One of the more common struggles I hear about among my Youth Pastorate friends has to do with the relationship between Parents and the Youth Pastor/Leader. Because this is the case, I will continue, from time-t0-time, to write about this subject in my Student Ministry Stuff (SMS) category.
More often than not the Youth Pastors who struggle the most are the younger Youth Pastors or those who have only been in the position at their current church for a short time. In short, this simply has to do with trust being built. I understand this more and more as a parent of young children. For instance, at the beginning of the school year when I drop off my daughters at school there is a different feeling than there is in the late Spring. We’ve gotten to know the character qualities of the teachers, we’ve heard feedback from our daughters and we have had personal interaction with the teachers. Even if a particular teacher had the best reputation among parents who have had this teacher before, we still go in cautious, hoping our child will have a great relationship with the teacher (and vice-versa). So it is with Youth Leaders; parents are rightfully skeptical, because they are the primary shepherd.
As I begin a loose series on this Parent/Youth Pastor Relationship I’ll start with the things the Youth Pastor can/should do to help build that trust (regardless of the season). Here are some quick tips.
- Direct and Consistent Communication. We often think “because I told the student, the parent probably heard.” Even as I write this, I snicker, as do you, we KNOW this is not the case. Rather than throwing the student under the bus for not communicating, you, Youth Leader, make sure the parent has access to you and you to them. Facebook, Email, text and phone calls are needed. I suggest you prioritize at least a monthly newsletter, blog post or web entry on the church website that is not just posted, but sent directly in an email. Don’t just expect the parent to find the information, deliver it to them. Use this publication to give dates/rates and the state of the ministry.
- Intentional Impromptus: Going along with the last one, don’t expect parents to reach out to you; for the most part, they will be coming to you when they have an issue (“suggestion”) or need your advice as a “teen expert.” However, this should not be the only context for your relationship. You can be proactive with them in settings that will not take much of your time. Approach a parent in the parking lot when they drop-off or pick-up students. Grab a moment between services to compliment the parents on something specific you see in his or her child’s life. Shoot an encouraging Facebook message to a parent, just to lift them up. Seriously, 10-15 minutes a week (total) of going out of your way, will go a long way in these relationships.
- Always Respect and Speak Highly Of The Biblical Role of Parenting. Though not all of our students will have great parenting taking place in their lives, the Lord has given us a great handbook for parenting in the Scriptures. The parent-teen relationship is often a strenuous one, we, Youth Leaders, can/should do our best to respect the role of parents and build it up Biblically. Don’t just believe what students say about their parents (and also the reverse is true too), but speak about the Biblical role of parenting/shepherding. Though students may not like the way they are being parented, we can help students understand the realities of parenting.*
- Involve and Invite Parents. The majority of my elite leader were parents of teens. The key here, they weren’t at youth group activities to parent-his/her-teen. They were at our activities to shepherd “our” teens. As a Youth Leader we can involve parents at a variety of levels. Sometimes we do just need chaperones, but more often than not we are looking for shepherds. Develop roles to get the right team together. Those you don’t want to invite to be on the staff can be involved in a variety of other ways (driver, host home, fundraising event, parent prayer support team, etc.). The more you have involved, the better relationship and support base you will develop. Trust will be built.