What Do Parents Need From Youth Ministers?
Ah, to be young again, when there was at least the possibility of being cool.
We parents are so far over the hill we can’t remember what it was like to be growing and angsty. Pimples and pop quizzes and first love might as well have happened to someone else. We cannot be expected to recall how truly annoying parents can be because WE ARE THEM.
At least that’s how our kids see us. But you, youth minister, are either young and cool or one of those magical unicorn adults who has managed to retain some faint scent of teen spirit. Somehow you can connect to my kid when I can’t. I am so grateful you are in our lives, clearly called by God to help my teenager when I don’t know how.
Because, you see, as a parent of a teenager, I am tired. I am tired of everything being a battle. I am tired of second-guessing my parenting. I am as tired of adjusting to the changes in my child as he is of going through them.
But even more than tired, I am afraid. The world my kids are growing up in is radically different from the one I grew up in. Social media wrecks lives. The very essence of gender is apparently up for debate. Drugs and porn and body image issues make me long for the days when the scariest things my kids confronted were wicked stepmothers and two-headed dragons in brightly colored picture books.
So forgive me when I try to pass off my responsibility to nurture my children’s faith to you. I am sorely tempted to drop them off at youth group with a plate of fresh cookies (I am not above bribery) and leave you to teach them what I don’t even feel qualified to talk about. Their questions scare me, but you have training (and even master’s degrees) in how to respond to their seeking and their doubts. My answers sound lame and inadequate even to me, but my kids don’t think I know much anyway.
As a parent, I am relieved that God has granted me and my kids a teammate like you. As we walk alongside these kids together, here are a few practical ways you can help me out:
Remind me that it is the Holy Spirit that leads my family into truth, and that wisdom is mine for the asking (John 16:13, James 1:5). Remind me that the church is there to equip me for the challenges of parenting teenagers (Titus 1:9). Remind me that God bears the responsibility for my child’s heart. Not matter how much we want to, I cannot save them and neither can you. Salvation is the work of Jesus alone, and I can rest in the great love He has for my child. (Acts 4:12)
Whatever you do, please don’t give up on my child. I know sometimes they shut you out (believe me, I know). As the Spirit leads you, pursue my child and I will do the same. They may receive Jesus’ love or teaching or even rebuke more easily from you than from me right now. The way Jesus pursued Paul, the way He refused to give up on Peter— I pray God will give you that same persistent love for my child.
Let my child look up to you as a big sister or brother in the faith, but don’t allow them to become dependent on you for all their spiritual nourishment. Guide them to love and trust their small group leaders and other mentors in our church. When you are not available (please take time for yourself) or when you let them down (you are human), they will need to be able to go to God for themselves and to lean on other adults – maybe even their parents.
You may think no one reads your emails. Truthfully, parents are inundated with emails, and it is hard to keep up. But I love knowing what portions of Scripture you are teaching, and I promise to try to work it into conversation around the house. Speaking of conversation, I would love to grab coffee with you sometime. You and I are also siblings in Christ; friendship between us will be good for the whole family.
I confess I wonder sometimes what my child may have told you about me. Do you know about the times I have lost my temper or failed to be consistent with discipline? Do you know that I am weak and sometimes say yes to things I ought not allow? I am ashamed of my sins as a parent, and embarrassed to think you know about some of them. Thank you for being as full of grace with me as you are with my child.
I know you pray for my kid, and I am so thankful you do. I would really appreciate your prayers for me, too. I desperately need wisdom. I long to love my child like the Father loves me. I yearn to rest in what Christ has done for me and to trust that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (and raising teenagers). I hope to find my peace in Him, and in Him alone.
Youth minister, you are a gift. I am guessing you probably don’t hear that very often. You should know that God has called you to this work “for such a time as this,” for such a group of teenagers as this, for such a congregation of families as this one you serve. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace that is sufficient for this uncertain mom and her awkward teens, is sufficient for you, too.
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe… (Ephesians 1:15-19)
Over on the parent side of the blog today, find out what youth ministers need from parents.