Your Child and Friendship – Has social networking corrupted our understanding of “Friend?”

“If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.”
—Bryon Douglas
“Don’t pity the girl with one true friend. Envy her. Pity the girl with just a thousand acquaintances.”
—Katie Obenchain

I have had discussions with young parents who believe they should not send their children to Christian school, Christian camps or activities believing that being friendly with as many of the “lost” as possible will maximize their children’s effectiveness as witnesses. However, without Christian friends, children have a greater likelihood of not following Christ as an adult. You might then incorrectly conclude that children should only have Christian friends. Instead, parents should have a better understanding of the types of friends and the influences those relationships have on their children.

In Social networking the word “friend” is now used in a boastful way, as in “I have 985 friends.” Unfortunately, if those 985 “friends” were lined up, I doubt that the boastful child could actually name them all!  I believe there are 4 types of friends that we make over a lifetime.  You can help your child develop an understanding of the different types and how they can be established which will be vital to their healthy development as a young Christian adult. As a parent, you have the opportunity to coach your child to stand for Christian principles and values, as well as assist them to work through many of today’s anti-Biblical views.

First, we have acquaintances, those we meet here and there or are friends of friends. An acquaintance can be the person you see at the bus stop every day, someone you meet at a ball game or connect with via a social networking site.  You have probably at one point or another been in the same place and so you “know of” them. It is not only nearly impossible, but inappropriate, for us to limit our child’s acquaintances. We should teach our children to be polite and courteous to every acquaintance. Their job is not to “change” or even attempt to have a major influence on this type of friend, but they will have some type of an effect, so encourage them to be shining the love of Jesus. One never knows when there will be an opportunity to witness to them.

Second, there are casual friends. While anyone and everyone can be an acquaintance, casual friendships are typically formed around a common interest or a shared activity. Those on the same soccer team, who like the same TV program or who ride to school on the same bus can become casual friends. You, as parents, have casual friends, those who send their children to the same school or who play tennis at the same court, or love to garden like you do.

With casual friends, you do have an influence and are able to ask more specific questions as you learn about them and have the opportunity to invest into their lives. Your children will both influence and be influenced by casual friends. Some casual friends are a more negative influence and time with them should be limited and monitored. However, most casual friends give your child an opportunity to learn appropriate interpersonal behavior. As a parent, proactively advise your children as they develop friendships to be aware of the influences their casual friends have on their attitudes and actions.

The next level of friendship is the close friend. Typically with a close friend you not only have similar interests or a shared activity, but you also have similar goals, a strong agreement in philosophy, or correlating points of view. These friends are generally “picked out” from among your casual friends. For children especially, close friends will have a much greater influence than casual friends. Parents will want to keep an eye on the close friends that their children choose. These friends should positively influence your child, if not, help your child understand the effect this close friend is having and recommend (and reinforce) they spend less time together. In general, while not always the case, close friends chosen from your Church or Christian School community will share more values in common.

Finally there are intimate friends. These friends are few and far between. This type of friendship involves demonstrating the love of Christ through commitment and sacrifice despite circumstances, disappointments, obstacles or offenses.  Adults may develop intimate friends but children rarely do. In general, children are still growing in their ability to demonstrate Christ-like character and are often self-focused which limits their ability to develop intimate friendships.

We do need to have acquaintances and casual friends who do not share our Christian values and we should be intentional to be witnesses to these friends. Yet our close and intimate friends should share similar goals and our belief in Christ, so these friends can help fulfill Hebrews 10:24 and we can motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

Because your children are still under your guidance, parents will need to monitor all friendships. Neglecting to monitor a child’s close relationships could lead to trouble, especially with close friends who are not having a good influence or do not share our belief in Christ.

Having friends is far more than clicking on an “accept” button on a social network. Some friendships will bring your child heartache and some will bring them great joy and wonderful memories. Stay on top of your children’s relationships and help them discern different levels of friendships so they can make wise choices on who will influence them the most.

Mark Strohm

Mark Strohm

Mark is a devoted Christ follower. He is husband to Ellen, father to a son and three daughters, and grandfather to 9. He holds a Masters of Education in school leadership and has been a teacher and school principal. He has served on Church staffs working with parents and children. His ministry spans over 30 years.
Mark Strohm

Latest posts by Mark Strohm (see all)

OUR Mother’s Day Poem

Would you add to this poem by commenting below? Please don’t add commentary, just add:

A Crisp Single Sentence About A Mother’s Hand – how her hand has affected your life!

It will read better if you refrain from commentary and just put down your sentence! Don’t worry about some of the lines sounding redundant. Put down an experience about your mother’s hand!

A Mother’s Hand

By All of Us

A Mother’s Hand

Applies ointment on a skinned knee

Wipes tears with her thumb

Holds us firmly when we are afraid

Gently nudges us when we need courage

Gives high  fives in our victory

Stuns us into submission

(add your sentence below in comment field)

Don’t Be Displaced As Your Child’s Major Influencer

Truth that leads to Godliness, Titus 1:1

Let no one deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:4,8

I am concerned about what I believe to be the “virtual” displacement of parents. In our world today, parents have ceased to be the major influence on their children.
When parents are displaced, their children no longer believe what their parents believe and they are more susceptible to abuse. Years ago there were communes where children were considered common property. In these communes the children were taught by the “selected caretakers,” thereby displacing parental influence. In many of these communes children were easily molded and taught according to the desires of the commune leaders, often a different a belief system or a moral code from their parents. This parental displacement virtually stripped the parents of their natural function of passing down a moral code. It also opened the door for child abuse, including sexual abuse. I believe this pattern was seen in Nazi Germany, in communist nations and in cult groups throughout history.

Today in America, children do not appear to be out from parental authority and influence. They are in the same house, attend church with their parents and perhaps even eat together. Today’s family appears to be functioning normally, but we are beginning to see warning signs of “virtual displacement of parents.”

No, we do not have children being taken out of the home or being forced to attend schools specifically designed to indoctrinate. However we do have many children involved in schooling that is disconnected to parental authority and accountable only to outside governing bodies. Recently political battles have been shaping up to determine just who does and does not have control of the school systems.

Besides the school battle, many parents are also losing their influence due to a never ending flow of media. In years past, media was screened by parents. Even if they had no desire to watch what Jr. had on TV, the fact that by necessity televisions were centrally located in the home giving parents the opportunity to hear/monitor the content and subsequently allowed them to comment on different shows. Record albums were purchased through a process that typically included parents bringing a child to the store, overseeing the purchase and then the album was played on a stereo system. This process gave parents plenty of opportunity to monitor and influence. Reading materials were either borrowed from a library or purchased and read in view of parents subject to parental scrutiny.  Even conversations were in person or on a centrally located phone, creating a certain “public” nature making them nearly impossible to hide from parents.

With advancement of technology there are simply too many avenues of obtaining and viewing media overwhelming parents ability to monitor.  Technologies range from mp3 players, laptops, cell phones, on line game systems, multiple TVs connected to cable, etc. “Videos” that can be watched on YouTube, Hulu, via cable, streaming Netflix, etc.  Music or radio options abound with the invention of iPods and music streaming. With the internet and social networks children are reading materials never seen by parents. Even conversations are now on small phones that fit into a child’s pocket. Text conversations now flow directly to and from the child without any parental knowledge of the content or even who the child is communicating with.

As a result, parents are no longer aware of the  deceptive philosophies continuously being presented to their children. Unfortunately, this virtual displacement of parents is destined to bring about the same consequences of other historical parental displacements. Children will not believe what their parents do and many will be abused, including sexually. Without being aware, parents are missing key opportunities to teach their children Truth that leads to Godliness.

We live in a day and time where it is no longer true that if you: love your kids, bring them to church, live by example then you can trust God to help everything turn out fine. Instead, parents need to rise up and take charge! Parents need to be more involved than ever. Not in a controlling way, but rather in a protective way.

May God raise up a group of mighty, loving, Biblically centric parents able to meet the task of parenting children in today’s world!

See also: http://colossians2.com/2011/03/27/taking-charge/

Prepare Your Children For Today’s Technology

For years parents have protected children from the dangers of powerful tools.  The tools are not in and of themselves dangerous, but their power makes them dangerous in the hands of immature individuals.

We would never let our 13 year old drive our car on the highway nor let our 10 year old have unrestricted access to a gun.  We teach our children the proper way to use knives and axes.  But, for some reason, parents have failed to realize the power of today’s technology.  Not recognizing that the computer is also a powerful tool, many parents underestimate the dangers and consequently the devastation that this tool of power can cause.

Fire Prevention is an excellent example of how families, communities and government have worked together to protect our children. Fire in and of itself is not evil. We love the warmth we get from fires. I am sure that the energy, warmth and hot water created by fire save lives every day. No doubt that its value makes it indispensable.  But there is a dark side to fire. It can scar, ruin and even take lives.  Because of the danger of fire we presently have many laws as well as building codes to help protect us from this dark side. If children are allowed near fire they are taught to respect it and understand the dangers.

I view technology in much the same way. It has proven to be of great value, saving lives every day. Even people who complain about an “over stimulated” culture would throw a fit if their credit card purchase was not instantly approved even at the smallest of retailers. If there was a life saving device made possible by technology, you know even the biggest of technology nay sayers would demand the critical treatment.  But there is a dark side to technology. It can scar, ruin and even take lives. Unfortunately the same laws and protective measures our forefathers took to protect us from the danger of fire, our present society has been reluctant to duplicate regarding technology.

Today’s families need to step up to the challenge and actively protect their children. In Corinthians 9 it states: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

I pray that when it comes to technology we do not “run like someone running aimlessly” but instead “go into strict training” for a “crown that will last forever,”  protecting our children is worth the effort!

For more information on protecting your child visit: http://CyberSafetySeminar.com.

We Should Be In The Race To Win

Part 1
I Corinthians 9:24 – 27
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (NIV)

At dinner tonight my wife and I were reflecting on our son’s cross country career. His cross country running lasted only 4 years. After his freshmen year of college cross country he decided running 9 miles a day was not his idea of great fun.

Last week I was in a meeting with an individual who really does enjoy running 9 miles a day. A while ago, after discovering some medical issues caused by his unhealthy lifestyle, he decided he needed to lose weight and get himself in shape. Though you would never know it to look at him, he once weighed over 300 pounds. Now he is lean and looks very much like a long distance runner. He told me that he works very hard to stay in his shape is now able to run one and a half marathons in a weekend.

I have had the privilege to share parenting skills and Biblical perspectives with many parents over the years. One of the most important principles you can teach your child is to recognize the importance of denying him or herself. Parents, you make sacrifices and you “deny yourself” in order to help your child grow and mature physically, emotionally and spiritually. You recognize your child needs to have clear limits and protections and for a season you have to set these limits. However, as they mature, they must learn to set limits for themselves. You will need to guide them, direct them and hold them accountable in setting and keeping these limits and then challenge them to regularly practice the discipline of denying themselves. Eventually, they will be on their own, accountable to God alone, and hopefully they will have learned that denying themselves is actually a blessing and not a curse!

At age 19 my son was not willing to pay the price to be a cross country athlete. The young man I met in a meeting last week was willing to pay the price to run but was already suffering consequences for not living a healthy life. Parents, one thing that has concerned me is a lack of understanding the importance of training children in the basic Biblical truth of denying ourselves for a greater good. Your children depend on you to teach and train them in Biblical principles that will bring blessing in their lives.
In II Timothy 2:20, 21 it says ” In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

I know the task of bringing up your precious children is challenging and I pray that you will help your child prepare for the Master’s good work!

Next blog entry will be on applying this principle to our children’s internet use.

Mark

The Lord Looks At The Heart

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height…The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

Ten or fifteen years ago when I taught Junior High I would carry a bell and every time a student used the word “like” I would ring it. Now I hear students use more visually oriented words. Hearing “Last night ‘I watched,’ ‘I saw,’ ‘I YouTubed,’” is so common. Students often refer to someone on a reality TV show by their physical characteristics. He is the “hot one,” “chubby one,” “tall, thin, dark haired one,” and on and on it goes; it is as if no one has a name. It seems like sight is the dominant sense in today’s media saturated younger generation and for those accustomed to viewing most everything, they are more focused on the “outside appearance” than ever before.
For Christians this trend is a concern. Knowing that one’s true self is not represented by what is seen on the outside but by what is unseen, character and the fruit of the Spirit; parents have a challenge in training their children to think more as God thinks in this area. We have used several simple strategies to train our own children and might be helpful to others.

Points for parents to emphasize:

1. Praise your children for things that they have control over. Use praise to highlight good character and effort. Do not praise them for being “beautiful” or “smart” or for excelling at athletics. Praise them for hard work, for studying or dedication to their team. If you praise children for what they have control over you help them focus on what is truly important.

2. Minimize emphasis on physical characteristics. My wife is short, but she does not think of herself as short. I forget that she is short, except when she needs help reaching things in the kitchen. Her parents never emphasized her shortness. Avoid the temptation to label your child by a physical characteristic.

3. Know what’s real. Help your children recognize that very often the images portrayed in magazine ads and TV commercials are not real. Their favorite stars don’t really look like the photos because the pictures are often digitally altered to minimize flaws or de-emphasize less attractive features.

4. Cultivate an eternal perspective. As Christians it is important for us to help our children recognize that they are not the “shell” God has temporarily placed them in. Help your child understand the reality that their life here on earth and the body that goes with it is temporary, here for a short time, then gone, but the godly character they develop will not disappear and will live on in eternity.

Parents, you cannot change your child’s physical characteristics, but you can help them develop a healthy self-acceptance and encourage them to develop godly character. We should take a lesson from our Heavenly Father who does not focus on the temporary shell, but on our eternal “heart.”

Paul’s Charge

I Timothy 6:20-21 (New Living Translation) “Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness. May God’s grace be with you all.”

This charge from Paul to the younger Timothy is a multifaceted charge. Just as the military is charged to guard that which is extremely important, so Paul instructs Timothy to guard not what Paul or Timothy’s parents or Christian leaders have entrusted him but what God has entrusted to Timothy.

Paul gives some clarification of what is to be guarded when he uses the word “guard” again in the first chapter of 2 Timothy, in verses 13 and 14, “Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.”

Parents who love their children will give them a “pattern of wholesome teaching” so that they will be entrusted with and guard the truth, through the Holy Spirit.

As instruction regarding how to guard the truth, Paul then follows up with some things to avoid. He challenged Timothy to avoid godless, foolish discussions and to avoid those who oppose him with so- called knowledge. These are excellent charges for parents to give to their children. Each of these charges will help our youth guard God’s truth. Our children should avoid the godless, those things which are worldly, ungodly or unclean. Then avoid vain, empty, hollow arguments. Untrained children and Christian youth face a real danger in their tendency to fall into the snares of ungodly individuals who appear to be knowledgeable, but instead are really foolish by denying the truth.

We need to actively teach our children to “Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior,” 2 Timothy 2:16.

Preparing our children to be messengers who will guard what Christ entrusts to them includes training on how one guards, as well as training to recognize and avoid the snares of the world. As the New Year begins I pray each parent will take seriously the teaching and training charge found in Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Ellen and I pray that God will equip you to do your part, as you prepare your child to be a messenger and protector of truth. May you wholeheartedly teach and train. May you never tire in repeating God’s commands again and again. May God bring teaching moments at home, on the road, when your children go to bed and when they are getting up. May God help you as you lead and guide your precious children.

Better Than Gold

I am thinking about the Olympics and the training and instruction of our children. Olympic champions rise to the top through a combination of their God given talent and a HUGE amount of drive.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” I Corinthians 9:24-27

Parents, your efforts are to be focused on far more than winning Olympic Gold, dedicate yourself to daily training your children to “Run in such a way as to get the prize” – eternal life through Jesus Christ.  I believe Christian parents experience success through a combination of  total dependence on God coupled with a consuming desire to train and instruct their children in His ways.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

Mark and Ellen Strohm

Seed Corn

cornIt has been some time since I have walked through Illinois corn fields with my dog.  I love the Pennsylvania rolling hills and green trees but every once in a while I do miss the vastness of acre upon acre of corn.

For the most part the acres of corn are never touched by a farmer’s hand.  Machines turn over the ground, plant, weed, spray and harvest the corn.  Farmers simply do not have enough time to mess with the corn stalks.  That is except for the select stalks they intend to use for seed corn.  There is a distinct difference between the ways Illinois farmers treat their seed corn verses their feed corn.

While the farmer seems to place much concern on efficiency, carefully watching costs, his seed corn gets great care.  Seed corn rows are carefully marked, have special farm equipment to detassle, get the best fertilizer and irrigation systems.  It is not uncommon to see individuals walking through rows inspecting the seed corn.

While I have never interviewed a farmer as to why the difference in treatment I personally have several reasons why Ellen and I have spent so much time and money on our children – our seed corn.  Over the years many have questioned why Ellen and I have invested so much into our children including providing Christian school, missions trips, Christian camps, Christian clubs, Sunday School, hour upon hour of teaching and training some of these at great financial cost and time investment.  Just like the farmer who takes great care and expense out of concern for the future, so Ellen and I have chosen to invest in our children to provide for their futures.  We truly believe Psalms 127:3 which states: “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.”  How could we possibly treat a heritage any differently?

In Deuteronomy 11:18-21 God encourages his people to “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”  Cleary God also sees sons and daughters as the farmer sees his “seed corn” worthy of a higher investment than the time and money we put into mere objects. 

Proverbs 22:6 declares we should “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Thank you for your investment in the lives of your children.  Thanks not only for providing a Christian School education, but thanks for bringing them to Church each Sunday, for teaching and correcting them according to God’s Word.  

Since your children may not thank you for all you do, allow me to commend you for all the extra effort you invest in your children.

May God’s grace and peace be with you, especially as you invest and take extra care for your little “seed corn plants,”

Mark Strohm, Jr.
Elementary Principal
Delaware County Christian School

Merry Christmas

May God’s love, so powerfully shown to us through sending His son to earth, be made real to you and your family this Christmas.

Mark and Ellen Strohm