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The relationships we have in ministry will inspire, challenge, shape and even hurt us. Some of those relationships we think will last forever while others will just be a moment in time. One of the most stressful relationships we can endure early on in youth ministry is with the parent. It can be stressful for many reasons; however, one of the main catalysts to the conflict is the shared emotion that the two of you share towards the teenager. Together you want the best for the teen; however, how to work together and what that means has not yet been discovered.
I remember hating it when parents told me that I didn’t get it (many times they were right) and I would respond that neither did they. It wasn’t until God surrounded me with parents that I allowed to speak truth into my life where I really began to understand the role I was to play in a parent’s life. A youth minister needs to be there for the parent just as much as they are there for the teens. It’s not that parents need you to be successful; however, you can be that affirming voice. As a youth minister in their child’s life you can be that liaison that helps strengthen the family. In order to be those things we need to take steps to partner with parents. Three of those steps involve:
- Listening To Their Story – It can come off like they are chewing you out and blaming you for their teens short comings, but, what they are sharing with you is a part of their parenting story. They aren’t looking to blame someone, they are looking for someone to hear out their struggle, frustrations and give them hope. The tendency is to enter into youth ministry telling parents what they need to do, when you should spend most of your time listening to where they are coming from. Knowing your parents stories will help you serve their teenagers better.
- Putting Them First – We see the teenagers more than the parents; therefore, the relationship with them feels stronger. This will make it difficult when you need to put parents first. A teenager in your ministry might try to use you as leverage to get their parents to bend on a decision. There will be situations when a teen needs to share with their parents what they’ve shared with you. The tendency is to side with the teen because you don’t want to lose their trust; however, you need to put parents first. With parents first you not only help the family, but you build credibility. If parents trust you they will fight and advocate for you. If they trust you with their teen, they’ll encourage other parents to do the same.
- Empowering And Encouraging – You aren’t there to replace the parent, you are their to empower and encourage them. Parenthood grows tough each and every time the child reaches a new phase in life. Parents will ask themselves, “Can I love this child enough?”, “Will I continue to have influence as they grow older?” and they need someone to tell them, “Yes”. Ask yourself, “How am I equipping parents?”, “How am I thanking them and telling them that they are not alone?” Build into your ministry ways that you can nurture and feed them whether that’s workshops, open houses or a Facebook page dedicated to them.
When the relationship between the youth minister and parent is strong, so will be the foundation of the ministry. If you struggle with this relationship I encourage you to look at the one you have with your own parents. Talk to a parent you trust or your pastor and get their insight I things that trigger this negative emotion. Sometimes the hold up is something deeper; however, no matter what it is, it’s important that you work at it. When you work with parents you not only build trust between the two of you, but you build the trust and love between the teen and their parents.
In what other ways can we serve parents in youth ministry?