Dear Parents of Teens,
I can’t pretend to speak for all Youth Leaders, but having been involved with Student Ministries for nearly two complete decades (16 years of which I was a Youth Pastor), I think I speak for most when I say our friendship, and our partnership (between parents and youth leaders) ought to be stronger. After all, we have something in common, we both love your kid!
My hope in writing this “open letter” is that I can lend my voice to what I hope can become a vibrant relationship in your local student ministry setting(s). I am of the firm belief that the student ministry landscape could change dramatically if parents and leaders prioritized relationship and partnership with one another. I’m not suggesting you become best friends with your son’s small group leader or that you look to take the Youth Pastor on your family vacation, but I will give you (the parent) some practical suggestions as to how to be proactive in this needed relationship.
Unfortunately many Youth Leaders (paid or volunteer) are intimidated by parents; it may be because so many youth leaders are young and figure they are perceived (deserved or undeserved) as being unwise, full of energy, flakey, exuberant and sometimes a threat to the parent/child relationship. The reality is, many young youth leaders are unwise, exuberant and the like, and just like your child needs a mentor, so do many most, of us. Even older youth leaders are often intimidated by parents, they don’t want to step on toes, get in the way or be perceived as trying to do something that is intended for the parent/child relationship. But, that’s our problem (as youth leaders), we need to get over these perceptions and do the work of relating to parents for the sake of the kids!
But, this letter is written to you, parent. So, if I may, I’d love to give you a few suggestions as to how this relationship may improve or get even stronger (because I do want to recognize, there are MANY great relationships out there too).
- Pray for them (and let them know you’re praying for them). In Matthew 9, Jesus tells His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest for harvest workers. Well, these youth leaders are an answer to prayer! Though they aren’t perfect, they are striving for Godliness and are seeking to influence your child for Christ. Praise God for them and constantly lift them up in your prayers. What would it look like for YOU to gather other parents once or twice a year just for the purpose of praying for the Youth Staff (paid and volunteer)? How encouraging would it be to the youth leader or team to know that they were being covered corporately and as individuals?
- Give to them. A note of encouragement in the mail, on a facebook wall or strategically placed on a youth leaders front door will often propel that leader in ways unimaginable. Giving may even mean something physical. Dinner. A coffee card. A paid-for date-night (even with babysitting!!!!). Your small gift may be the exact encouragement he or she needed to get over the hump after a season of discouragement in the ministry. Side Note: Don’t ever underestimate the power of two words “thank” and “you.” These words are often forgotten and these youth leaders who labored all weekend at the retreat, all week on the mission or all year at small group are worthy of you going out of your way to give them those precious words, “thank you.”
- Ask of them. You parent, can be, should be and are the “expert” when it comes to your teen (at least we hope that you’re striving for that deep relationship), however, youth leaders are often pretty darn wise when it comes to knowing teens as a whole. So, let’s let this tension exist, leaders should become experts in teenagedom and parents can be experts about their teens. Therefore, we need to learn from one another. So, ask your son or daughter’s leader about teens, even ask about your own child. Be mindful that these leaders (young or old) are building trust with your child and need to guard that trust, but I think you’ll find more often than not, they may have insights that will prove very helpful to you understanding teens (and even your own son or daughter) more. Ultimately in asking of them, you’re relating to them and becoming more of a unified team.
As parents begin to pray for, give to and ask of the current flock of youth leaders, I believe not only with the Lord be glorified, but we’ll see better discipleship take place. We’ll see lost students (and lost parents) be found as we see the church functioning as Christ instructed.
So parents I end with this… thank you for doing what you do and the efforts you make with your kids. Your job is often THE MOST thankless job in the world. I am going to pray for you more faithfully, thank you more frequently and seek your wisdom more often!