Saturday, March 22, 2014

A TRAGEDY: Teens Unprepared for Life... and Eternity

A TRAGEDY: Teens Unprepared for Life... and Eternity, by Douglas Bond
Book Review: Preparing Your Teens for College (Alex Chediak, Tyndale, 2014)

Given the statistics, every Christian parent ought to be horrified at the prospect of sending their children off to college. If the collaborative statistics about young people between the ages of thirteen and twenty-nine can be even partially trustworthy, Christian parents have every reason to be seriously concerned about what lies ahead for our young people. The grim news: 60% of twenty-somethings who went to church when they were kids, the studies indicate, when they reach their enlightened twenties no longer have any connection to church. It gets worse.

Studies reveal that of the minority who do still manage to drag out to a church service once a week in their twenties, a statistical majority of them shop for a church that emphasizes youth relevance rather than a biblical Christ-centered approach to preaching and ministry. The studies conclude that 55% who do go to church are more interested in hanging out with their friends rather than knowing the God revealed in the Bible. Again, it gets worse. When our young people are asked what the gospel is, far too many stammer out an anemic limp-wristed explanation, a “therapeutic moralistic deism,” rather than the radical good news of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

The lives of too many who have grown up in Christian homes are a three-act tragedy: Act I: Life in the home aping their Christian parents; Act II: Life in the world feeding pigs and thinking they’re having a jolly time; Act III: Eternity.

Every honest Christian parent knows the story, a tragedy: another Christian family horrified, heart-broken, and humiliated at the rebellion and defection of one or more of their children. Presumptive self-confidence in our parental faithfulness notwithstanding, one of our children will be next, perhaps all the more likely so because of our delusional certainty that it only happens to other people’s kids.

A significant chunk of my motivation for writing my books for Fathers and Sons to read together came from tragic encounters with externally conforming church kids chucking their presumed faith over the rail, Christian parents grieving the rebellion of their kids, or, perhaps worse, their shrugging indifference to the gospel. And then there’s the worst of all: the externally conforming moralist, who lives two parallel lives, who looks like the rule-keeping elder brother on the outside—goes to youth group, goes to church, goes on mission trips, goes off to Christian college—but in secret is living with the pigs. And then the tragic tale begins to unravel.  

Given the prevalence of this three-act teen tragedy, what ought Christian parents to do? Drop everything and read Alex Chediak’s new book Preparing Your Teens for College.
Alex’s latest book “is a comprehensive survival manual on getting teens ready for whatever comes after high school.” Dr. Chediak, a professor in a Christian college, covers the entire range of issues parents need to know about college—and about their kids. He has laid the book out in six sections: Character, Faith, Relationships, Finances, Academics, and the College Decision itself. I like his emphasis on talking with our children, and continue talking with them, especially continue talking with them if they are the strong, silent male types (like two of my six), organize life around keeping the lines of communication wide open. 

Chediak covers such conversations as “training teens to take initiative, accept correction, delay gratification, and be firm in their Christian convictions while gracious towards those with other beliefs.” He writes about the importance of instilling in our children discernment in relationships and about establishing friendships that build up their faith, not tear it down. He covers the importance of maintaining an intentional purity in relationships with members of the opposite sex.  

Among the many other challenges facing Christian teens, our young people are growing up as members of what is being called Generation Broke. So it is extremely helpful when Chediak takes on the topic of money. College is expensive (one of my sons begins law school in the autumn and is married to a wonderful Christian girl—who attended a Christian college, one that encouraged her to go into tremendous debt for her college education, so I care a great deal about this topic). He helps parents help their teens learn to manage their money and how to practice financial stewardship. If they haven’t already, they will be getting credit cards in the mail, free money for the taking—and for taking away freedom. Chediak gives practical guidelines and strategies for avoiding the pitfalls of consumer debt and excessive student loan debt. 

But what about right now, the years immediately before college? Throughout the book Chediak helps parents prepare their teens for college by helping them motivate their young people to doing all their work as unto the Lord; he urges teens to use their high school years more intentionally, as a time to discover and nurture their academic talents and other interests. I appreciate the fact that Chediak, a college professor, does not make the blunder of assuming that all of our children ought to be planning to go to college (73% of college graduates who do get jobs, get jobs doing something they would not have needed their degree to do). He provides helpful encouragement that can aid parents and teens in making careful decisions about whether to pursue a four-year college, a two-year college, technical trade school, or other forms of vocational training. 

The book is enhanced by unique features that I found helpful: practical sidebars, tips, and links to other resources for studying specific topics in more detail; testimonials from the lives of real teens which demonstrate the principles explored in the book. Every chapter concludes with study guide questions—good ones! So often questions are less than helpful in books I have read that include them. But not this one. These questions help parents engage in meaningful conversations, ones designed specifically to preparing them for college. 

I do take issue a bit with the title. Chediak and his publisher may have sold themselves short. Preparing Teens for Life, might work better, in my opinion. Or it could have a subtitle: Ending the Tragedy. I applaud Alex for writing such a useful and compelling book, one I highly recommend for parents who are serious about preparing their young people for lives of joyful gratitude for the unmerited mercy of Jesus. 

Douglas Bond, is a PCA ruling elder, high school teacher, and author of STAND FAST In the Way of Truth, and HOLD FAST In a Broken World, and other books for young people and adults. Learn more at

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