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Help! I’m My Daughter’s Youth Pastor

 —  January 13, 2014 — 6 Comments


I’ve been waiting for this moment…in both fear and excitement. My 6th grade daughter has entered youth group – my youth group.

And I find myself with more questions than answers on how to maneuver this vehicle of being “Dad” and “Youth Pastor.”

So, here are my questions:

  • When she’s at youth group events, do I treat her like my daughter or a student?
  • How do I not show favoritism, when I know I’ll want to?
  • How do I help her feel that she is a regular student and not just my daughter?
  • Obviously my daughter is going to feel more comfortable talking to someone else about “life issues,” and I know it needs to be a trusted adult (other than her mom). So, how do I handle this? I know I need to give her room to develop trusting relationships with others, and I know, at times, she’s going to go to them and not me for help. But I also know I’m not going to handle things right, and I’m going to go into “over-protective-dad-mode,” when these times arise. So, how can I be proactive in handling these situations the right way? Are there boundaries to set? Is it wrong to seek out information shared between my daughter and another adult?
  • If a boy dates my daughter, then breaks up with her, would excommunicating him from youth group forever be a sensible punishment? :)  (just kidding…but seriously, can I?)

I would love to hear your thoughts and answers to these questions. Or even share some of the questions you have.

With you and for you,



Shawn Harrison

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Shawn is a pastor, author, speaker, ministry consultant, and the founding director of Six:11 Ministries. Passionate about Jesus and people, Shawn lives with his wife and three kids in Ohio, where he helps pastor Greenville Alliance church.

6 responses to Help! I’m My Daughter’s Youth Pastor

  1. Welcome to the world of youth ministry with your own kids in the group!

    When it comes to boys and our daughters, excommunication is always a viable option ~ especially when all threats of corporal punishment have been exhausted. If sending him to the dodgeball front lines, then having the rest of the team pull back doesn’t work, I’m pretty sure the prophet Nathan is good with excommunication!

    Seriously, though, I think the key is communicating all of these questions with your daughter. Work together with her to find the solutions that work for you. What works for me and my daughter may not be effective at all in your family. One of the things I consistently communicate, though is that I’m her dad before I’m any one else’s youth minister.

    Yes, I love my students. But it’s been empowering for her to know that she won’t be sacrificed on their behalf. I try to keep the family stories to a little more of a minimum that a couple years ago, before she was in my group.

    • Thanks for commenting Mike.

      “The dodgeball front lines” … love it!

      Your advice about talking through these questions with my daughter is great. I plan on doing that. I definitely want to communicate to Gloria (my daughter) that she is more important than the others teens in our group – simply because she is my daughter. I remember sitting in on a talk at the SYMC a few years back, and the speaker made this remark: Your own kids are your first youth group. That was a “wow” moment for me. And this is why I’m asking these questions. I want to be a good youth pastor to my kids, but I want to be an even better father to them.

      I have no clue what I’m doing sometimes :)

      • I’ve been at this for 15 years and some days still feel like I don’t have a clue. (Keeps things interesting that way!) It sounds like you’ve set healthy priorities, though. My students know I play favorites ~ they’re the ones that look like me and sleep in my house and eat my food! At the same time, they know that our family is here for them as well.

        I was a little concerned at first about how having my kids in my youth group would affect the dynamics, but it’s really been a huge blessing having my daughter in the group for the last couple years (she’s in 8th & we start at 6th Grade, too). My older son hits 6th Grade next year and I’m sure that will be a whole new adventure!

        • I love this line – My students know I play favorites ~ they’re the ones that look like me and sleep in my house and eat my food! At the same time, they know that our family is here for them as well.

          I so appreciate your thoughts and advice, Mike. Thanks!

  2. I have the privilege of knowing shawn and his family in person, so I can say with confidence that Shawn is off to a great start with this. There are some practical things to do or not do, sure. But, the main thing is who you are. Do your kids respect you as a dad, husband, man, pastor, follower of Jesus? When you are leading young people, will your kids see a different person than they see in family life? I know that Shawn’s kids love and respect him. He has authentically and humbly, earned their respect, and it comes through in how they interact with him. They feel safe, cherished, and adored by Shawn. Because he has put in the long hard hours of correctly prioritizing his life, Shawn has a very strong foundation of godly leadership in his home. The rest is icing on the cake. Shawn’s kids know who he is and who he serves. I believe they will joyfully live under his leadership as their youth pastor, not just as their dad.

  3. It can be intimidating at first, but having my kids in youth group is awesome! It’s also a blessing for the other kids — they get to see our relationship at work, which lends a different perspective to our meetings. I can ask my daughter to share something that happened to us last weekend, I can ask my son to open the group in prayer without getting all kinds of excuses. I can give them big, long front-hugs without fear of losing my job, and the other kids love watching our interactions. They also give me a lot of inside scoops on what’s going on in the group that I might not hear otherwise or fail to pick up on.

    Before all this happened, though, I sat down and spoke with both of them. I asked them how they felt about me being their youth pastor, and what was okay/what wasn’t okay. I let them form the guidelines for how we interact at youth group.

    I have to be careful not to use them as examples, be harder on them than others or air their dirty laundry. For the most part I try to treat them like just one of the kids. It is definitely a plus having them in youth with me!

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