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5 Ways Parents Approach Youth Ministry

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Let’s face it, a lot of youth workers sometimes view parents as almost one of the necessary evils of youth ministry. A friend of mine took a survey a few years ago in his network of approximately 400 youth workers. He asked them to name the biggest concerns they faced in local church youth ministry. The most listed answer was “parents of teenagers.”

Here are 5 basic ways that parents of teenagers approach youth ministry. It has been my experience that somewhere along the line all youth workers will face parents in each of the following categories:

  1. Protective – Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the phrase “Helicopter Parents” – those parents who “hover over their kids” and are overly-protective of them. A recent survey reported that freshmen in college sometimes send and receive 11 text messages a day from their parents – and those were college students! We noticed during our summer youth missions trips that many of the participating teens used their cell phones to call their parents almost every hour. It’s true; we are ministering to a generation of hovering parents. My advice is to use this as an advantage and take every opportunity you can to communicate clearly and carefully to the parents of the teens involved in your ministry.
  2. Afraid – Some parents are afraid, and they worry about the negative influences facing their kids. These parents look at their kids’ peers as potentially harmful and manipulative. They also tend to see even the church youth ministry as a problem. The roots to this particular approach are often deeper than just surface negativity. There are some parents who seem to be pessimistic and critical about almost everything. Probably the best thing you can do to help these parents is to keep communicating to them the positive virtues and characteristics of the church and youth ministry.
  3. Proud – Akin to the last approach is something I’ve seen growing over the past few years of my ministry. There are some parents who are so proud and arrogant that they feel as if they are the only ones who can have a positive influence in the lives of their kids. I’ve met some parents of teenagers who will not allow their kids to attend youth group or other youth ministry functions because they see those ministries as a problem. This group of parents looks at other Christian youth and even church youth workers as part of the problem, so they do everything they can to keep their kids with them in everything – including school and church activities. Again, I believe that communication is the key to ministering to this group of parents. Show them Biblical examples of the church in action and help them see the advantages of building other Godly people into the lives of their children.
  4. Idealistic – Some other parents are quite idealistic. They think that everything will turn out okay in the end, so why worry about anything. These parents are often somewhat permissive and lenient with their kids. Plus, this group will often prove to be materialistic in getting their kids anything they want. I suspect that in most cases, their motives are good. They want their kids to grow up to be positive and constructive citizens; it’s just that they try to smooth out all the feathers for their kids along the way. I have found that this group of parents may respond well if they see the positive aspects of youth ministry that includes actively serving the Lord and motivating students to enthusiastically share their faith.
  5. Engaged – Praise the Lord for active, engaged parents. These are the parents who stay involved in the lives of their kids as they mature through adolescence and they are the ones who value the church’s youth ministry and realize how important it is for the family and the church to work together to help kids grow in Christ and go on for Him as adults. This is the group of parents you should try to recruit to be a part of your team of youth workers. They will have a positive influence on their own kids and will often help minister to other teens as well. Praise God for engaged parents of teenagers!

The Keys to Longevity in Student Ministry

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Let me introduce you to 2 of my heroes:

The first was my Sunday School teacher when I was in 6th through 8th grade. I thought he was way too strict, too conservative, and way too quirky to work with students. I hate to admit it now, but I’d complain about him to my Dad. Come to find out, he was also my Dad’s Sunday School teacher when he was that age. This faithful leader served the junior higher youth group in my home church for over 30 years! He’s in Heaven now, but you’ll meet him there someday. He’ll be in the front row – after working with early adolescents for that long (with guys like me in his group), he deserves to be the front row!

The second was a youth worker that I’ve known for over 40 years. He served for almost 25 years as a youth pastor in two local churches and coached in public high schools for over 20 years. He still leads an international youth ministry organization and he travels to speak to hundreds of kids each year in camps, retreats, and other youth events. The bottom line is that he’s a youth worker, and I can’t picture him doing anything else.

I’ve told churches for years that people may get too old to play tackle football (I would probably fall on you and crush you), but you never get too old to minister to kids!

So, what are the keys to longevity in student ministry?

  • What has God called, gifted, and equipped you to do? It’s really quite simple, if God has blessed you with the ability to work with students – then do it, and keep doing it. Honestly, why would you stoop to do anything else?
  • Do you love students? If the Lord has put a burden on your heart for middle schoolers, high schoolers, or even young adults, then I believe that you’ll do anything you can to spend time with them and their families in an attempt to reach them for Christ and to help them to go on for Him. It’s not just a cliché, youth workers keep working with youth.
  • Are you willing to be a servant? Let’s face it, sometimes ministry is hard – and it takes faithfulness over the long haul. Kids need adults to be faithful – to be the kind of people they can depend upon. You may want to resign every Monday morning, but don’t do it! Teenagers need loving, caring, and faithful adults to be an ongoing part of their lives.
  • How can you make the greatest impact for eternity? Reproducing yourself in the lives of the next generation may be the most important characteristic of a true leader. As I write this post, I am reminded that there is one real advantage to getting old in youth ministry. You stay around enough to see the students that you invested your life in grow up and go on for God.

 

I’m praying that the entire front row of heaven (if there really is such a thing) is totally full of youth workers. To quote the old crooner, Steve Green, “May all who come behind us find us faithful!”

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