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Teens, TV, music and parenting

Eddie Rentz is director of the national Youth Department of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Mo. He recently spoke with Joel Kilpatrick, an associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Evangel: Why is belonging to a youth group important?

Rentz: The greatest influence on a teen-ager’s life is another teen-ager. It’s important who they associate with. The Word of God is clear about not forsaking the assembling together of ourselves because of the influence of peers. Moms and dads need to know who their friends are. There is something about the energy of students worshiping, praying and being vulnerable together. It makes a difference.

Most A/G kids go to secular schools, so the average youth pastor gets maybe two hours a week with them. The secular arena gets far more time to invest in them. The dynamics of being in the house of God with people who love God can influence them greatly. The Word says that bad company corrupts good morals, but the opposite is true also. Good company can produce better choices.

Evangel: How can parents be aware of what their children are listening to or watching?

Rentz: They have to become part of their teen-ager’s life. They can’t just say, "Well, he’s up on the computer." They’d better know what their kids are surfing.

I meet so many students who are hooked on pornography because their parents don’t know what’s going on. I met one student who was involved in cyber porn. His parents had no clue what he was doing on the computer. They knew there was a change in his life, but they didn’t know why. He came to a camp and we had to pray for deliverance in his life.

Parents need to look through the CD’s their kids are listening to; see what movies they are renting. Parents need to invite their friends over for a night at the house and see how they talk and interact. Communication clearly exposes what’s in the heart.

It’s easy to be an absentee parent, to say, "I don’t want to cross their boundaries." But God has called us to do that. It’s our right to walk into their room and lift their mattress to see if there are any ungodly magazines there. It’s a God-given right while they are in our home. My mom always told me that while I was in her house, I had to abide by her rules. She found things in my room at times when I wasn’t serving God. I may not have liked it, but that was God’s way at the time of keeping my life on track. As parents, we can’t be intimidated by our teen-agers. God calls us to train them. It’s the parents’ job first, not the youth pastor’s.

Evangel: How can parents set a good example?

Rentz: When I was young I got away from God for about five years and abused drugs. But my mom always lived what she believed. She always went to church and brought us. She was a praying woman. I would come home and find her on her knees or studying the Word. She was a living model of Christianity.

It’s easier to tell than to do. Paul said to watch his example and do what he did. Kids know our vocabulary and see our actions. Don’t tell them not to lie, when you are willing to stretch the truth. Kids are better seers than listeners. You’ve got to pray with them, talk to them about the Word. They’ve got to see you open the Bible. They’ve got to see you turn the channel when something unhealthy comes on.

Evangel: This is National Youth Day (April 9). What is the national Youth Department doing to help teen-agers?

Rentz: Our desire is to be a resource to the local church and district youth directors. We provide tools to help young people know God. Our job is to be relevant. We stay connected with youth culture.

My dream is in the next five years to reach 3 million new converts. We want to put together an assembly package using video and technology and train local youth pastors to use it so they become the heroes. There are not many Dave Roevers in the world; but there are youth pastors who, given the opportunity, would speak into the lives of students on the nearby campus.

We also want to send more students around the world by partnering with Foreign Missions and Shake the Nations. I want to see more kids raised up to do ministry.

Evangel: What encourages you about teen-agers today?

Rentz: I see God raising up a new type of student. They are more radical, committed. They are the missionaries to their campuses — starting campus clubs, putting their faith on the line. I wish I’d had that boldness as a teen-ager. These students don’t just want to be told what to do; they want opportunities to do it. They are making a difference on their campuses.

 

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