About the Guest
Jaquelle Crowe, editor-in-chief of TheRebelution.com, explains how her parents modeled the gospel as she grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Attracted by the infectious joy her parents possessed and their hope in their Savior, Crowe tells how she prayed to receive Christ at age 4. While she had her doubts and rebelled a bit in her early teen years, she never walked away from her faith. Crowe coaches parents on how to make the Christian life attractive to their kids.
Jaquelle Crowe FerrisJaquelle Crowe Ferris is the author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway, 2017). She’s also the co-founder of The Young Writers Workshop and lives in eastern Canada. You can follow her on Twitter.
Jaquelle Crowe explains how her parents modeled the gospel as she grew up. Crowe coaches parents on how to make the Christian life attractive to their kids.
Bob: About the time a young person reaches adolescence, they often start pushing mom and dad away, sending signals like: “I got it,” “I’m a grown-up now,” “I can take care of myself.” Jaquelle Crowe says moms and dads need to press in and keep the relationship strong.
Jaquelle: It’s just assumed that teens will not want to hang out with their parents, and I think that’s really sad; because my parents—right from the time that I was young—were trying to create a culture and an environment where I was comfortable coming to my parents with questions—that if I disagreed with them, I didn’t just sort of storm off. I trusted them, and so I wanted to talk to them. My parents did a lot of work—a lot of work—so that I always had the freedom to come to them. So we’d had a pretty good relationship.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 15th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine.
There are strategies moms and dads can employ that can help steer their teenagers in the right direction. We’ll talk about that with Jaquelle Crowe today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, there’s something—I don’t remember where I read this or where I heard it, years ago—but it’s one of those things that stuck with me and I thought, “That makes a lot of sense.” There was a sociologist at Notre Dame who did a research study on why young people were walking away from their faith when they got to college or when they became young adults after college.
He said a big part of the reason they’re doing it is because what they heard as the gospel, when they were growing up, isn’t the gospel. He said what they heard was—the phrase he used was “moralistic therapeutic deism.” They heard: “There is a God. He cares about you.
“He loves you. He wants the best for you; and if you’ll just follow these rules,—
Dennis: Yes—“Be good.”
Bob: —yes—“then God—you can count on Him to take care of you.”
They got into their early adult years and they thought: “That doesn’t work. I try to be good and other people are having more fun than I am having, and bad things still happen to me.” They abandoned the pseudo gospel and think what they’ve been told, all their life, isn’t true.
Dennis: Well, we have a guest, I think, who would agree with you. The reason she believes the gospel, I’ve got a feeling, is related to who raised her. [Laughter] I think she may have seen the gospel lived out between her mom and dad.
Bob: You’re just saying this because her dad’s out here, watching us record this interview with her.
Dennis: No; I think it’s—after reading her book, I think it’s probably the truth. Jaquelle Crowe joins us on FamilyLife Today. Am I telling the truth?
Jaquelle: You are absolutely telling the truth. I’m not even saying that because my dad’s out there. It is true—my parents’ investment and instruction has played a massive role in how I view the gospel.
Dennis: Well, you are a remarkable young lady—homeschooled in a little community in eastern Canada called Halifax, Nova Scotia. I think she’s our first guest—
Bob: —from Halifax, certainly.
Bob: We’ve had some Canadians.
Dennis: —but not many.
Bob: We’ve allowed a few Canadians—
Jaquelle: You’ve allowed that.
Dennis: —across the border.
Jaquelle: It’s an honor to be here and represent my country.
Dennis: We let you into Arkansas, no doubt about it. [Laughter] She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University—everybody say, “Okay,”—
Dennis: —at the age of 18.
Jaquelle: Right; well, it is a little bit different.
Dennis: I graduated at 18, too; right Bob?
Bob: You graduated at 18, but it wasn’t from junior college; okay? [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, you are a remarkable young lady. You write for the Gospel Coalition / speak all over the country. You’ve written a book called This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years.
I really do want to go back to this, because it has to be that you have seen an authentic relationship with God—
Jaquelle: Yes; absolutely.
Dennis: —between your mom and dad and God—that won you over to be a follower of Christ. Obviously, God did the work in your heart; but explain how God used your parents.
Jaquelle: Yes; definitely. I think my parents and—then, in a broader role—my local church. They just displayed for me a gospel that was so beautiful / that was so arresting—that was just living, and breathing, and impacting every area of their lives. I looked at that and thought, “Whoa, I want that too.” There was infinite joy in their lives.
Now, obviously, they dealt with really hard stuff. They weren’t like happy smiley all the time. But there was just this pervasive joy that really did touch every area of their lives—how they made decisions, how they raised my brother and me, how they schooled us. I saw that and that pointed me to the source of their joy, which was Jesus Christ. I saw that it wasn’t just sort of a list of dos and don’ts for them. It was a relationship with Jesus—this King/this Savior—who saved them.
Honestly, I looked at that and, by God’s grace in my life, He just showed me that I wanted that relationship too. I needed that too. Yes; my parents and my local church community just displayed that for me so vividly.
Bob: As I was saying at the beginning, I think there are a lot of people who have a mischaracterization of what the message of the gospel is. It sounds like, for you, that message was pretty clear all the way through your upbringing. It wasn’t about “Here’s the rule list that you have to keep,” or about “If you do these things, God’s going to take care of you.” You heard a message that is the clear gospel—that I think’s missing from what is going on in a lot of youth groups today around the country.
Jaquelle: Yes; I think that is sadly true. My parents—yes, always from the beginning—like I knew that the gospel is not this list of dos and don’ts. It is this good news about a world that God created for His glory—that I was created for His glory / that I was created in His image—
—but that I am a sinner—but that there is good news that Jesus Christ came to die for me as a sinner; that He rose again—was victorious—and He saved me from all of the things that I deserve. I just encountered this message and this Person; and I was like, “How—how do I not want to give my life?—give my youth to serving Him?”
Dennis: Yes; so you have attempted to capture this enthusiasm / this love for Christ in a book called This Changes Everything.
Bob: And there is some enthusiasm here too.
Dennis: There is some—
Jaquelle: I hope so! [Laughter]
Dennis: —there is some enthusiasm here. I just—I wanted to ask you: “Are there a couple of ways parents can be coached to relate to their children so that they might embrace their faith as they grow up?”
Jaquelle: Yes; this—again, I’m taking my parents’ wisdom and trying to harness it here; because I am obviously not a parent. But one thing my parents and I have talked about is that it’s kind of expected for young people and parents to not have a great relationship.
It’s just assumed that teens will not want to hang out with their parents.
I think that’s really sad; because my parents—right from the time that I was young—were trying to create a culture and an environment where I was comfortable coming to my parents with questions—that if I disagreed with them, I didn’t just sort of storm off. I trusted them, and so I wanted to talk to them. I never had this big period in my teen years, where I was like: “You know what? My parents are the worst—they know nothing. I don’t want to hang out with them.” My parents did a lot of work—a lot of work—to make sure that I felt known and loved in their home so that I always had the freedom to come to them. So we’ve had a pretty good relationship.
One of the things that they did was—they really poured into me and my brother, one on one. My mom spent a lot of time with me. We had this meeting, every week, where we would sit down and we’d talk about what was going on in my life. She would pray for me right there. I would hear her pray for me, specifically, and all my needs every week. There was never a moment in my life where I doubted that my parents wanted what was best for me. They were willing to do the hard things; but it was always out of love, not out of just a desire to be an authority.
Dennis: You’re causing me to remember—Barbara and I just finished a book called The Art of Parenting.
Dennis: One of the things that’s in the book are pieces by our children—two of my daughters. I never called it a meeting; but we had a Bible study at a local restaurant, where I’d open up a chapter of Proverbs. We’d buy donuts or whatever she wanted—or that my sons wanted.
Bob: Let me just step in here, because he calls it a restaurant. It was not a restaurant.
Dennis: It was not a restaurant.
Bob: It’s a grocery store that has a little café area.
Jaquelle: Oh, I love it already.
Dennis: But back then, it was all we had, Bob. We didn’t have any restaurants out here—we live in the country.
Bob: I didn’t want people thinking you’re taking your daughter out—
Dennis: No; it was not some highfalutin deal, but we’d meet together. It was interesting to hear them write—to say those times of just meeting, and talking, and hanging out with each other—I never called it a meeting, but it was.
It was a scheduled time to be able to connect with our kids.
Jaquelle: Yes; and some parents—they might not want to call it that, because it feels formal or weird. But for my brother and I, when we—that’s how our parents talked about that when they were meeting with other people. The idea of “Wow, like Mom and Dad are going to have a meeting with us,”—that was exciting for us. But it’s all about what you do. My parents did the same thing—we’d make it fun. My mom would take me out for tea; we’d go shopping.
Dennis: I’m sorry—I’m sorry people can’t see her face, Bob. [Laughter] You and I are both sitting here, mesmerized by—
Bob: You know what? I’m sitting here thinking about some of these meetings we tried to have with our kids—where the eyes rolled; where they are yawning; and they go, “Can I go now?” [Laughter]
Dennis: Hold it, Bob. You mentioned—she said shopping.
Bob: I know; I know.
Dennis: Take them shopping.
Bob: Maybe we just did not do the bribe thing that we should have done.
Jaquelle: If you buy your kids things, they will love you—that is what I have learned. [Laughter]
Dennis: Oh, yes. I’m looking over your shoulder at your dad, and he’s nodding right now. He’s smiling like it was worth every penny that he spent.
Bob: But there is something to a mom and dad recognizing that, to connect with your child, you need to connect with your child around what interests them / what they enjoy instead of just saying: “Okay; here’s what we’re going to do,” and “It’s because I want to do it,” and “Whether you like it or not, we’re doing it.”
Bob: To say, “I’m looking forward to getting together, and we’re going to do something that you enjoy,”—and in that context—“So what’s going on?”
Now, you know what happens—a lot of parents, who are listening, say: “I ask my kids, ‘What’s going on?’ and you know what the answer I get is?”
Bob: Yes; “Nothing. [Laughter] Ain’t nothing going on.” Did you ever give answers like that to your mom, where you just went, “Nothing”?
Jaquelle: Oh, yes.
Bob: And did she have some way of probing you or pulling this out of you?
Jaquelle: So one method that she actually started—that she kind of continued for the rest of our meetings—I kind of mentioned it a little bit before—is she would have all these questions about my emotions / what I was feeling. She would say: “What makes you happy right now?” “What makes you sad?” “What makes you angry?” “What makes you frustrated?” “What makes you worried?” “What makes you afraid?”
And slowly—like those questions were so easy. I could start with something really small and non-committal if I didn’t want to get deep—like if I was not feeling like being a good child. And then slowly, though, the questions would kind of wear me down in a really good way; because I would kind of get a little bit deeper as she asked questions that got more serious. Again—like demonstrated that incredible love and concern she had for me—not to get me to say something so she would immediately jump in with a lecture—but just because she cared what was going on in my life and she wanted to know. I knew that, and it came out. Eventually, she usually got to the bottom of whatever it is that was going on in my life.
Bob: What book did she read with you that stands out to you today—that you go, “I remember going through that book with my mom”?
Dennis: Well, it’s this one that she wrote.
Jaquelle: Oh, yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: Jaquelle wrote it: This Changes Everything.
Bob: Do you remember a book you went through, where you said “God really used that in my life”?
Jaquelle: I do. We read a number of books on biblical womanhood. The True Woman by Susan Hunt really stands out to me.
Also, Girl Talk by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre. Yes—a number of books. Holiness by J.C. Ryle—that was one we actually only read through the last few years.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Jaquelle: But: “Wow! There is a book for parents to read with their teens.”
Dennis: That’s a good one. I’ve got to recommend your book.
Jaquelle: Thank you.
Dennis: I think your book would be a great book for a mom—or a dad—to sit down and talk with their teen about. In fact, what I want you to do—we don’t have a lot of time—but you begin your book talking about a teenager’s identity. I like it that you started right out of the shoot. I mean, you’re talking about one of the key issues for teenagers today. You come out of the Bible—Philippians 3:8-11—and you talk about six things that Paul says describes a Christian.
Bob: You like this because there’s a picture—see, there’s a little picture and a chart.
Dennis: Oh, Bob!
Bob: Dennis is always thumbing through books, going, “Is there any pictures in here?”
Dennis: No; it’s just a great summary,—
Bob: —"any lists?”
Dennis: and I could picture a mom and a daughter—
—or for that matter, a father and a son—having breakfast together, and taking these six things and just pick the one you want to unpack.
What I’d say to you, Jaquelle—just go through those and communicate what your mom and dad taught you about each of those six things that make up a Christian.
Jaquelle: Sure. So this really was very foundational, because identity—this question of “Who am I?”—I mean, that’s really what answers every other question from our life. So kind of these six things that I pulled out of Philippians 3:8-11: First, is that “A Christian”—someone whose identity is in Christ—“they treasure Christ.” This is something I saw, right from the beginning, with my parents—Jesus was supremely valuable to them. I saw them in God’s Word; I saw them praying; I saw them loving the local community / the church. He was more valuable than every other thing in their life—even than family. We ended up moving away from our extended family, because my parents felt the call of Christ and were compelled to obey.
That was really hard for them; but I saw it—right from a young age—that they were willing to do whatever God called for them to do because they loved Jesus that much.
Dennis: And this first one, which is positive—he treasures Christ—has a negative that is number two.
Jaquelle: Yes; exactly, which is that “He [a Christian] devalues everything else.” I was trying to be intentional about my language here, because it’s not that he said everything else is bad—just in comparison with Jesus.
Dennis: There you go—that’s good.
Jaquelle: It was lesser—it was not as valuable, because Jesus was supreme.
Bob: In Philippians 3, he [Paul] says: “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish.” That’s what you’re talking about when you say he [a Christian] says, “I’m looking around at life—and here’s Jesus and here’s everything else—and everything else doesn’t measure up.”
Jaquelle: Exactly; “Nothing compares…”
Dennis: And so number three.
Jaquelle: Number three is that “A Christian puts faith in Christ alone.”
Dennis: That sounds like a song. [Laughter]
Jaquelle: Oh, it does—In Christ Alone—we should write that!
Dennis: Write that right now.
Jaquelle: Yes; copyright.
Putting faith in Christ alone is a big one though, especially for young people; because we are constantly bombarded with this message to have faith in ourselves and to follow our own heart. A Christian is the only one who actually knows the futility of that—that only by putting faith in Jesus will we have the confidence and assurance to face life and all of its fears.
Bob: The heart is—what is it?
Jaquelle: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can understand it.”
Bob: I thought she might know that verse.
Dennis: I thought so too. But tell us about an area of your life, where you’ve struggled; and you’ve had to give up your rights and place your faith in Christ alone.
Jaquelle: I think a big one for me, as with lots of young women, is just in appearance, and how you look, and how you come across. That’s something that can be controlled in some way, so it can be easy to—it’s hard this language—put your faith in—but putting your hope in/putting your confidence in.
Dennis: Yes; yes.
Jaquelle: How you look / how you come across is something I have definitely struggled with; it’s one of those things I continue to struggle with. But it’s one of those things that you can always come back to—you know, putting your faith in Christ is the center—so even though I come away from it, I can come back to it.
Bob: Well, we’re talking about identity here. The question is: “Does your appearance define you?—or is there something truer about you that defines you?” To help a child understand that: “It’s not your appearance; it’s not your grades; it’s not—I mean, we could go to your athletic prowess—it’s not how pretty your voice is when you sing. What defines you is what you treasure.” Back to the beginning: “What’s the most important thing to you?—that’s what defines you.”
Dennis: And if you think about teenagers today—I mean, are you guys surrounded—I’m sorry; you’re still young—
Jaquelle: You can still count me. [Laughter]
Dennis: —you’re barely out of it. But you really are, as young people, surrounded by a culture that is pressing in, wanting you to conform—
—that’s what the Bible says: “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That’s what you’re actually talking about doing here.
Jaquelle: Yes; absolutely. It is—the pressure is overwhelming when it comes to appearance, when it comes to—yes, like getting certain grades to get into a certain school to have a certain job——all of these things surround us. It’s being completely counter-cultural here—this is not easy. This is not like a fun message, necessarily; but it’s a message that none of those things are going to give you the value and satisfaction that us young people are looking for. It’s only Jesus.
Bob: So “A Christian”—according to Philippians 3—“treasures Christ, devalues everything else, puts faith in Christ alone, and then knows Him.”
Jaquelle: That’s right.
Bob: A lot of young people, and a lot of teenagers, will imitate the behavior that they may see of their parents: “Mom and dad have a quiet time, so I have a quiet time,” / mom and dad pray; and then they’ll say, “You want to pray something?” and the kids are just praying what they’ve heard mom and dad say.
That often leads to kids looking and going: “This is not my own. I don’t really know Him. I know my parents know Him; and so I believe in Him, because my parents know Him, not because I know Him.”
Do you remember transitioning from hitchhiking off of your parents’ faith to saying, “I really know God myself now”?
Jaquelle: I do. I think a big part of that was when I started getting involved in a local church and had other spiritual mentors, who weren’t just my parents—when I had like another Sunday school teacher, who is like, “Hey, I can watch this vibrant real faith play out in another mature adult that’s not just my parents.” So it wasn’t like, “Oh, it’s only my parents who believe this,”—
Jaquelle: —it’s—“No; there are other people,” and who were also willing to invest in me.
Bob: And that’s important. We’ve talked, often, Dennis, about moms and dads needing to make sure you’re lining up other people who can reinforce the message in your child’s life.
Dennis: And because we have moved so often in this culture, we don’t live near aunts and uncles and other family members that are extended family. It’s all the more important that we set up our children to connect with those who have a vibrant faith.
You got two more that you got to hit real quickly. This fifth one is really counter-cultural.
Jaquelle: It absolutely is. So the fifth one is: “A Christian suffers for Christ.” Yes, we live in a culture, where we are told that “Hey, you know, Christians don’t suffer. For Christians, everything is easy.” That’s just not true. You look at Paul’s life—this was a guy who suffered so much all for the cause of Christ. He knew that’s what it means to follow Jesus.
Bob: It’s back to what I talked about at the beginning. A lot of kids grow up, learning: “There’s a God who loves you, and He wants the best for you. If you follow the rules, life will go fine for you. There is a God who loves you, and He does want what’s best for you.” You can follow the rules, and you’ll still get some hard moments in life—the Apostle Paul did / Jesus did; right?
Jaquelle: Absolutely; absolutely. Suffering is just a part of what it means to be a Christian. God is always working for our eternal joy—I think that’s the thing we need to focus on.
Dennis: So Jaquelle, a lot of people look at your life—you’ve written a book; graduated from college at 18; you’re a PK—everything’s going—it’s cool. You haven’t suffered much; have you?
Jaquelle: I mean, I have in some ways; but in one sense, I would say, “Yes; I haven’t suffered as much as other people,”—that’s absolutely true. But I’m not really basing this—no; I’m not basing this at all on my experience. I’m basing this on what we know about in God’s Word. I can look to that and say, “I know this is true,” not because “Hey, I have gone through all the suffering that Paul went through.” But Paul went through all this suffering; Jesus went through all this suffering, and He can point you to this joy.
Dennis: And what I hear you saying is: “You have paid the price,” “You have counted the cost,” and “You continue to sacrifice for Christ.” What’s the last one?
Jaquelle: The last one is that “A Christian becomes like Jesus.”
This is kind of the center, where it all comes back to—in all of your life. A Christian is someone who is seeking to be more like Jesus in what we do, in what we say, in how we live, in how we sacrifice, in how we treat other people—in all of these things. Jesus is the supreme treasure, and so Jesus is the ultimate example.
Dennis: So, in Paul’s words, he said: “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I might gain Christ,”—that really is our goal, and that is our identity.
I just want to challenge grandparents, aunts/uncles looking for something to do with a niece/nephew or a son or daughter—
Bob: —have a meeting with them; right?
Dennis: —have a meeting with them—
Jaquelle: That’s right.
Dennis: —a scheduled meeting.
Bob: Schedule a meeting—
Jaquelle: Buy them donuts.
Bob: —Monday nights.
Dennis: How many chapters are in the book?
Jaquelle: There are eight chapters.
Dennis: Eight chapters—so yes; that’s not a lot.
Bob: That’s right. You can have eight meetings.
Dennis: You can do that. You can do it in two months, or you can do it in four months.
Bob: Donuts need to be a part of this; do you think?
Jaquelle: Definitely. [Laughter]
Dennis: Donuts at a local grocery store will work.
Jaquelle: —not in a restaurant.
Dennis: It worked for me.
Bob: I’d go for ice cream, so forget the donuts. We’ll do ice cream in the evening and go through the book that way. [Laughter]
We’ve got copies of Jaquelle’s book, This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get your copy. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com—look for the book, This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe. Or call to order at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how teenagers can sometimes be challenging—snarky, I think is the word that Jaquelle used. We’ll talk about parenting and snarkiness tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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