It’s Friday night and I’m singing along to ‘Dancing Queen’, dancing away at ABBA Voyage – an extraordinary fun-filled music concert. It’s extraordinary on a number of levels:
1) The purpose-built ABBA arena is so cool. We’d arrived early, so our group could get a good spot on the dance floor. It’s as if we’ve entered Narnia through the back of a wardrobe… snow drifts gently on to the projected forest scene, as ethereal music matches the mood created by shafts of light, mimicking sunshine streaming through trees. The anticipation is palpable!
2) I’m here with my young adult and teenage kids plus partners, who still want to hang out with their middle-aged parents. My greatest pleasure has been watching their excitement build throughout the previous week… involving me in discussions on what to wear and listening to ABBA’s back catalogue together.
3) As the band appear, everyone in the auditorium has that moment of whether to suspend disbelief for the next 90 minutes and accept these life-sized, animated CGI avatars of the four members, as the real deal. They even crack a few jokes about how, when they last played London in 1979, they’d never have believed they’d be back 40 years later without looking a day older. The technology is extraordinary, and as an audience, we sing, dance and cheer for more.
As I reflect on the experience, we were effectively watching a film of the band – it was all an illusion, which could have been watched more conveniently at home, on a screen. However, there was something magical about gathering my family with a crowd of strangers, united for one night only, through shared songs and dancing. It felt so positive and uplifting.
Without much intentionality on my part, I realise I have effectively discipled my children to love ABBA songs. It’s a generational thing, starting with my father, who used to play ABBA cassettes on our long car journeys back in the 1970s when ABBA was at the height of its fame. I’d learnt all the words by heart during my early years. In 2006, when I had preschool children of my own, our German au pair had seen and loved the musical Mamma Mia, and our house was filled with ABBA songs once again. I remember finally watching the film version at the K-B extended family Christmas in 2008. Cousins, uncles and aunts gathered around the TV to watch the movie, waiting to see how they’d shoe-horn ABBA songs into a storyline with questionable sexual ethics. My kids were hooked, and the film’s been rewatched on many occasions, with additional ABBA songs added to their repertoire on the release of Mama Mia, Here We Go Again in 2018. With creativity, clever marketing and the ability to adapt to a fast-changing digital culture, ABBA has successfully brought the same songs, in a new way, to a third generation.
I can’t help thinking, wouldn’t it be great if passing on the Christian faith was this easy! As a Christian parent, my greatest desire is to pass on faith to my children. As they start to leave the nest, there’s an internal angst around if I’ve done enough to ground them in the Jesus-way of doing life. I’ve been reading Rachel Turner’s recent publication, Parenting Teens for a Life of Faith, where she talks about six stages to help teens get information from their heads to their hearts. She writes:
‘These six stages are often present in our parenting and in our natural, everyday lives with our children. We live life in front of them, talk to them about what’s happening, equip them to do things for themselves, create opportunities to try things out, establish boundaries for them to live within and chat with them about how their behaviour impacts others.’
However, she points out that we often miss out on using most of these stages when attempting to spiritually disciple our teens. What’s reassuring is that these stages have no start or end point. Our teens will always be on this journey, and we can continually add to these stages when they need them as they grow and change.
Whether you have teenagers or not in your household, let’s remember to pray for our young people and encourage their parents to be bold enough to take a chance and steer them on a voyage toward our loving God, our ABBA in heaven.
You can check out Rachel Turner’s book Parenting Teens for a Life of Faith here.
BRF Messy Church ministry lead