We Thank God for You: Youth Ministers Appreciate Their Students’ Parents
One of Rooted’s Five Pillars of Youth Ministry is Partnering with Parents. This Thanksgiving week, we invited parents and youth ministers (along with some wonderful students) to celebrate their partnership in the gospel by expressing gratitude for one another. Parents, if you ever wonder whether time spent with your church’s youth ministry means anything to anyone at all, take heart from these responses. Here’s to the moms and dads who support youth ministers faithfully, in prayer and in practice!
Andy Cornett, Associate Pastor at Signal Mountain Presbyterian in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Over the past 9 months we’ve had even more reason to be grateful for the parents who partner with us in ministry. I‘m thankful for parents … who read and reply to emails; who shoulder leadership and call their family to worship, even from a couch or back deck; who take the plunge with their students and try some forms of discipleship at home; who say yes to volunteering in person for the sake of reaching other teenagers with the gospel; who sometimes miss their own kids’ activities to show up to spend time on teenagers’ turf and build a bridge of relationship; who preach the gospel to their own hearts when discouraged or defeated by the challenge of raising adults; who rest in Jesus for their standing rather than their own image or performance; who have not forsaken their neighbors in a time when all the pressures curve us inward. In fact, I thank my God for them every time I remember them , for their partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I resolve to think the best of them, to extend grace, to not judge by what I can see, and to remember them before the Lord.
Rebecca Heck, Co-Director of Student Ministries at Intown Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia
…because you have become so dear to us…
Every year I read the same passage from 1 Thessalonians in celebration of our many volunteers. 1 Thess. 2:8 says “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” Never before in our ministry have I so deeply experienced the love, support, and ministry of presence from our parents as I have in this season of doing ministry during a pandemic. As we’ve switched our entire format to meeting at 12 different homes every Sunday evening for student small groups, we have consistently seen our parents not only step into new roles of hosting weekly, but also embracing and interacting with our students and other adult leaders in a new way. The number of texts and emails I receive each week encouraging us to keep the ministry going, giving us grace for every moment that we send a “please wear your mask” reminder email and helping our leadership think through the best ways to keep our students and leaders safe has been overwhelming in the best way. Intown Community Church parents, you have given our staff and team an abundance of love and help and encouragement in this season that has given us the strength to keep showing up. Somehow, even in a pandemic, our ministry is growing deeper and wider and that is because of your consistent hospitality and encouragement to other families to continue to prioritize the faith and spiritual growth of our students by just being present in their lives. 1 Thess. says it best, we are delighted to share our lives with you, Intown parents, because you have become so dear to us. Thank you for living this out with us. We love you.
Meredith Dixon, Student Ministries Intern at East Cobb Presbyterian in Marietta, Georgia
As I sit down to write a small post expressing my appreciation for the parents who have offered support, love, and encouragement in my time of youth ministry, I am honestly overwhelmed with where to start. There is no way I can pick just one parent to give thanks to; there have been far too many who have supported our ministry in ways that they may never know are so valuable. These are the parents who have written notes or sent encouraging texts that always seem to come at the right time; the ones who have driven, cooked for, and chaperoned on retreats and events; the ones who have showed up at youth group to be an extra set of hands; and the ones who have volunteered their time for years to lead discipleship groups, just to name a few.
As I look back at the craziness of this year, I can’t help but smile when I think of so many memories of going over for dinners at family’s homes. One of the most precious parts of my job is getting to know the parents and families of my students, and it truly means the world to see how many of them have gotten to know me and invested in me not just as their students’ youth leader, but as another friend. You each know who you are, and I do not think I could do this job without your influence, encouragement, prayers, and love. Thank you seems like a small thing to say, and only the Lord truly knows the tremendous impact you have had on His Kingdom and Church. You all are indispensable.
Skyler Flowers, Student Ministry Director at Orlando Grace Church in Orlando, Florida
This year has been challenging in more ways than we can count. This is true all the way from a societal level to the church all the way to the family. Graduations, birthdays, and holidays have all been missed, and our weekly routines have been flung into disarray. While this reality calls for lament, it also calls for thankfulness. Throughout the scriptures, God calls his people to give thanks, even in the hardest of times, because the practice of thankfulness reminds us of the faithfulness of God in our lives. In light of this, throughout this year, I have routinely returned to my thankfulness for the parents of our students.
While there are many reasons I am thankful for them, three stand out. First, I am thankful for their wisdom. As a minister, juggling the concerns of ministry and safety has consistently been a challenge since the start of the pandemic. There always seem to be more questions and concerns than answers. However, countless times I have been able to spend time talking through these issues with the parents of our students, and in every one of these conversations their wisdom was an encouragement to me to press on in our ministry to students. This season has been tough. But it has also been among the most rewarding seasons with our students, and I am confident this would not be the case without the wisdom of these parents. Second, I am thankful for their grace. There have been times when I have not gotten right during this time, where I had lapses in judgement or failed to adequately plan. The graciousness of the parents in our ministry has shown through over and over again in these times. In a world that increasingly feels divided, the bond of grace I have felt with them has been special. Third, I am thankful for their commitment. In a time when church attendance was impossible and regular activities ceased, it could have been easy for many students and their families to just check out or not come back. But the parents in our ministry remained committed to the ministry of our church to students, even when times were the toughest and we were all discouraged. All in all, I am thankful for their presence because in their presence in our ministry I truly am able to see the Lord’s faithfulness.
Chelsea Kingston Erickson, Pastor of Youth and Families at First Congregational Church in Hamilton, Massachusetts
Dear parents, Thank you for letting our team and me be in on the good work God is doing in your kids by entrusting them to us for retreats, service trips, and weekly youth group. What a joy it is to bear witness to their moments of connection with God and one another, to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit as He forms them more and more into the likeness of Jesus. As I enjoy these moments of fun and depth with your students week by week, I am frequently reminded that things aren’t always so peaceful at home. You often see them in their moments of greatest angst, frustration, and rebellion–and through it all you are asked not to lose heart, but to gently shepherd these souls toward Jesus. I pray that God will strengthen you for these difficult moments, helping you play the long game and encouraging you by His Fatherly care. May you not become weary in doing good, but wait with hope for the harvest of our Good King Jesus (Gal. 6:9). You are the real heroes of youth ministry! Thank you for letting us partner with you in your high calling to make disciples of your teenagers.
Greg Meyer, Assistant Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in St. Louis, Missouri
At our church I’m blessed to be supported by a Youth Ministry Committee comprised mostly of youth parents. I’m grateful to the Lord for these folks and their support over the years. They’ve prayed with me, for me, and for our students. They’ve helped plan and host events. They’ve brought food. They helped me plan and strategize. They’ve gently and kindly redirected some of my ideas. They’ve given me counsel in pastoral situations. They’ve advocated for our ministry to the congregation — inviting others to minister to the next generation alongside us. They’ve affirmed my ministry and consistently encouraged our leaders with joy. Some have even served as small group leaders and led mission trips. In each season of ministry challenges and opportunities, we’ve celebrated, laughed, and cried together. Doing ministry as a team of families has been a privilege and a pleasure. When I think of these youth parents, I can exult along with the Apostle Paul, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5).
Matt Brown, Student Pastor at The Gathering Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri
Thank you, parents, for consistently showing up on Sunday Nights and engaging with students. Thank you for being willing to talk with students when they are struggling with traumatic events and need a shoulder to cry on. Thank you for all of the late-night driving, the assembly lines for Mystery Dinner, the gift bags, the lessons you have prepared, and the goofy games you have participated in. Thank you for providing loving discipline and encouragement when students need it the most. The fact that teenagers can call you Momma and Papa speak to the profound ways you have impacted their lives. Thank you for supporting me and helping me in countless ways as I started out in ministry. As a young guy, I am forever grateful for the ways you have taught me the ropes, helped me learn what not to do, and covered for me when I needed it (especially on camping trips to Colorado when I didn’t pack the supplies we needed). Parents, I am indebted to your love, encouragement, and support. As cliché as it sounds, I truly could not do what I do without you!
Check back on the blog Wednesday to hear what student writers have to say about their moms and dads.