How do I handle parental complaints? Easiest question ever!

STEP 1 Ignore them as long as possible. Parents can wait! Hey, you’re enjoying well-deserved time off playing Halo 4 after The Extreme Best Overnighter in the World (T.E.B.O.W. for short). The best way to ignore critical parents is to follow this handy advice:

If the complaint arrives via voicemail, ignore it. The upset person is at least 50, so help him or her take a technology baby step by waiting at least 48 hours to respond. But if the person name-drops a key elder or deacon, call back immediately.

If the complaint comes via written letter, toss it. Snail mail? Did a mystical portal drop me into 1974? After a few days, simply throw away the letter. Then claim it must’ve been lost in the mail.

If parents complain via text-message, reply ASAP. This is true especially if they’re likely to start a social-media insurrection. Jam out a quick apology, promising to make everything right.

STEP 2 When you do talk to disgruntled parents, accept no responsibility.
Have a scapegoat handy (a convenient college-age hipster is perfect). Be ready with key deflections to indicate the situation was out of your hands and you’re totally disappointed, too. Then hope no videos surface of you laughing during the incident. Keep these clever excuses ready in a pinch:

I wish someone had made me aware of this right away. Redirection places the blame back on parents. For a solid follow-up, work in this one: I guess we’ll never know the truth now.

I’ll deal with those people immediately. Was it your choice to play that R-rated movie? Was it your call to duct-tape a freshman to the ceiling? Who knows? With careful word play, parents will never know, either.

STEP 3 Drive a wedge between parents and teenagers. Divide and conquer is a biblical concept, so undermine parents whenever possible. Roll your eyes when Dad isn’t looking. Exchange knowing glances with kids to show how out-of-touch their parents are. Pacify adults long enough so you can plan The Next Big Thing That Will Change The World Overnighter Extravaganza(T.N.B.T.T.W.C.T.W.O.E. for short).

By now I hope you get the idea: Do the opposite of everything you’ve just read and you’ll handle complaints well. They’re a tough but necessary part of your growth as a leader. Jump in quickly, take responsibility, and repair the damage. Blessings on the journey!

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!


Leadertreks has released a great free eBook to help and engage parents when their students go on a mission trip. Grab it today!

All programs and trips have short comings in youth ministry and one of them for student mission trips is that parents are not involved. Mission trips are better when parents work hand and hand with youth workers. In Helping Parents Connect, Doug Franklin outlines how parents can be involved in their students’ mission trips before, during, and after the trip. This tool is designed to get you involved from the beginning and to help parents grow with your kids through this experience.



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Last week I had a particularly tough small group time. Ever had one of those?

The students in this particular group are all kids from a rough inner city area. (We would call them, Level 3 students.)Some weeks this translates itself in apathy, other times they start fights with each other. Last week, they were just rowdy and kept making lewd and inappropriate remarks to each other. As they seemed uninterested in any positive topic, my frustration began to boil. This is when I calmly asked, Why do you come to this youth group? One of the girls chirped, To learn about God. They knew this was the answer I wanted, so I pressed further. It gives me something to do, was the most common answer. The indifference they worked to present was impressive. This caused me to ask, Why do you think the leaders come here? To teach us about God, one offered. While that is true I explained it isn’t the whole story. Grabbing a piece of paper I used an object lesson to explain the power of Salvation. Within two minutes everyone was sitting riveted to the ideas presented about what it means to be in a relationship with Christ. At the end of our time I felt led to ask if anyone wanted to pray with me to make Christ Lord of his or her life. Only Joey responded.

He is far from perfect. Just that day he had tried to steal an extra snack and insisted I had developed wrinkles in the last week. So why would you love him? He is listening, asking the hard questions and genuinely wants to learn what it means to follow Jesus. My heart aches, as I want the others to desire the Lord. However, I was struck with some important ideas of talking to the “one” who does want to hear.

1. Stick with the Truth

Joey has genuinely never heard most of the ideas presented in the Bible of what it means to belong to the Lord. I might want to share my oppinions on a topic, however, sitting down and showing Him God’s plan is far more powerful.

2. Remember It’s A Process

For the Lord, Joey said, I will give up ever going to a party or smoking weed, Then he paused, I’m not so sure I can give up being physical with girls. In addition he is a student who tries too hard to get other students to like him by telling off color jokes. We talked about how the Lord loves us enough to take us where we are, and too much to let us stay there.  It takes time, transformation is rarely immediate. We are all continually being molded into the Lord’s image. We need to remember that.

3. Look Down Deep

Often times as youth workers our focus can be on the student in which we see potential. We pour our whole selves into them, however, if they want to remain apathetic, nothing will change. It isn’t the actions of a student where our focus must be, it is more their openness to respond to the Gospel. Joey wants to hear, so I need to take time with Him.

I wish all of my students would come to me and want to learn how Christ can change everything. What I must remember is one student who is willing to allow the Lord in, makes it worth it every time.

When it feels like the others aren’t listening what do you do?


I’m so excited about this! About a year ago I had this fun idea that we create a senior calendar to show where students are headed after they graduate from high school. One of the challenges of our youth ministry is keeping track of students once we get to the finish line – we were hoping this was a way we could celebrate and build community for students as they finished up. Ashley is one of the students who heads up the Create Ministry in our youth group and put in a ton of time making this random idea a reality. We started using it this weekend at youth group – during services students could fill out little cards with their information on it and drop it into a small collection bucket. Ashley or one of the other student leaders would then make pins for their school and/or add them to an existing school already on the map. For some seniors who have already dropped out of youth group (argh) we’re trying to get their information from Instagram and Facebook so it is complete as possible.

So in addition to the visual display for the next two months, we could use use the information to keep in contact with students all over the US, send care packages and help them find Christian community more quickly, too. It has already been such a fun exercise – I’m sure it will become one of the most interesting places for people to check out as they walk through our church.

Here’s a closer look at it, notice how each state is themed in some way in the fabric choice – the attention to detail is insane!


I absolutely love how it turned out, and a much simpler version could be made with a $10 map and pushpins if you want to get one up in your ministry by next weekend. I hope this is something you steal or inspires you to do something even cooler in your church!



I’m really excited about this brand new junior high Sermon Series called, “Snapshots; Pictures of Jesus” In this four-week series students will look at Jesus the Human, Jesus the Shepherd, Jesus the Rebel and Jesus the Savior.


I’m about half-way through a great new book, Contagious; Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger. In a style similar to Malcolm Gladwell, Berger sets out to actually quantify the science of why ideas, trends, products etc. catch on and become so popular. So far I’m loving it!


* Yes, The Simply Youth Ministry Show is on a break. We may bring it back and we may not. It’s fun, people seem to enjoy it, but it’s a ton of work. We’ll see.

* So happy that Tim Tebow got released by the Jets! I have no idea what his future in the NFL looks like, but it looks brighter today than it did yesterday!

* Speaking of sports. Let’s talk baseball; or more specifically; why I’ve lost interest. I think I’ve lost interest in baseball for the same reason I’ve lost interest in Basketball and have never been interested in Hockey: The seasons are just too long! I like sports where every game in the regular season truly matters. I get excited for the playoffs, but always feel guilty for suddenly being excited about a sport that I’ve ignored for the previous 5 months.

YouTube-LogoLooking for a great video to show at a Mother’s Day Program…Here it is!

With summer quickly approaching schedules change, people leave and you are ready for a BREAK. If you’ve been in ministry long enough you know that summer is one of the most important times of year because it enables you to make tweaks and changes without disrupting the momentum. It’s also a time for you to relax, grow and experience new things with your students (i.e. mission trips). The only problem is it’s also a perfect opportunity for:

  • Momentum to Fade
  • Volunteers to Drop Out
  • Teens to Forget About Your Ministry
  • You to Fall Behind in Your Work

To avoid these pitfalls and summertime blues it’s important to treat summer as seriously as you do any other season. To do this you need a strategy. If you want to avoid your summertime mishaps and come out on the other side focused and ready for the fall, be sure to:

  • Keep True To Your Schedule: The tendency is to just shut it all down over the summer. While you do need periods of rest, it’s important not to lose the time frame you work hard to promote. If you aren’t going to meet regularly with your teens still keep your program time as an opportunity to meet with parents, host trainings or check-in meetings for the camps and events. Make sure people are reminded that your designated ministry time is still on their minds.
  • Be Consistent But Keep It Light: While you want to maintain your meeting time, don’t feel like you need to maintain the work load. Look at cutting certain components (i.e. technology or activities) that take a lot of preparation and focus on the relationships, which can happen more organically. By planning light you give yourself the capacity to focus on strengthening your leaders and giving yourself some much needed rest.
  • Switch The Focus: During the year your focus is on growing disciples amongst the teens. In the summer change that focus to your leaders. Find times to meet with them, hang out, invest and grow with them spiritually. It’s a time to be reflective, to cast vision and remind them about the importance of their commitment. Make it social; however, make it educational at the same time.
  • Communicate, Communicate and Communicate: Despite your schedule keep the communication air waves open. Maybe it’s sending your leaders a postcard while on vacation or checking in with teens via Facebook/Twitter. Let parents know some of the tweaks and changes happening over the summer. Give teens a chance to check back in, when they are in town. Let them know that you are still thinking about them.

Summer might be your break and it might be a time for serious planning. Regardless of how you use it, make sure you approach it wisely. Do not forget about your audience while you recover from a full year of ministry. No matter your take on the summer make sure you have a strategy as the weather turns warmer.

How do you avoid summertime blues?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Great video about our Dream Center Mission Trip! Made by a very talented intern on our team!