We are only one week and a half or so from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference.  It is probably one of my favorite times of the year.  This particular conference has truly become a place where I gather with friends to talk about ministry.  I learn so much, I laugh and I hang out with people who “get me.”  In addition I have the honor of teaching and serving on peer panels.  This is how I get to meet those with fresh ideas and hear about youth min. all over the world.  I thought it might be fun to share what I am teaching this year and why it’s close to my heart.

I mean you see the titles, you read the bios, but do you have any idea why us speakers care about what we do?  So this week I would like to break down my sessions for you.

 

Partnering With A New Generation Of Parents: (Saturday, 9 AM):

I have been in some form of family ministry for over two decades now.  (Yes, that means I’m old.)  When I started out it was in a rural area.  The running joke has always been that it took forever to gather all of my students not because I had so many, but because they lived so far away from each other.  This was the first time I was exposed to “Christian” households that hid affairs, problems and issues.  Most of my students did have two parents in the home, but that didn’t mean they were happy homes.  Fast forward as the Lord plops me in the inner city.  I remember in my first week a 10 year old girl asking me my age.   When I told her, “24,” her response was a gleeful, “That’s the same age as my Mom!” I honestly, had no idea how to respond, as the reality of two things hit me:  1. How young her Mom was when she had her.  2.  She had 2 siblings.

I continued to meet students in these areas who came from single parent households.  Dads were nonexistent in their lives.  It was not uncommon for there to be multiple children with the same Mom and different fathers.  Time marched on and I began to help out with suburban youth ministry.  I saw patterns of divorce there.  I met kids from rich homes whose parents were workaholics.  I talked with churches all over the country and I started hearing the same stories.  The traditional “family unit” was melting away.  Grandparents and family members  were raising grandchildren. Kids were growing up in foster care and group homes.  Children were navigating four parents as divorce and remarriage occurred.  The situations may have looked different at one time in rural, suburban and inner city areas,  however,  I have seen in recent years that the same scenarios are playing out everywhere.

Honestly, I pointed fingers at who I thought were “unworthy” to spiritually lead their children.  I put myself in the position of Savior and Hero when everyone else let them down.  That’s when the Lord convicted me of 3 things:

     No matter how much time I spent with any student at some point they would “go home.”

I could not ever be the Savior, there is only one.

God’s heart for the family is for it to be whole.  

The Lord pointed me to places in His Word about His thoughts of the family and the way He wants it to be.  I saw that as I decided that “some” parents “could” never “get there,”  I was actually becoming part of the problem and not the solution.

That’s why I have taken up the cause to see every parent, every family the way the Lord does: redeemed.  Will every family get there?  Of course not.  Is it what Jesus longs for?  Absolutely.  My responsibility is to keep asking Him to give me His eyes in the situation.

I feel responsible to learn how to partner with this new generation of families, and help them see what Christ does.  Will you join me as we learn how to do this together?

Do you have any specific questions on this topic you might like me to answer in my workshop?

Tune in tomorrow for: “Building Relationships In A Fake Relational World.”
Leneita / @leneitafix

A new generation of families.  

Someone said to me yesterday, “The unconventional family is becoming the new norm.”  Divorced, blended, unchurched, de-churched, and “baby mama,” are all a reality.  Grandparents, foster parents, relatives and friends are all raising “someone else’s” children, right here in America.  I talked to a young woman just the other day who said, “It shocked me when I became a volunteer in a wealthy church how handy my counseling degree would be with those kids. They are abused, neglected and isolated.”

The question is this?  How will we choose to view them?  I had the opportunity last month to speak to the audience at the D6 Family Conference and share my thoughts. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for loving students,

Leneita

@leneitafix



 

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You are on the phone with Mr. Murphy… again.  You have given him every detail for the overnight event about a million times. He is letting you know why the movie you are planning on taking the students to is inappropriate. Not long ago, he also let you know his son would not be attending the series you were teaching on “Social Media.”  His children were not allowed to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine or anything else for that matter. They would learn the skills of communicating using their audible voice.

The Murphys seem to want to protect their children from any and every influence outside of their control.  If they could send them out the door in an astronauts suit, you are sure they would.

You can’t disagree with their parenting. Their children are respectful, and want to live for Jesus. They don’t seem tempted by “the world,” because their exposure to it is limited. However, you also have a mix of students in your group that come from unchurched families and are exposed to EVERYTHING. You are trying to teach students how to be inclusive to all, without pushing the Murphy family away.

So how do we walk through dealing with “over-protective” parents:

 OVER COMMUNICATE TO ALL:

It really doesn’t matter who the parents are. Over-communicating solves a myriad of problems.  Send letters and emails home that tell what’s coming up each week. What will you be teaching?  What type of illustrations will you be using? Use this as a way to include parents in talking to their children about what is coming, or to make the choice to pull their children from group that week.

Details:

Make sure whenever you are planning an event, that you have thought through and communicated every detail of who, what, where, when and how to the parents. Let them know what’s happening, step-by-step, as much as possible.

Plan:

Mr. Murphy is not the parent that will like “last minute” ideas with his child.  Plan ahead.

Ask permission

Before you ask his child to do something beyond regular program ideas. Bounce it off of the parents first. THEN ask the student.

Build your Parental Reputation:

Make sure that you stick to the plans that you create. Be on time getting students to and from activities. Make sure that all parents know exactly what you will be doing and when.

Opinions Vs. Truth:

Remember sometimes their disagreement is just their opinion.  One parent may be against “Harry Potter,” because it is about “magic.”  Another may let their child get into that series while they aren’t allowed to watch anything about vampires.  We aren’t going to make the Murphys happy all the time, and it isn’t our job to. It is however,  their right to know what we will be using to influence their child, and make the decision as to whether or not they will allow them to participate.

Parent Trainings:

A friend of mine does an amazing job of hosting trainings to educate parents on culture and current trends.  Sometimes parents are afraid, because they may not know that Facebook has controls on it, or that Instagram can be set to private. They honestly may not know that our national obsession with vampires has shifted to include zombies. These meetings are invaluable. Does every parent come? No. Do many? Yes.

Remember, all we can do is tell the Murphys that we are on their side, and we respect them.  They may complain, and be unhappy even then. They are just trying to raise their kids the best they can.

How do you navigate “over-protective” parents?

Leneita

@leneitafix

The “Blaming” Parent

 —  October 29, 2013 — 1 Comment

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You thought that youth program had gone well that night. The small group discussion touched on a difficult topic, but it truly felt like the Lord spoke through you. The kids had been so responsive. When you didn’t know an answer to their question you told them. As a group you wrestled with some deep thoughts.

The next morning you get a call from Mrs. Smith. “What did you teach on last night?”  she asked. You are confused, knowing her daughter Roya probably had told her. For a few minutes you explain. Mrs. Smith goes on,  “I didn’t appreciate it at all. You really messed Roya up. You gave her a lot of misinformation.”

Continuing, Mrs. Smith transitions from calm to accusatory. “You shouldn’t teach a small group anymore. I heard you don’t even teach the Bible and just give the students your opinion on life.” The conversation ends with Mrs. Smith informing you her next call is to “the pastor,” for you are only “part-time anyway”. Not only does Mrs. Smith call the pastor, she starts calling all of her friends in the church.

Your “boss” supports you. He doesn’t feel like you have done anything wrong. When you talk to him, you give him every angle of the conversation from the last evening. Now your integrity has come into question from several of the parents.  You don’t want to talk to your friends about it, because they are in the church as well and you don’t want to be divisive.

Sound extreme? I think many of us have had a variation of this experience.

How do you handle Mrs. Smith?
Pray for her:

Our feelings are crushed in these types of situations. We would love to just crawl in a hole and die. Hurting people hurt people, even in the church. Our feelings may be crushed, but there is a deeper reason here. We don’t want  to lose Roya, so we need to learn how to deal with Mrs. Jones. Pray.

 The Rule of Twos:

Is this a pattern with Mrs. Smith?  Does she call often and blame you for something? Offer to sit down with her with leadership that is “above” you. Approach your Senior leadership, and ask them how they would like you to proceed. When your “boss” has your back then you can know how to move forward.

Face to Face Meetings: 

Make sure that any phone call is followed up with a face to face meeting. (See The Rule of Twos)

Email Communications:

If she interacts with you on an email, CC any contact with her to your senior leadership.  Avoid written communication as much as possible.  While it does create a “paper trail,” it also can miscommunicate your intentions easily.

How do we avoid having these conversations in the first place?  Over-communicate to parents on EVERYTHING (more on this tomorrow.)  Sometimes we can’t avoid them, and that makes us sad.

How have you handled the “blaming parent?”

Leneita

@leneitafix



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Challenging Parents. Yes they are out there, and as youth workers, we know they are important.

Whether we say it out loud or in our heart  we have all had a moment when we utter: “I just wish THAT PARENT would get out of the way.”  You know, the “ones” that cause a knot to form in the pit of your stomach as you watch them walk toward you.

However, we can’t avoid them. No matter how much time we ever spend with a student, at some point they will go home.  Multiple statistics state whether we consider them “good” or “bad” they are the primary influencers of their children, the ones in our “youth programming.”  We are in the business of “family ministry” whether we give it that title or not

That’s why this week I would like to dedicate my posts to learning how to best work with the parents who we don’t always know “how” to work with.

To engage a parent and let them know you are in this journey with them is powerful.  After today, I will be tackling some of the specific “types” of parents that come our way. However, I have a few initial thoughts:

Every Parent Deserves A Partner:

It is not our “right” to judge a parent. Instead, it is about coming alongside them and aiding them in the growth of their child. Adolescent development dictates that teens are looking for “coaches” and “role models” to guide them.  My son’s Middle School Football team has 9 coaches. Think of it as the parent is the “head” and we get to be one of the remaining 8.

Learn the words “Privilege,” “Honor,” and “Thank You.”

I had a parent show up a few weeks ago to “check out,” the youth programming we offer. Her child has just started attending recently and this single Mom is skeptical about us. I asked her if she might like to be with us for the evening to see what was going on. Then I said,  “Thank you so much for allowing your daughter to come be with us. It is a privilege and an honor that you would allow us to speak into her life.”  This simple phrase lets parents know you are on their side, are not trying in any way to replace them, and respect their position. It is never a “right” to have any student in our youth group.

 Be The Youth Worker/ ALWAYS lead with Respect

You have a job to do.  Every parent understands policies and procedures.  Never be afraid to over communicate to ALL your parents. Let them decide if they think a topic is inappropriate for THEIR child. However, just like a teacher, coach or director you have ways of  “doing things.” You are allowed to respectfully point out expectations to parents.  They understand, they may not like it, but they understand. Then we must remember, it is always their prerogative to decide what it best for THEIR child.

 

This week we are going to look at some strategies when confronted with “over-protective,” “opinionated,” and “blaming parents.”  Hopefully, some of the ideas will help as navigate the waters with parents.

What are some initial thoughts on ways you approach challenging parents?

mendler--difficult-parentsThis is a topic that freaked me out my first year in youth ministry. As a young parent myself, it’s not easy telling grown ups how to deal with their children. So it took me a while to really get to a place where I was comfortable with talking to parents. I’m sure I’m not alone in this area. I thought I’d list some principles that I’m learning along the way that has helped me navigate dealing with parents.

Know your role to parents. - We are support to parents first and formost. Let them take the lead. My value is in being another voice for the student to hear the same message that their parents give. It may sound different and even be presented differently, but it should be the same message. Unless, of course, the message is contrary to Gods word.

Parents are Primary. – Keep parents in their place as primary. Let them make the final decisions because they will have to be the primary enforcer, encourager and disciplinarian. We make suggestions not decisions.

Parents aren’t perfect. – Children do not come with manuals and so parents have no other choice but to parent out of their brokenness. So don’t be shocked if the parents don’t have it all together. As the old saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”.

Parents don’t have all the answers. - A parent may ask a question and you’re thinking “shouldn’t they know this already?!” That should never be your response but you should talk it out with them. Help them think things through and sort things out. Your perspective has an immeasurable amount of value to parents, so share it.

Parents need your prayers. – We have a great advantage of being able to pray for parents specifically and strategically. We know the needs and the struggles students have. We also know the struggles parents have. So we definitely should be praying for our parents because they need it.

Parents need your encouragement. – I understand this more now then I did when I didn’t have children. Parenting is not easy and most of the time there is no instant reward. You won’t fully see the rewards of your parenting until your children are on their own. Therefore, parents need to be encouraged that all the work they are doing now is not in vain. They need to know that making their kid come to youth group is not in vain. So be your parents biggest fan.

Keep parents leading spiritually. – Now, this doesn’t mean you get to put parents in check when you think they’re not. What it does mean is you must work with the parents and keep them the primary spiritual leader in their child’s life. For example, this year with my small group guys that I lead I’m going to send the lesson home a week early before it is taught. Then they can discuss it with their parents if they choose. This does two things:

  1. It keeps the parents in the loop on what’s being taught.
  2. Also, it challenges the parents to engage with their children spiritually. We will discuss what was discussed with their parents before we start the lesson each week. This will give me the opportunity to agree and reinforce some of the truths that the parents share with them from the lesson.

I only listed a few and I know there are many more. This post is really about partnering with parents better. I would love to hear your thoughts on the post. What did I leave out?

hope it helps

ac



article.2013.06.19Actually, you can lose the support of parents in 10 MINUTES, but we wanted this week’s theme to be consistent. Uninformed youth workers often criticize parents as standing in the way of youth ministry. This makes us laugh…and then cry. We hope you get this: Youth ministry is about caring for students and families and parents as they raise their children. It is our job to come alongside them as the church and support them in this calling. We don’t always get it right, in fact today we’ve got three ways youth workers often miss the mark when it comes to parents.

We don’t let them know what is happening in youth group.

Youth group is the best-kept secret in the church! How cool would it be if parents knew the lessons ahead of time and could have the opportunity to discuss it before they left for group? Or at least had some tools on the back end to help them discuss at home what they learned at church… Too often we move from lesson to lesson and program to program without even the most basic communication to parents.

We don’t return phone calls.
It doesn’t matter what type of communication you prefer. For many parents, hearing a voice over the phone is far and away the best message. When you don’t return a phone call it subtracts equity from your ministry. It doesn’t take long before you are overdrawn. If you aren’t a phone person…who cares? You need to become one because a phone call is the love language of most parents these days.

We keep the spiritual growth of their child a mystery.

This year we’re trying to go public with the spiritual progress of each student. We’re not hanging a star chart on the wall of the youth room, but hoping to connect parents and small group leaders every month in some tangible way. Maybe in a personal email, a coffee date, or even a breakfast gathering that would function more like a parent-teacher conference than anything else.

How else do we lose parents in our ministry?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

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!