When I was a kid my grandmother used to gather all the grandkids every now and then to measure our heights on the pantry door.  She would carefully take her pencil and mark a spot on the door to see how tall we had grown since our last visit.  That old pantry door on Wheat Street in Columbia held the growth history of so many of our family members.  I sure do miss that old pantry door.

There are lots of ways we can measure the growth and maturity of a young man.  From shoe size to height and even a child’s waste grows bigger.  During the teen years, physical growth is inevitable.  But it’s the growth of a young man or woman’s mind and spirit that are of the most importance.  As a father, it’s my responsibility and privilege to raise my sons to mature and be fully devoted followers of Christ.  Just as Matthew 2:52 says that Jesus grew in favor with God and man – that’s my hope for my boys.

This summer many pre-teen and teenage guys spent their summer in front of a screen playing Fortnight.  That was not the case for Anderson & Ellis.  There was so much more for them to learn outside.  I encouraged (or should I say…prodded) them to build on the little lawn mowing business they started last summer.  In 2017 they learned to mow yards and helped a couple of homeowners keep up their yards throughout the summer.  This summer their business exploded.  They worked in at least twelve yards and many of those were regular clients.  They probably did a total of 30-40 yards in less than three months.  The boys took turns on the riding mower, push mower, and blower while I helped them handle the weed eater/edger.  I charged them $5 per yard to help them and to cover the cost of their gas.  It was a tough gig.  No doubt about that.  Many of their homes were done in the late afternoons after I got off work and they often didn’t end until it was too dark outside to see the grass.  While other teenagers were out hanging with their friends and playing video games, these two boys were up to their necks in lawn clippings, sweat, and gasoline fumes.  Dad was pretty worn too.

So, why in the world does a 12 year old and 14 year old need to mow 40 yards in a summer?  Here are a few reasons why I made them do it:

  1.  It got them off the couch.
  2.  They learned valuable skills.
  3.  They were able to be outside and get exercise.
  4.  They earned money (a lot of money for their age).
  5.  They learned to tithe off their income.
  6.  They learned the value of a dollar and how best to save/spend it.
  7.  They learned to speak with clients and say simple things like “please” and “thank you.”
  8. They learned what it means to keep a commitment.  Often they would think of something they would prefer to do, but they always knew the right thing to do was go mow a yard they committed to cut.
  9. A few times they recruited a few friends to help them on big jobs.  It gave them the chance to show other guys the value of working hard and earning money…so i guess they had employees.
  10. AND It really helped my relationship with the boys.  Though I pushed them hard this summer – none of us will ever forget the long hours we spent in 2018 mowing yards all over Florence.

If you have an older child or teenager in your home, help them get away from the screens and put them to work.  The generation coming after us will never learn the value of money and a hard work ethic if we don’t teach them.  It’s better that they learn to work hard at 12 than still be living at home at 30.  My prayer is that the hard work of parenting that Ashley and I do now will lead to the joy of seeing them launch well in a few short years into adulthood.  This summer my boys grew taller and stronger, but I really measured their manhood by the yard (yard after yard that they cut).

One more thing…I need to give a big thank you to Ashley for keeping us fed, hydrated (and sane).  And thank you to Randy Welch for keeping the lawn mowers running.  Those machines took a beating and it sure did help having a great lawn mower mechanic around.

For decades Ebenezer has taken an annual trip into the woods for a summer camping retreat.  It’s been called names like Deliverance and Survivor.  Sometimes these trips have included crazy games and competitions – and other times it’s just been a fun camping trip.  Youth Group trips and traditions change over time, but the purpose is always the same.  The purpose of a great youth ministry retreat is to get time away with students to give them the space they need to spend time alone with God.  Our lives are so fast and so full, that often we don’t leave space for the Lord.  I love serving churches that see the value in sending students and volunteers away on retreats.  It gives teenagers space to worship and see more clearly the glory of our risen Savior.  My prayer is that the things they learn while away on retreat will translate to making more time for the Lord when they’re home.  Whether we call it Survivor, Deliverance or Wildlife – the purpose is still the same: students…out in nature…enjoying Jesus together.  Check out the highlight video from this week’s trip to the Nolichucky and Green Rivers in Tennessee & North Carolina.

This summer Ashley and I had the opportunity to return to Honduras for another summer serving on our church’s medical mission team. This was my fifth time in Honduras, but our first time serving with our son. It truly was a joy being able to take our teenage son on his first foreign mission trip after seventeen years of taking other teenagers. This is the highlight video of our 2018 trip. Check it out.