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Q. I’m a mother raising three teenage boys on my own and I’m totally overwhelmed. The kids have taken over the house, and I am unable to discipline or control them. What should I do?

A. It is very difficult, as a single parent of the opposite sex, to create and maintain the kind of positive relationship that will encourage your sons to navigate the turbulent teen years successfully. Being overwhelmed under the circumstances is normal, and it follows that you cannot do it alone and must seek the help of a professional family therapist who would be able to coach you and your sons toward becoming a healthier family.

In the meantime, here are some pointers to think about, and possibly discuss with your sons, depending on their ages: First, it is your job to be the “executive” of the family, and it will help if you think of yourself as being in charge, regardless of what you feel. Arm yourself with knowledge and learn as much as you can about parenting teens by consulting experts such as Barbara Coloroso’s book Kids Are Worth It. Take a parenting class if one is offered in your area. As the executive, you have the right to set rules and insist they be obeyed—or else. With teens age 16 or older, the “or else” part essentially means that you will not allow them to live with you in your house unless they abide by your rules. Rules for older teens, however, should be minimal, should enhance their safety and well-being, and should be designed to help them develop responsibility.

Second, understand that you cannot create good behavior, and that you can only limit bad behavior by insisting your kids obey your good rules. But do model good behavior by treating your boys with respect (no yelling), and by living well yourself. Take good care of yourself and your house or apartment and live responsibly and with joy. Have balance in your life by cultivating interests and maintaining good friendships.

Third, let the boys know you care about them. Be interested in what goes on in their lives, but also be prepared to accept the heightened need for privacy that characterizes the teen years.

Last, forgive yourself for mistakes made. Take the long view. Accept that teens can be all over the map with their emotions and have tons of energy that is not always well directed. Fortunately, most of them do grow up to become responsible and likeable adults.

And, of course, love them and pray for them often.

—Judy Cook


Q. Our pastor informed the council and congregation that, after much prayer and reflection, God had revealed to him what direction our church should go. How can we respond? If we disagree, we’ll appear to be unspiritual.

A. This is really nothing new. Religious leaders in our Savior’s day also asserted that when they spoke God agreed. Sometimes Jesus had a different perspective and freely expressed it. Although they should never be closed to a new ministry direction, congregations themselves should develop a ministry plan and call pastors who are willing to help them reach their goals. Too frequently congregations shift directions with each new pastor. Not surprisingly, members are not very willing to follow the new pastor and his new direction because they know that in five to eight years someone else will be taking them somewhere else.

Pastors should not play the “spiritual trump card" of “God told me what direction this congregation should go” but should be attentive to the history, context, gifts, and interests of the people they serve. Councils should be extremely cautious when pastors use “God language” and their own authority to get their own way. Dr. John Maxwell put it well when he said, “Pastors who think they are leading when no one is following are only taking a walk.”

—George Vander Weit


Q. Is God’s call on my life only about work?

A. In short, no. There may be times when it feels that way, as when the workload extends into nights and weekends or when the easiest way to define oneself in the prime of life is by means of job or career. But if you think about the common span of many peoples’ lives, there are years of preparation for future work and then on the other end, years when work fades into the mists of personal history. Regardless of day-to-day activity, however, the gifts and the calling remain. Purpose doesn’t ebb over time, as the psalmist states so well in Psalm 71:18, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” Psalm 92:14 talks about bearing fruit in old age.

I remember my 90-year-old grandmother well in this regard. Though confined to a room in a retirement home, her sweet spirit emerged to a greater degree than when she was younger and more mobile. In looking around her tidy room, you couldn’t help but notice her well-worn Bible always within reading range, the source of a sweetness she didn’t need words to express. Through her calm inner beauty, she ministered to the next generation.

—Bonnie Speyers

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