Richard Ross’ new book, Accelerate: Parenting Teenagers Toward Adulthood, teaches parents how to keep their 25-year-olds from aimlessly living in their basement. Below is an interview with the author on his motivation and hopes for the book.
Q: What motivated you to write this book?
A: Three issues came together to create the motivation for this book. First, and most importantly, I want to see those leaving youth ministries walk in faith all their lives. At present, over half don’t. There are things the church can do to address that issue, but the much more powerful variable is the home.
Second, every person arrives on earth with a unique mission, crafted in the mind of God before Creation. Lots of things are amiss when a 25-year-old is coasting and just hanging out in Mom’s basement, but the most important issue is this: he or she likely is not fulfilling that unique plan and purpose. That plan and purpose is the very reason for that person’s existence.
Third, I value believers living in moral purity. All through the biblical period and the centuries that followed, the great majority of people married within three to seven years after puberty. The fact that adults who now fear commitment are waiting fifteen or more years is one of the major factors in spiraling rates of sexual immorality.
Q: Why should people read this book?
A: If you just go back 150 years, parents mostly used approaches that resulted in young adults with a vocational focus, strong work ethic, and confidence regarding marriage and child rearing. Over time, parents shifted their parenting approaches, and now we have young adults who are stuck and not moving forward in their lives. This book brings parents back to those principles that we know are related to moving teenagers to adulthood and related to giving teenagers a lifetime faith.
Q: Who do you hope will read this book?
A: I hope parents of teenagers and preteens will read this book. I also hope church leaders, who want to champion parents moving in new directions, will read it as well.
Q: How long was the writing process from conception of the idea to finished product?
A: Last February, I felt bombarded by bad news related to those leaving high school. There was more news about the “friends with benefits,” “hook-up,” and “oral sex is the new handshake” culture on college campuses. At the same time, I was reading that employers were having trouble finding young adults with a strong work ethic and the ability to work hard without stopping, even if the work is mundane and repetitive. But even more troubling was the discovery that only 10 percent of church parents are having conversations about faith with their children. All of this moved me to action. The book was released, in record time, in August.
Q: How can churches use this book to equip parents?
A: Parents who read and reflect on the book will think new thoughts. But I see even greater impact when groups of parents move through the book together. They can reinforce new thinking about parenting, and they can support each other as they make changes at home. I would love to see churches bring parents together to spend about five weeks going through the book this winter.
Q: Is there anything else you would like us to know?
A: If you ask 25-year-olds if they are adults, over half [will] answer that they are not. They’re not teenagers, and they do not see themselves as adults. Instead, they are living in a Never-Never Land without an identity and without a purpose that moves them forward.
Just over 40 percent of college graduates move back home with their parents. Economic reasons are not the central issue. Many recent graduates say they are not ready for independent, adult living.
What if families that began earlier led to more children? What if two parents multiplied the coming of Christ’s Kingdom by having three, four, or five spiritually-alive children? Worldwide, those who walk in the light are not even reproducing themselves while those who walk in darkness are multiplying rapidly. Some who say, “I cannot afford more than one or two children” need to finish the sentence, “… and also have the best house, cars, and vacations.” It’s all relative.
The book challenges families to invest around 30 minutes, twice a week, preparing teenagers for adulthood. In addition to family worship and prayer, we challenge parents to cover topics as diverse as creating and living within a family budget, civic responsibilities, understanding insurance, biblical principles of marriage, biblical principles of parenting, the care of babies, car maintenance, etc.
The newest brain research demonstrates that real-world, adult-like experiences accelerate the development of the prefrontal cortex—the thinking and controlling center of the teenage mind. Without those experiences, the mind still works in “adolescent” ways through the mid-20s.
What if teenagers spent 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday at work or in apprenticeship or mentoring activities? What if some teenagers explored vocations by working for entities that reflected their interests? What if some were rewarded with modest pay and some were only rewarded by the experience gained?