Hurt by Fake Fellowship

Hurt by Fake Fellowship
Scene one: You decide to visit a new church, as your existing church doesn’t feel like home. So, after guessing what time the service starts (naturally the church doesn’t have an answering machine telling you service times, and there are no cellphone numbers posted on the website for you to contact over the weekend), you discover you are 30 minutes early. After trying to bide some time in the car, you enter the church looking for a welcoming face – any face – to make eye contact with. Hmm…you could just as well be Casper the friendly ghost! You take a seat, exchanging brief (fake) smiles with the people around you, wishing they would take a quick break from their animated conversations to just say hello. After the service ends, you muster up the courage to stand at the visitor’s table, hoping someone, (anyone!) will speak to you for more than one minute…Sadly, it doesn’t happen and you leave that church feeling lonelier than ever before, never to return.
Shallow relationships
Scene two: You are a small group leader in your church, a valued contributor to the Body of Christ and an all round ‘nice person’. Yet, (strangely?) your leaders never socialise with you outside of ‘church functions’ and you know for a fact that even after five years of serving with them, they still don’t know your surname! No matter how many times you invite them for coffee or try to build deeper friendships, all you seem to get is a barrage of (fake) excuses. You have reached your wits end and are now contemplating joining a ‘home church’…
Unreliable friends
Scene three: You love the Lord, you love your church, you have fantastic Christian friends and overall, life is great. Then, one night you need help – you’re on the N2 with a burst tyre. You scroll through your phone calling your brothers and sisters in Christ, but none of them can assist. All are too busy – some even busy praying! Next month, you need a lift to the airport. Again, not one single Christian can help – they are apologetic of course – but at the end of the day, you end up phoning that one unsaved friend that you know ALWAYS helps you out and NEVER makes excuses, realising that (tragically) your Christian friends are never there for you bar Sunday morning services. You sit at home alone wondering why?
Deeply-rooted hurt
Scene four: You plan a birthday dinner, seeing it as a fantastic opportunity for your unsaved friends to mingle with ‘normal’ Christians. You invite your friends and cell group members weeks in advance, eagerly anticipating a successful event. The day of your celebration approaches, and even though you are supposed to be excited, the numerous calls and sms’ flooding in are dampening the mood.
Excuses like, “I have too much work to do” (on a Saturday night?) and “We just feel that we need to spend quality time at home together” (what about spending that time together the night before and instead using this event to bless your friend and reach out to the unsaved?) fail to bring any comfort. Eventually you turn your cellphone off, as you cannot bear the disappointment any longer. Once again, all your Christian friends have let you down when you needed them most. Anger and hurt starts to grow in your heart and you no longer want to attend that cell group…any wonder why?
Do these stories sound like the exaggerated ramblings of a bitter Christian with rejection issues? No – these are just a few of the weekly experiences of hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide. Heartbreaking, isn’t it?

Necessary forgiveness
As a Christian of 15 years, having visited and attended many churches over the years, I too have been a victim of ‘fake fellowship’ and felt the devastating consequences it can have on people.
 Maybe you are reading this article, nodding along and mulling over your own experiences. Or perhaps you can’t identify with these stories and are tempted to turn the page. Please read on and allow the Holy Spirit to show you instances when you have either been hurt (and need to release that hurt and forgive) or moments when you have hurt others (possibly unknowingly) by making false promises and exuding fake behaviour.
Why all the pretence?
One of the contributing factors towards fake fellowship is simply, the pace of life. Our busy schedules (seem to) simply rule out deep and meaningful friendships. Influential Christian publisher, Steve Strang (of New Man Magazine and the Strang Publishing group) has this to say: “You work 50 to 60-hour weeks. On weekends, you shuttle the kids to their sports practices and playdates. On Saturday nights, if you’re lucky, you get a babysitter so that you and your significant other can engage in that ritual meant to keep things zesty – ‘date night’- but at times you long for another type of date. Perhaps, during those rare moments you have for reflection, when your fingers are not working your BlackBerry as you sit in traffic, you think about how your social life has changed (or ­evaporated) since you were a fun-loving unsaved varsity student. Fading friendships among women and men in particular, is a huge problem that I believe requires serious attention. When it comes to living the Christian life, lone rangers are sitting ducks. I believe most men want close friends in spite of the fact that, as a group, men tend to process things more individually than women might do. Even though much of a man’s life is spent projecting a confident, ‘handle-whatever-comes’   image, deep down he doesn’t like being an island.” 
No man is an island
The problem is that many of us don’t know how to be vulnerable, and even if we did, we wouldn’t want to be! Vulnerability involves real risk. I’m sure most men would rather hang glide, bungee jump, shoot whitewater rapids or skydive before they would open up with somebody about their real life struggles.
Men need to be discipled by other men who will commit to spend more time with them, hear their problems, pray with them, stick with them through thick and thin and encourage them to grow and become new men in Christ, fulfilling their God-given destinies.
Most men haven’t been trained to be friends with others. And the devil tries to exploit men by keeping them in a type of solitary confinement. One of the deep needs in a man’s life is masculine companionship.Gordon MacDonald puts it this way: “We were built for intimacy, this linkage of souls, but most of us men rarely experience it. And its scarcity breeds loneliness (I don’t really know anyone) and fuels remoteness (No one really knows me).”

Loving God; loving others
It is not only men who suffer from isolation and loneliness. Women and youth of all ages experience it too. Competition and a spirit of comparison is rife within the church, with Christians often subtly excluding those whom they feel intimidated by. Many times I have heard people say, “Oh we didn’t invite you because we knew you would be busy”, or “Um, sorry I couldn’t make your dinner party…I forgot about some stuff I had to do, and my phone was dead and blah blah blah…”
Unfortunately, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, excuses like these are not good enough. If we are to model Jesus to the world, it starts with us modelling Jesus to one another. Jesus is the epitome of love, honesty, integrity and respect. How are we respecting people if we easily ‘ditch’ them when something better comes along, or we don’t feel like meeting new people and so, cancel at the last minute?
Fellowship is costly
Hundreds of thousands of precious people are leaving our churches because they are hurt. Sometimes, the hurt is self-inflicted, but most times, that hurt is due to fake fellowship. Hypocrisy is the silent sin that eats away at our witness. If we are to truly see revival in our homes, our communities and our country, it starts with people humbling themselves before God and loving others as Christ has loved us. (1 John 4:18-20)
True, life-changing fellowship is costly. It will cost us our time, our efforts, often our pride (as we fellowship with people we would not normally) and it will cost us our hearts. Where your treasure is, is where your heart is. When we die, we can’t take anything with us, but the souls we led to Jesus and the lives we touched with God’s love. Let us not be fooled, – a man reaps what he sows (Gal) – if you want true fellowship, start sowing it!
Spirit-led fellowship
As churches get bigger, the need for order in the services takes a higher priority.  Gone is the loving shepherd who knows the name of every person in the church.  Now we have executives who command a staff of professionals delivering five services each Sunday. While these services are entertaining and often educational, they bear no resemblance to the gathering of Christians in the New Testament. In those days (as it should be today) Christians prayed together, met regularly in each other’s homes and served one another in love. Remember it shouldn’t be a ‘duty’, but rather joy.
Genuinely genuine
Though it is normal and unavoidable to develop small groups of preferred friends, cliques must be avoided at all costs. Challenge yourself to meet one new person every week at church – and don’t just stop there – get to know this person outside of the church building and please, do NOT stop being their friend should they decide to leave your church or should they tragically fall into sin and backslide. Dumping people who don’t attend your church programmes is the WORST kind of fake fellowship there is! Genuine Christian fellowship is…genuine. It is voluntary in every respect.  It has real problems and real pain with real friends showing real love through real prayer and real help. Sincere Christian fellowship can’t happen a couple hours a week…it’s a full-time commitment. Through the Grace of God, the love of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, let us reinstate sincere Christian fellowship today!.
Solutions for true fellowship
• Search your heart and ask God for forgiveness  if you have been fake. Forgive those who  have hurt you with their  
   false friendships.
• (Gently) challenge your minister to do a teaching on genuine fellowship and Christian love. It is imperative that we
   as the Body of Christ, reflect true Godly love for one another. Non-believers will spot hypocrisy from a mile away
   and believers will leave our churches and even the faith due to insincere, unreliable friendships.
• Speak to your pastor about starting a social gathering ‘club’ that will encourage people to fellowship in a friendly
   and inclusive environment.
• Share this article with others and model a lifestyle of genuine friendship. Speak out (in love) against insincere
• Pray and seek God.


The God who created the universe, and each one of us, is sovereign and ruler over all.  He lovingly provides us with life, health, talents, gifts and opportunities and He justly commands each one of us to worship and obey Him.
God will judge each one of us.  He will punish the wicked and He will reward the faithful.  An eternal hell awaits the unrepentant.  A glorious Heaven is promised to all who truly repent of their sins, trust Christ alone for Salvation and follow the Word of God in obedience.
Have you always loved the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? 
Have you always loved your neighbour and done unto others what you would have them do unto you?
Have you ever told a lie?
Have you ever taken something that did not belong to you?
Have you ever looked with lust, or envied others?
If so, you have broken the Law of God and deserve eternal Judgement.
The Word of God warns us: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderous, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Rev 21:8
The heart of the Gospel is a changed life in Christ. But each one of us must make a choice. God will change your life and your eternal destiny – you must choose to trust and obey Christ.  The Lord Jesus Christ declared: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it!” Luke 11:28 You have heard the Word of God – are you obeying it? 
God is a holy God and His righteous standards are seen in His Law.  Man is sinful and we need to repent from our wickedness and trust in Christ.  This repentance and faith is to be evident in obedience to Christ, a willingness to sacrifice and to suffer persecution for Christ.  To those who turn to Him in repentance and faith, God promises great blessings, rewards and eternal life.
The Lord Jesus Christ began His public ministry with these words: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Matt 4:17 Our Lord Jesus declared that He had come to call “sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32 Our Lord Jesus Christ, before He returned to Heaven, commanded His followers: “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name to all nations…” Luke 24:47
Over a century ago General Booth, of the Salvation Army, warned that a time may come when churches will preach a Saviour without a Cross, Salvation without repentance, Heaven without hell and Christianity without holiness.
Salvation is by the grace of God alone, received by faith alone, on the basis of Christ’s blood- atonement on the Cross of Calvary.  Biblical Salvation always involves a change of behaviour. 
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Isa 55:7
There are those who teach that as long as you believe in Jesus you are saved, regardless of how you behave.  However, the Scripture makes clear that just as Repentance without Faith is not true repentance, Faith without Repentance is not true faith.  Repentance and Faith are two sides of the same coin.  If somebody runs in and shouts that your house is on fire, or your car is being stolen, if you just respond “Thank you, I believe you”, but you stay seated and do nothing about it, you obviously don’t believe what you have just been told.  Belief always affects behaviour. 
“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, it is dead.  But someone will say, you have faith, and I have works.  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works…for as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:17-26
The Scripture warns us not to harden our hearts (Ps 95:8).  “Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble” Prov 28:14.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, will inherit the Kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6:9-11
We are not to be “hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” Heb 3:13.  “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy” Prov 29:1.  “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit” Ps 34:18.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” Ps 51:17.  The Lord promises to hear and heal the responsive and humble heart (2 Kgs 22:19).
“Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.  For why should you die…?” Ezek 18:31
The Bible emphasises three aspects of repentance:
Conviction – a change of mind
Contrition – a change of heart 
Conversion – a change of life.
It is not enough to confess our sin, we also need to reject sin mentally, to loath it and to forsake it.  Repentance involves a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of habits and a change of behaviour.
“Now, therefore, says the Lord, turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.  So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness…” Joel 2:12-13
This was the message of the Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
This was the message of the early Church: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19
The first time Christ came to this earth He came as a Saviour – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  All who turn in repentance away from sin and trust in Christ, following Him in obedience, are saved.
But, our Lord Jesus Christ will come again…this time as a Judge – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  All who have not repented and obeyed His Law will be condemned and eternally punished in hell.
We have a choice – to surrender to Christ as our Saviour now, or to face Him one day as our Judge.  Is Jesus your Saviour?  Or your Judge? 
Where will you spend eternity?
“God commands all men everywhere to repent.” Acts 17:30
Dr. Peter Hammond is a missionary who has pioneered evangelistic missions in Mozambique, Angola and Sudan.

Why is There Confusion About Christianity

Why is There Confusion About Christianity
The other day I picked up a well known women’s magazine, curiously paging through the feature stories. Now, as a magazine connoisseur, I am well acquainted with the ever popular ‘spiritual’ articles they like to publish every so often. Most of the time it is completely misguided New Age drivel, but to be fair, it seems like the publishers and readers are truly searching for answers.
In this particular article entitled ‘What happens when we die?’, they interviewed a panel of ‘spiritual leaders’.  The panel included: an Imam, a Priest, a Tibetan Buddhist, a Rabbi and a Sangoma. Initially I was excited they even consulted a Christian voice, as usually these secular publications tend to side line us completely. This excitement was short lived however, when I read the priest’s answer to the after-life question. In what was a perfect opportunity to present the Gospel, this prominent Capetonian minister in question was recorded as saying:
“The New Testament idea is that of reserrecution, which implies briging to life again in a new way. Paul in 1 Cor 15, a key chapter around the subject of life after death, uses the analogy of the seed – dying is like the planting of the seed. Another example, though it is not an ancient Christian symbol, is that of the butterfly: when it emerges from the chrysalis, those aspects of the pupa that are no longer appropriate to its ‘butterflyness’ have been shed. The same principle applies.
The point is you don’t have a soul, you are a soul that incorporates this physicality. Folk religion tends to make entry into heaven on good behaviour: you’ll be good, you go to heaven – you become the butterfly. If you are bad, you go to hell – and there you fry eternally. Again, the New Testament doesn’t actually say that. It talks about entering into the fullness of life, eternity and heaven as a result of our receiving love. And in receiving love, one’s relationship with God, and all that makes up all that is – people, the planet, oneself, one’s relationships – are put on a different footing.
Hell is the opposite – a state of alienation, of being out of sorts with yourself, with other people, with your environment, the whole works. It is our choice as to whether we are going to engage positively with the emergence of life and being, or whether we are going to withdraw from it.”
Now, I don’t want to jump to conclusions – perhaps this mainline minister was misquoted, or taken out of context, but even so, his explanation of the after-life (and essentially the Gospel message) is terrible! It sounds so vague and new agey!
I am perturbed by his comments and further more, iritated by the ‘vague’ comments that are regularly quoted in the secular press as representative of the Christian world view. Whether it’s radio, television, newspapers, books or magazines, Christianity is constantly misrepresented and incorrectly ‘labelled’ by people who are ill-informed. Sometimes, it is a case of being ‘misquoted’ (as perhaps this minister was) or, most times, it’s a case of wishy-washy preachers being used as the voice and face of Christianity
Enough is enough! We have one Bible, one Gospel, one Jesus and one Salvation message. Please let us sing off the same hymn sheet, and if some choose not to – let them not be accepted as an accurate representative of Biblical Christianity.
When the ‘Da Vinci Code’ book was released, non-Christians buried their noses in its pages, hailing it as a “true reflection” of ominously organised Christianity. The fact of the matter is it is nothing of the sort – the book is a fictional compilation of the exaggerated musings of a disgruntled former catholic, author Dan Brown.
When a prominent South African Christian political figure recently expressed his dismissal of a God who rejects homosexuality, the world raised their voices in support, whilst true Bible-believing Christians shook their heads in dismay. The Archbishop in question was commenting on the 7pm BBC News in response to the Anglican Church who were debating ordaining Gay bishops. I could not believe what I was hearing when he stated, “If God, as they say, is homophobic, then I wouldn’t worship that God.” A few weeks later he went on to say, “Most of us think God is a Christian, but if you think that God is going to tell the Dalai Lama, ‘You’re a good person, but sorry you are not a Christian’, then I say rubbish!”
These comments are dangerous and misleading – though God is not a ‘Christian’ (after all, Jesus was Jewish) those who follow Christ (Christ-ians) will inherit eternal life (John 14:6). Good people don’t go to heaven, God people do!
The question I ask myself, is why all the confusion about the Word of God, the tenets of our faith and the deity of Christ? Well, we know that the first strategy the devil ever employed was to get mankind to question the Word of God. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Gen 3:1 In our post-modern world it is clear that he still uses these tactics today.
Secondly, in a society ruled by relativism and humanism (ie: “What’s true for you is not true for me”; “God is who I want Him to be”), questioning the deity of Christ and the unilateral way to God through Jesus is a given and even celebrated practice.
Thirdly, through a widespread lack of Biblical knowledge and holistic application of the uncompromised Word of God, the Body of Christ is fractured by differing belief systems and dogmas. Some Christian leaders believe in a literal hell, others don’t. Some condone homosexual relationships, others contend it’s not of God. Naturally the liberally minded secular media will always tend to publish the dissenting voices – let’s face it, Godly commandments don’t go down well in an anti-Christian culture.
It is our responsibility to protect the Gospel and uphold the Word of God at all costs. (xx) Do not accept vague descriptions or unBiblical comments about our faith. For ease of reference, I have documented exactly what Bible believing Christians should and do believe, so that we are all on the same page. If you have a problem with any of these points, please pray and ask the Lord to work in your heart as these points are all from the Bible.

God created mankind in his image. We are a spirit, we have a soul (mind, will, emotions) and we live in a body. When we die, our spirit either goes to heaven or to hell – both of which are real, everlasting places. (xx)
By disobeying God (through eating the fruit), mankind fell. Sin entered the world, separating us eternally from a Holy God who cannot face sin.
Even though this happened, God was not taken by surprise, and in His sovereign ways, He already had a plan of redemption in mind. (Gen)
Religion tries to reach up to God through good deeds and practices. God, with infinite Grace and Mercy, reached down to man through His Son Jesus, who was fully God and fully man. Jesus is God’s salvation plan.
Jesus died on the cross for our sins. After 3 days He was raised up to heaven and He sits at the right hand of God.
In order to receive forgiveness of our sin, to be reconciled to God and to receive eternal life in heaven (and so much more) we have to repent of our wicked ways, and accept Jesus as the one and only, final and complete sacrifice.
When we do that, we are born-again. Our spirit is renewed in Christ and we become a new creature with a new heart and new desires.
Jesus becomes our Lord and our Saviour. It is now our responsibility (through the power and infilling of the Holy Spirit) to become a disciple – one who follows Christ and His Word in obedience.
No one can be truly born-again and not change to be more Christ-like (xx). If someone says they are ‘saved’ but they do not obey God’s Word and do not live a life in line with this, they are deceived. (xx)
One day we will all stand before God and account for our lives. Those whose names are not in the Lamb’s book of life, will be judged and sent to hell. Those who are saved, will face another kind of judgement – for their deeds (and not for their belief in Christ)
NB – No one goes to hell because of their sin (hence refuting the argument of “how can a good God send people to hell because of sin”). People go to hell for refusing to accept God’s salvation plan – Jesus.
God promises that every person will have a chance to accept Jesus before they are eternally judged. 

If you are not right with God, please say this salvation prayer now and after wards, go an find a church that will disciple you. Please contact our offices if you need any help in this regard.
“Dear God, thank you for your son Jesus who died on the Cross for my sin and my sickness. Please forgive me of all my sins and wash me clean. I accept Jesus into my heart and determine today to live a life pleasing to you. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who now lives in me and helps me walk in your ways. I love you Lord. Amen”

Help! My Teen Thinks I Am the Enemy

Help! My Teen Thinks I Am the Enemy
The teen years can be difficult for both teenagers and their parents.  As your teen goes through the physical and emotional changes of growing up, you may find yourself feeling worried, frustrated and stressed.  Maybe you feel as though you are losing your son or daughter.  You miss the talks you used to have and the closeness you used to feel and you wonder how you can connect with the sullen teenager in your home.  How can you avoid being an ‘enemy’ to your teen and, instead, provide a positive influence?
Understanding your teen
One word captures the feeling for both parents and adolescents during the teenage years – ‘awkward’.  Even though your child may treat you like the enemy, the truth is that they just want to know that you understand what they are going through.  It’s important to remember the physical and emotional changes that are going on inside your teen. 
Physical changes often don’t come at a time or in a way that our children desire.  They may develop too late or too early. Having his voice change late can be agonising for a boy, just as not developing at the same rate as her friends can be devastating for a girl.  Both sexes have trouble with their skin and when appearance is suddenly so very important, these physical changes are very upsetting to many teens. 
Teens’ emotions are fragile.  Little things like socks that don’t match an outfit or hair that won’t curl properly can be very upsetting to your child because, at this time in their lives, they are afraid of being embarrassed and desperately want to fit in.  Their feelings are real and need to be acknowledged.
Friends are very important during this time because friends help define who they are.  Sometimes teens try on different personality types to see what fits best.  It can be exhausting for parents who are trying to figure out who their child really is.  Remember that it is equally frustrating to the child who isn’t sure who they want to be just yet.
Often teens question their faith.  They ask: “Why should I believe what I have been taught?”  Be open to answering any questions your teen might have regarding faith and spiritual matters.  If you don’t know a particular answer to a question, be honest.  Take that opportunity to spend some time with your teen and do the research together.
What parents go through
Parents feel afraid.  Suddenly you feel as if you don’t know what you are doing. You ask yourself if you are making wise decisions.  Deciding to let a teen go to a particular party seems more crucial than deciding if a six-year-old daughter should take ballet.  You begin to wonder if you really know what your child is thinking.  It is sometimes so difficult to get them to talk to you and you may fear the unknown.  You may question what is going on in their lives and why it feels as though you are no longer a part of it.
You may feel as if you are losing control.  Teens can have very persuasive arguments and your judgement is often questioned.  You may ask yourself if your reasoning is right after all.  You may struggle with expectations.  What is realistic to expect from your teen?  What about boundaries and curfews?  Television and movies?  Family time? When do you insist and when do you let go?
Ten needs of every teen
While both you and your child are so confused during this time, it is very important that you learn how to connect with them so that they draw closer to you instead of pulling further away.  Fulfilling the needs (not necessarily wants) of your teenager will enable you to forge strong, life-lasting friendships with them.  So what are their needs?
1. Time
Time together doesn’t have to be a big deal or take a lot of effort.  Even fifteen minutes playing a quick game of cricket speaks volumes.  Be available for your child, no matter how busy you or they are.  If they know you are there for them, they are more likely to come to you when they need help or someone to talk to.
2.  Respect
Asking our teens opinions on different things lets them know you are interested in what they think.  Their input is valuable and important.  You may not agree with your teen’s viewpoints, but you need to respect them as people and be willing to hear their ideas.  If you are making big decisions (such as moving house, going on holiday, changing schools, etc) it is important to ask what they think about the situation.  Teens want to know that their opinion counts.
3.  Hope
Occasionally your teen will encounter a problem that they are sure is going to ruin their life – for example, needing to get braces or tripping in front of the most popular boy in school.  Things that are of such acute importance to him or her now, will not be as important given time and perspective.  When a child feels shaky about themselves, they don’t need a panicky mom or an insensitive dad who is equally upset about the issue.  They need empathy and confidence.
4.  Concern for their friends
It is important to do whatever you can to make your home a place where your teen feels comfortable to bring his friends.  Children are attracted to a caring atmosphere and a place where they feel welcome.  Get involved in your child’s friends’ lives without being too involved.  You get to know your children when you spend time with their friends.  Drive the car pool, volunteer to go on field trips where parents are needed, go to the school plays and sporting events. 
What should you do if you don’t like your child’s friends?  Be very careful.  Spend time with them and get to know them.  Have them in your home.  Teenagers often change friends frequently so the friend you are not so fond of may disappear all on their own.  However, if it is obvious that your child’s friends are having a negative impact on him or her, you may need to seek help.  Consult a teacher, youth minister or counsellor and have them guide you through the best way to approach the situation. 
5.  Boundaries
Teens need boundaries and they need freedom.  You need to carefully choose where to stand firm and where to let go.  As parents you need to decide on what the crucial issues are for your family.  Decide on what the basic rules are and explain these clearly to your children.  Explain why these rules are in place and what will happen if these rules are broken.  Then you need to be consistent – “no” means “no” and not “maybe, if you argue enough”.  A teen sees right through a parent who is wishy-washy and that parent becomes a ‘wimp’ in the mind of the teen.
If you are firm with your children when they are young, the teen years will be less difficult. Often parents do just the opposite; they are relaxed in the early years and then come down too hard on their children as teens.  The teen years should have parameters but there should also be a gradual lessening of rules by the parents and the entrusting of self-discipline to the child.
6.  Flexibility
No matter how busy you are you need to take time out of your day to respond to your children when they need you.  Perhaps they need you to take them to a friend’s house when you had planned to do something else, or maybe they want to talk to you just when you have started working on your computer.  You need to be flexible enough to sometimes put your needs on hold. So take the time to help your teen and show them you are there for them, within reason.
7.  Understanding
Show your children that you understand what they are going through. For instance, if they come home distressed with a bad result in a subject even although they worked extremely hard, encourage them with a similar story from your school days.  When your children know you understand them they will be more willing to share their feelings with you.
8.  Other adult friends
It is important to have adult friends your children can depend on.  These friends need to share the same values that you do and reinforce what you teach in your home.  Often children want to seek advice from an adult but may be too afraid to approach you.  Have friends in your child’s life that you can both trust and will be there for your children.  Often advice received from someone outside of the family is taken better than if it came from you.
Children need adult role models in their lives other than their parents – adults who will encourage them, listen to their problems and reinforce the values that you feel are important.
9.  Knowing that Mom and Dad love each other
The greatest thing you can do for your child is to love their dad or mom.  In a single-parent situation, of course, this is not possible.  But for those who are still married, it may be the most important gift you can give.  Your children need to hear you complimenting your spouse, not cutting him/her down behind their backs.  Express affection freely and build each other up.  Your child will feel secure when he or she knows that you have a good relationship with your spouse.
If you are going through a divorce you need to be aware of the extent that this affects your teen and go through the necessary counselling with your child.  Fighting and divorce traumatises the child during an already difficult period in their lives and you need to ensure that they receive as much support as possible.
10.  Consistent role models
Your most important role as a parent is to live with integrity.  You need to keep the same standards you set for your children.  Sometimes you will fail and, when you do, you need to admit that you are wrong and ask for forgiveness.  This can be hard for parents, but saying that you are sorry can open the door to greater communication with your teenager.
Building a lasting relationship with your teen
You can cultivate a friendship with your teen that will last into adulthood, and you need a strong, healthy relationship with your child to have a positive impact on his or her life.  Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.  When your teen knows that you love her beyond all measure, when she knows you enjoy being with her, she’ll be more willing to believe that your guidance is motivated by caring.  She’ll be more likely to accept the idea that the rules and values you want to pass along are in her best interest. 
Steps you can take to build your relationship with your teen:
·          show empathy
·          respect their opinions
·          be fun to be around
·          don’t ridicule
·          forgive when they mess up
·          be honest
·          listen intently
·          be a friend
No parent is perfect, but every parent can take the time to build a strong relationship with their teenager.  You don’t have to be the enemy!
This article is based on the book: ‘Help, my teen thinks I am the enemy’ by Dr. Bill Maier; published by Focus on the Family.  To find out more about this topic and to cover areas such as dealing with rebellious teens, this is an excellent resource.  Focus on the Family are giving away 5 copies.  To stand a chance of winning, send your details to: