The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Healthy Parent-Teen Conflict


I do a lot of reading and research on issues related to youth ministry, teenagers, the development of young people, parenting, etc., and I like to share helpful information that I come across.

I am currently reading Chap Clark’s Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s TeenagersIt is a pretty well-known book in youth ministry circles, and in it, Clark engages in extensive qualitative research to enter the world of teenagers today and seek to understand and describe the pervasive sense of isolation and abandonment they feel from the adult world as a whole.

The book is a challenging read, in large part because of the disturbing claims it makes. I have some questions about some of Clark’s research methods and conclusions (especially the very generalized nature of the latter), but I think he has some really good things to say, and he brings up issues that should make anyone who works with teenagers pause and reflect (parents, youth ministers, teachers, coaches, etc.).

Any parent of a teenager knows that conflict with your kids is an inevitable thing, and I thought the following quotation provides some helpful thoughts for ways in which the inevitable conflicts of parenting can be dealt with in a way that doesn’t damage the parent-child relationship at the specific developmental time when teens need their parents the most:

“Research has shown that parent-child conflict increases during adolescence, especially during midadolescence [ages 15-18]. These conflicts are often rooted in how a parent deals with a growing adolescent rather than in a specific issue.

What matters most in the lives of adolescents, then, is how parents deal with conflict. Most midadolescents rapidly get over the day-to-day conflicts they experience at home, especially if they feel close to their parents. But parents are not as resilient. For many parents, even simple conflicts can push their buttons and drive a wedge in their relationships with their children. Over time, midadolescents pick up on this general sense of separation. This causes them to pull away from their parents.

Parents have a tremendous responsibility not to be thrown off or emotionally entrapped by parent-adolescent conflict. Adolescents know that their parents are supposed to be the adults, those who are to lead and guide them, without letting any conflict or emotion get out of hand. Far too often students described their parents as “out of control,” “always mad,” or “totally upset.” They responded by backing down to avoid conflict and becoming relationally disengaged. When pressed, few midadolescents wanted a distant relationship with their parents, yet most feel they have no choice but to distance themselves from emotional entanglement with their families.”

–Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers (99)

Harding Lectures Audio Files

unnamedLast month, I had the honor of taking part in the Harding Lectureship. Several people who were unable to attend the Lectureship have asked me if there is a way to hear my presentations, and there is! You can click on the links below to listen to the lectures:

You can listen to a variety of other presentations from this year’s lectureship by going here.

Free Resource: Youth In Family Ministry Handbook

Youth In Family Ministry Handbook CoverLast week I had the honor of speaking at the Harding University Bible Lectureship. On Monday, I presented three lectures on “Youth In Family Ministry”, which is a youth ministry model that emphasizes the importance of the physical family unit and the faith family (the local church) when it comes to passing on faith to our children.

This is the youth ministry model that we are trying to implement and follow at Farmington, and to help with that, this year I started working on a Youth In Family Ministry Handbook to use and distribute at church to help people learn more about our youth ministry and why we do what we do.

That (lengthy) project is now completed, and I wanted to share it with you.

If you work in youth ministry (as a youth minister, youth deacon, youth committee member, etc.), are interested in youth ministry, or are a parent interested how best to pass on faith to your kids, I think this will be a helpful resource. Although it is geared specifically toward what we are doing at our congregation, it contains a lot of research about young people leaving the church and why that happens, what the Bible teaches about discipling young people, and other helpful information as well.

You can download a PDF of the Youth In Family Ministry Handbook by going to the Free Resources page.

Harding University Bible Lectureship


This Sunday begins the Harding University Bible Lectureship, and I am honored to have the opportunity to take part.

On Monday, I will be presenting three lectures on youth ministry at 9AM, 10AM, and 3PM:

  • Youth In Family Ministry, Part 1: The Current Crisis in Youth Ministry
  • Youth In Family Ministry, Part 2: The Physical Family, the Faith Family, and the Spiritual Formation of Young People
  • Youth In Family Ministry, Part 3: Crafting a Family-Based Youth Ministry in the Congregation

On Tuesday, I will have the opportunity to speak in both student chapels.

If you’re at the lectureship, I would love to catch up or to see you in class!

Hurting With God: Faith and Lament, Part 2

Theological Suffering

The Disappearance of Lament

In addition to the examples we looked at in the last post, there are many, many more that we could look at just in the Book of Psalms. In fact, there are more lament psalms in the Book of Psalms than any other type!

  • Psalms of Lament: 60 out of 150 (40%)
  • Psalms of Praise: 41 out of 150 (27.3%)
  • Psalms of Thanksgiving and Trust: 27 out of 150 (18%)
  • Miscellaneous Psalms (teaching, wisdom, worship, etc.): 22 out of 150 (14.7%)*

We know that the Book of Psalms functioned much like a songbook for worship in both the lives of the Israelites and also the early church; with 40% of their songs containing lament, clearly lament was an acceptable part of their worship and their lives!

What about us? Are we as comfortable with the language of lament as our spiritual ancestors?

A research assistant at Abilene Christian University did a project where he examined some modern hymnals (song books), divided the songs into different categories, and compared them to the Book of Psalms. One of the books he examined was Songs of Faith and Praise, which is the hymnal we use at the congregation where I work, and is a popular hymnal in Churches of Christ.

Of the 885 songs in Songs of Faith and Praise: 

  • Songs of Thanksgiving and Trust: 392 out of 885 (44%)
  • Songs Praise: 264 out of 885 (30%)
  • Miscellaneous Songs (songs on worship, invitation songs, patriotic, about Christ): 197 out of 885 (22%)
  • Songs of Lament: 32 out of 885 (<4%)

Compared to the Book of Psalms, 40% of which is comprised of lament psalms, Songs of Faith and Praise includes lament songs 1/10 as often! I know this is not the most scientific study, but I still think it shows a general truth, which is that we have largely lost the biblical language of lament. Something which is a huge part of the Book of Psalms, and thus a major part of the worship of God’s people in the Old Testament and the early church has largely been removed from the way we speak to each other and to God.

If you think about it, really the only time where we lament together is in the aftermath of a death, but even then in our modern funerals we’ve gotten to where we hardly leave room for lament. Instead, we try to have upbeat “memorial services” where we tell funny stories about the departed, and we expect that after a few weeks people ought to “get over” their grief and get on with their lives. We live in a culture that does everything it can to avoid death, suffering, or discomfort, and a lot of times, that’s how it is in the church as well.

There is no room for lament in our lives.

Now some people might think that this is a good thing: “Well, sure there are a lot of these laments in Psalms and Jeremiah, Habakkuk, etc., but those are in the Old Testament! We live under the new covenant; as Christians, we shouldn’t say things like this because we have victory through Jesus! We should be able to face any trial with a smile on our face!”

Historically though, we know that the early church valued the Book of Psalms as much as the Jews did. New Testament writers refer to the book of Psalms over 400 times, and as already mentioned, the Book of Psalms served as the hymnbook of the early church. The Psalms were very important to the early Christians.

Furthermore, Jesus, our example in all things, shows the characteristics of lament in his life. When His friend Lazarus dies, Jesus weeps, despite the fact that he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead! If it was okay for Jesus to show emotion and be upset when He was troubled, it’s certainly okay for us as well.

When Jesus approaches Jerusalem before the Triumphal Entry, He laments over it because He knows it will be destroyed. Soon after that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, contemplating His coming arrest and crucifixion, Jesus cries out to God and says, in effect, “Father, if there is any way You can save Me from the horror of what’s coming, please do so!” That is lament.

On the cross, in the midst of his torment, Jesus famously cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” This is a direct quote from Psalm 22, which is one of the lament Psalms.

In addition to the value of the psalms in the early church, we can see clearly that lament was a part of the life of Jesus. Lament is not just an Old Testament phenomenon, it is a biblical phenomenon. It’s a part of faith.

Bringing Lament Back Into Our Lives

And we can see that it’s a part of faith by looking at the laments themselves. In the laments we read together, there is a pattern which arises and this is generally true in the laments:

  1. They are addressed to God recognizing that He is the One who is in control.
  2. They involve a complaint; something is wrong in the life of the one who is lamenting.
  3. They contain a request: the lamenter wants God to do something about the complaint.
  4. Usually, the laments close with confidence and praise: having turned their request over to God, the lamenter is confident that God is in control, and praises Him for His watchful care.

Seeing these different parts of lament shows that laments are different from just whining and complaining: lament is not about pouting because we don’t get our way. Instead, lament is what occurs when deep faith confronts deep suffering: we suffer, and in our faith, we turn to the Only One who can do anything about our suffering, the God who is in charge and who cares for us.

This faith language which we have lost is something that we need to reclaim.

Think about it this way: you can tell how close your relationship with another person is based on how honest you can be with that person. With that in mind, how honest can you be with God? I think that we’ve gotten the impression that somehow it is wrong or irreverent when bad things happen to ask God questions or to express our frustration or even anger with Him. And because of that, when times get tough, people either walk away from their faith, or they just bury their emotions and pretend that everything is okay.

But God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows when we questions. He knows when we are frustrated. He knows when we are angry with Him. And He can handle that. And rather than us trying to swallow these feelings and pretend they don’t exist, God wants us to bring that to Him. 1 Peter 5.7 tells us to cast all of our anxieties on God, because He cares for us.

And Scripture shows us how to do that. Through the language of lament, we can see how we can cry out to God in our suffering in ways that are honest, but in ways that are still faithful.


Is the church meant to be a place of support and healing where we can be honest with one another about what is going on in our lives and honest with God? Or is it a place of white-washing and mask-wearing, where we put on a brave face and pretend everything is okay even when it most definitely is not?

In these last two posts, we have looked at lament:

We’ve seen how it is a biblical practice, a language of faith that we see throughout Scripture, and especially in the Psalms. We’ve noted the disturbing way in which lament has largely disappeared from the songs we sing, from our culture at large, and even from funerals sometimes. And hopefully, we’ve seen that lament is something we need to reclaim and bring back as a part of our lives of faith. Lament emphasizes that God is in control, that He is the One who can do something about our suffering, and that as a result, it only makes sense that we bring it to Him.

I want to close with three suggestions for how lament can aid us when we go through difficult times in life. When the tough times come, I urge you:

  1. Be open with your brothers and sisters in Christ about what is going on and how you feel. If we are serious about being the family of God, then that means we are here for one another, and we need to support one another.
  2. Read through the Psalms. We just looked at a few examples, but 40% of the book is lament. There is a wide array of language which is used to cover a wide array of problems; see how people of faith voiced their suffering to God.
  3. And most importantly, be honest with God about your suffering. Maybe using some of that same lament language from Psalms, take your suffering and lay it at His feet. He is the one who can handle it and do something about it.

*As I mentioned in the last post, these thoughts (and also the statistics) are greatly informed by Glenn Pemberton’s Hurting With God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms.

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