A Parent Speaks Up...

I'm currently in seminary.  I say that because I want you to know that what I'm about to share comes directly from the class I'm currently taking.  The picture I think many have of seminary is a bunch of theology books and ancient languages.  While I do enjoy that kind of thing, the class I'm taking now is not like that at all.  It's about youth ministry...huh, imagine that.  What may surprise you is that it is not at all about how to run a good program (well there is some of that but not much).  It has primarily been a challenge to the students to consider what is wrong with youth ministry and what is right, and oh by the way let's look at the studies to back up the opinions. 

There are some really good things about youth ministry, but for today I'm going to share one of the areas we could do better in - understanding the parents' perspective.  I think we do this ministry a great injustice when we fail to talk to parents about their kids and what they're going through.  Who better to talk to, other than the student, to get some insight into their student's personality and character?  Who better to partner with then the very people who love them most?  One book I got to read as part of this class is Middle School Ministry Made Simple by Kurt Johnston.  Don't let the name fool you - youth ministry is never simple and this book applies to much more than middle school.  One chapter that really captured my attention was entitled, "A Parent Speaks Up..."  It captures many of the things parents (most if not all) would like to say to the youth minister at their church but may not feel comfortable doing.  I think I'll share one of these with you now and again to see if you don't agree.  It certainly got me thinking. 



I just gotta say it.  Jesus is a bigger priority to most parents than church, and so is their family.  For years, societal institutions like school, little league, and the like would purposely avoid scheduling things that might compete with church because church was the strongest societal institution of all and the other organizations simply didn't want to compete.  But times have changed.  Now the lines have blurred and Christian parents everywhere are trying to navigate the tension that arises when we try to place church as a priority without saying no to all the other things clamoring for our child's time.  Here are a few things to consider:

*  Please don't equate attendance with interest or spiritual depth.  Just because my daughter can't be at every youth group activity doesn't mean she loves church or Jesus any less.

*  Just because we aren't at church doesn't mean we aren't experiencing Christian community.  We may skip church to go dirt bike riding, but most of the time we go with other Christian families with teenage kids.  Church is still happening...it just looks different.

*  Please don't make my child feel guilty.  When our child misses church because of a soccer tournament or to work on a school project, we really hate (yes, hate) when you make them, or us, fell less spiritual just because they are an athlete or trying to get good grades. [1]

Parents, have you ever felt like that?  This is one of many nuggets that I, as a guy who wants to suport parents as we minister to your kids with you, really needed to hear. 

By the way, maybe you'd like to read the whole book.  It's worth the time, especially if you are a youth worker (volunteer or paid).  Check it out here.

[1] Kurt Johnston, Middle School Ministry Made Simple (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing, 2008), 166.