My good friend and mentor Mark Forstrom has recommend only a few books to me in our 5+ year relationship and ever recommendation has been a home run. His next recommendation is a much older book than I have read in a while (published in 2000) and there are some comments in it that dates it but Parenting without Perfection is worth the read. I will comment on one take away and one struggle I had with the book.
First the struggle – the target audience for the book (as the book’s title suggests) is parents of teens. In Part two of the book (The Context of Christian Parenting) Steel lays out a very bleak culture teens are entering. He calls the culture “deathwork” which basically means that the culture has killed God and He is no more. I’m actually not bothered by the definition because I mostly agree. The struggle is how he presented “deathwork” and when he presented it in the book. If this book was written for guys like me (more sociological) then I would have no issue. But since it was written to parents I think many parents would have a panic attack with the information of what the culture their kids are going into. It is way to concentrated at the beginning of the book and I think it would turn parents off. I don’t think the material should be different but I do think it needs to be more strategically placed throughout the book to make it much more readable for parents.
My key take away came from the middle of the book which I really enjoyed and totally agreed with. Steel explains that to be a Christian parent we have to take care of our heart in front of our kids. “Parenting is learning to live out the life of Jesus before our children in the totality of our lives.” If we concentrate on what God calls us to be focused on – our heart condition – our kids will be much more open to God’s truth & love. Doug Field’s says, “… you do need a heart that’s tender toward God and open to his leading” in his book “Your First Two Years of Youth Ministry" and this really makes this point clear.
I think this is an excellent book for youth guys/gals to read or youth workers (teachers, etc). But if you are a parent I would skip to the middle of the book and read from there and then go to the front of the book if you want more detail about culture.