Convictions or Preferences? Help for the Holidays from Tripp


I highly recommend Paul Tripp’s book Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens. The book is so helpful. And in connection with Thanksgiving and the approaching holidays, some issues may arise about our standards. Merriam-Webster Online defines standards as “ideas about morally correct and acceptable behavior.”[1] Each family develops their own standards based on a variety of influences (family background, cultural influences, religious observances, etc.). But with the meeting of families differences become apparent. Sometimes questions may arise on the part of our students such as, “Why does so-and-so get to do that?” or “Her parents allow her to go to that movie! Why can’t I?”. These questions have to do with our standards, what we have come to believe to be morally correct or acceptable, and consequently what is not.

“Real convictions are based on…truth. Preferences are based on…desire.” Tripp

Being with family presents many opportunities to discuss differences in standards. But there is another aspect that would behoove us to both learn and develop: preferences versus convictions. Tripp writes, “Real convictions are based on revealed truth (that is, Scripture). Preferences are based on personal desire….Our teenagers need to understand the difference between a conviction and a preference.”[2] Thus, as parents/guardians, we need to develop a deeper understanding of a conviction. This will allow us to present truth to our students while at the same time allowing differences in standards and a willingness to acknowledge the validity of others’ views. The opportunities afforded by interacting with families are invaluable.

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But how do we determine a conviction? Some people may do so for emotional reasons. A family member may have developed an addiction to drugs by spending time downtown, and so the parents decide their students will never go downtown. Or a guardian might have had an issue with gang related violence and so vehemently avoids a particular color of clothing. But is this really a conviction? If a conviction is really based on Scripture, then it must be based on a well-developed, researched, and thought-out investigation. Here are six aspects to help us determine whether something is a conviction or just a preference.

  • A biblical conviction is always based on a study of, submission to, and application of Scripture.
  • A biblical conviction is always predetermined.
  • A biblical conviction will not change with the circumstances.
  • A biblical conviction is inflexible.
  • A biblical conviction is bold.
  • A biblical conviction is always lived out.[3]

It might be helpful to sit down with your student and discuss this. In fact, what a great way to help develop their critical thinking skills by applying it to the study and living out of Scripture! This truly is an age of opportunity. I cannot image sitting down with my four-year-old daughter London and attempting this. I am sure the conversation would be amusing to say the least! But imagine sitting down with your thirteen-year-old student and working through why it is best to wait for God’s chosen spouse for sex. How might this empower them? How might this help them develop of love for God’s grace in their lives?

So as the holidays approach, spend time determining what is your conviction and what is your preference. Learn to communicate this with your students. Conversations will come up about what other people do and allow. Hopefully this will help give you food for thought!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! And…


“The LORD bless you and keep you;

the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

(Numbers 6.24-26, NIV)

[1] accessed 23 November 2016

[2] Paul D. Tripp, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens (Phillipsburg, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: 2001), 131-132.

[3] Tripp, Age of Opportunity, 132-133.

“How is God present?” A Great Question for Parents and Guardians and Student Ministers

I have written a blog about the book Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus prior to this post. But the more I read this book, the more I am just impressed with the philosophy of Mark Yaconelli. The following is a section where he encourages student ministers (parents, guardians, etc.) to simply ask students, “How is God present?”

One way in which we can help in our discipleship is to ask questions. Jesus loved asking people questions. It is a great way to engage in conversations that are natural and reveal the actual thoughts and feelings of an individual.

The simple question, “How is God present?” is a great way to help students begin to look for and acknowledge him in their everyday lives.

Mark Yaconelli, in his book Contemplative Youth Ministry, gives four reasons why this is so helpful.

  1. “First, I’m reminding them that God is present and available.”

    This gives the students the reminder that God is actually with us (as the name Emmanuel is defined) and that He is intimately interested in our lives. Whether it is a soccer match, volunteering at the rescue mission, or simply taking a walk down the street, God is with us.

  2. “Second, the question also communicates that youth have the capacity to notice God.”

What an incredible thought! Your student has the capacity to notice God. This is the Creator we are talking about. The one that said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. Sometimes adults can give off the impression that students cannot understand God and the awesome privilege we have to relate to Him. By asking that simple question we affirm our belief that they have the ability to see God at work in their lives.

  1. “Third, I am helping them reflect on their real-life theologies and religious biases.”

    I’ll use Mark’s words to describe this one. He writes, “When I ask a young person, ‘How is God present in this moment?’ she may respond, ‘I don’t think God has anything to do with my school; God is just about praying and church.’ To ask youth to notice God is to invite them to reflect on their beliefs concerning God’s relationship to the world.’

  2. “Finally, when I ask young people to notice the Holy Spirit in their midst, I’m helping them develop their sensitivity to God.”

And what better goal as those to whom God has gifted us with the training and rearing of these wonderful students, than to help them ‘develop their sensitivity to God’? This is, and should be, our heart beat, to draw the hearts of our students to a deep love of our Father.
I am praying for you, as you have the most influence, the most time, and the most potential, that God would open your eyes to the many opportunities we have to point our students to ‘the Name’, as the Jewish people call Him.