We have a template of questions we use for all our staff interviews, and one of those questions asks the potential summer staffer to describe what makes a good parent. Now, there’s no specific or exact answer we’re looking for to this question, and we don’t expect high school students to list every positive attribute a godly parent might possess. But this question is my favorite question to ask, and I always enjoy hearing the answers given.
Every answer is unique, but over the dozens I’ve heard, the overwhelming recurring trends in the answers can be boiled down to three main things:
Instill Biblical truths in them
Be present and active in their lives
Simple, yet profound truth of what kids need from godly parents. What is especially interesting to me is that while many applicants come from homes where these traits are lived out for them on a regular basis, some of these applicants come from homes where one, or all, of these have not been a part of their life. They recognize the need for these things not because they’ve seen them in their own lives, but because these are the needs God created in them for a parent to fill.
God designed the parent-child relationship as a model for our relationship with Him and, as such, the things children and teens need from their parents are the very same traits God demonstrates to us daily. His love (which brings with it discipline as Hebrews 12 teaches and which, believe it or not, many teenagers recognize as a necessary and good attribute in their parents!), His truth through scripture, and His presence with us through the Holy Spirit.
These traits make me think immediately of Deuteronomy 6.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. -Deuteronomy 6:5-7
These verses sum up the three main attributes of a godly parent. They love their children as evidenced by their continual teaching of God’s word and time together. Several thousand years later, the needs children have from their parents haven’t changed. Love, truth, and time.
We just wrapped up our Mother/Daughter weekends and for years these, and our other parent-child and family weekends, have been my favorite weekends at camp. I love watching first hand as parents intentionally live out Deuteronomy 6 here at camp and pour love, scripture, and their time into their kids. Partially due to the complete lack of adequate cell coverage, but more so because of what these weekends represent, you don’t see parents or teens camped out in front of electronic screens all weekend. I love watching the intentionality behind the parents’ actions and words, and I love watching the children (of all ages) soak it up.
So, as we enter a season of time spent with family, let me offer a challenge to parents and to all adults with a role in a child’s or teenager’s life: say “yes” more often. Several years ago, we began challenging our staff to let their first response be “yes” unless there is a legitimate reason why they cannot do something, and that challenge really hit home with me. It’s so easy to say “no” when a child asks for something. Parents are busy, tired, and have a whole host of things to do. Yet from scripture and from the mouths of teenagers, what children need isn’t a perfectly cleaned house or the newest toy to play with. They need love and scripture poured into their lives. And time.
So, say “yes” to playing catch in the yard or taking a walk or making cookies together or whatever else gives you and your child/niece/nephew/grandchild/sibling time together. Say yes today. And then talk about the things of God as you spend time together.