Alex Chediak. Preparing Your Teens for College: Faith, Friends, Finances, and Much More. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2014. 448 pp. $15.99.
Church and Ministry
Today, you don’t need a review; you need a rant. I unapologetically give you one.
Launching a child into adulthood, college, and career is an arduous task; it’s a lifetime of equipping. Regardless of when you start preparing a teen, an important query is what do you use to prepare them, outside of a lifetime of spiritual formation and catechesis? What practical resource arms parents to address issues peculiar to college students?
Alex Chediak’s follow up volume to Thriving at College, a guide for college students, is the book I commend. Chediak is a college professor, who has ground experience watching college student thrive and crash-dive. Likewise, he’s a concerned parent of three. Chediak’s, Preparing Your Teens for College, is the “comprehensive manual for parents, pastors, guidance counselors, or anyone else getting teens ready for college” (xviii). I’ve handled, read, and taught using them all over 15 years of youthwork, and I wish these two books were available in 2000 when I set first foot on university cobbles.
Preparing Your Teens for College is a conversation guide for parents to use with teens. The book steers parents through eleven conversations that respectively teach students responsibility, future orientation, internalized faith, conviction couched in tolerance, quality friendships, purity, financial responsibility, academic excellence, talents/interests, choosing a college or trade school. It’s well written, which makes this 450-page behemoth read startlingly swift. Plus each conversation concludes with a handy summary and conversation starters for parents to consult.
As Chediak suggests, sequential reading or preferential treatment of timely chapters both are acceptable reading methods (xxxi). Readers will love the conversational style of Chediak’s writing. His counsel is sympathetic, wise, biblical and practical.
Chediak is well informed on social studies of adolescent development. You’ll find he references statistics, studies, and editorials frequently throughout Preparing Your Teens for College. Yet, Scripture is his guide.
Chediak’s not timid to balk at and counter the dismal self-fulfilling sociological prophecy stereotyping teens as “impetuous, irresponsible, incompetent, and rebellious” (36). Properly reading the biblical scripts and the cultural scripts of a post-industrial, digital age, Chediak argues that parents must implant teens with a biblical vision for responsibility.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Unfortunately, parental mindsets shifted during the last half-century to microwave mentoring kids their senior year of high school. Driven by scare-stats that say 86% of Christian college students drop the faith never to return – though no credible research supports nor could viably substantiate this nefarious claim – parents earnestly wish to protect fledglings from a secularized world.
Some selfishly poach on parental fears by spooking parents into sending teens to non-accredited safe-havens; these same have condemned not just every public university but nearly all accredited Christian universities. Pastor, be on guard for reinforcing burying talents.
Thus, I appreciate Chediak wise counsel for parents to make a criteria of must-haves (299), going so far as to offer three essentials: 1) quality education, 2) job preparation, and 3) Christian community. I find his order telling; I applaud it. School is first academic and vocational preparation. To paraphrase not-Assisi, “Go to church for Christian community, and, when necessary, use campus ministry.”
I resonate with Chediak, who says:
I join many others in the conviction that Christian higher education (and the liberal arts in general) offers significant advantages…But it’s also true that many Christian students thrive at secular universities, some of which have excellent academic resources, feature first-rate instruction, and boast excellent job placement records, along with unparalleled opportunities for evangelism and learning to engage the culture. I think this is one of those areas where Christian liberty should be respected among families. (300)
In the rhythm of every year, towards springtime, new books emerge to “ready” college students for the secular onslaught they face. Having served as a youth worker for ten years and high school pastor for four, I’m especially sensitive to the blitzkrieg naïveté of handing Lone Ranger a silver bullet. The last thing we need is to arm college age youth pastors, themselves processing these challenges as mid to late adolescents, with nothing but novacane to numb the living-dead’s pain.
When Alex handed me this book last April and asked me to review it soon, I muttered, “It’s already too late.” I’m reviewing this book during Autumn out of principle; churches and parents must start early. Quite honestly, churches ought to prepare parents to launch their child from that child’s time in the cradle. I’ll reprieve first readings of Preparing Your Teens for College to when firstborns enter middle school.
Pastors need to exercise foresight and intentionality with this resource. I wouldn’t hand Babywise to a wide-eyed dad holding a newborn in the other arm, ironically happened to me in 2008, and I wouldn’t hand this book in May to parents of high school seniors. If you have youth programming, develop a culture that trains early, trains families together, and invites college campus ministers and admissions counselors into your church to offer insights from the front line. End soapbox.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Preparing Your Teens for College should be read diligently and thoroughly as parents prayerfully plead faithfully for their child to prosper under the gospel’s tutelage.