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If I ask you why you care students are in your youth ministry, you will probably say something about helping them growing in “their faith.”  I inquire, “Okay, who do you want them to be?” You say something about them being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Yet, if we are honest when we take a step back and look at how we RUN our ministries, it is not always with the end “result” in mind. We plan a calendar, take trips, run small groups, and do activities. Some of us will say our focus needs to be helping parents disciple their children, others say we need to build student leaders, outreach, share the Gospel, or simply pour into our youth. However, I would contend there are two questions that should drive everything we do in our ministries.

1.  When a student leaves us, what will they look like?

I, of course, am not talking about their voice and body changing into an adult. Let’s say a family enters your church and has a baby. This baby grows up in the church through all the ministries and then graduates, leaves home, and heads out into the “real world.” Who is that young adult? A fully devoted follower of Christ? What does that mean? Do they read their Bible everyday, tell others about Christ,  pray often, and enter the mission field?  What is it? How is everyone in your church working together to see this happen?  The time of the “siloh” between nursery, children, youth and adults needs to be over. What are we doing to work together to grow our children?  Let’s stop “starting over” every time our kids enter a new phase of life, and instead see each of us as part of their journey into their lives as a someone taking the world for Christ.

2.  How does what we are doing “influence” who they are becoming?

The second question has to do with our programming and approach. There was a time where I would say the main question we needed to ask before embarking on anything was, “How does this build a relationship?” That is still vital, and it’s a great filter. Yet, still we have a tendency to make plans based on who is standing in front of us today,  not in the future. When we plan this way, we run everything we do through a sieve of purpose. It helps us know what not to take on, and what might need readjusting. So you take students on a missions trip yearly. Why? How is this part of the journey in the Lord? What do you need to do to get them ready or to follow up with them afterwards? Are you teaching them about service and why that matters when they are 8 or 9-years-old and again and again before the trip ever happens? This helps with equipping parents and growing the body of Christ as a whole.

These are not questions we can ask once, but often. I contend they should be asked anytime the church does anything. At least quarterly, sit down as a full staff and see how you are working together. It doesn’t really matter if a student jumps in when they are 5 or 15-years-old.  When we do ministry this way we are all about moving with Jesus all the time.

Are you asking these questions?

Leneita

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



shareThis past weekend we opened up summer camp registration. So we themed this past weekend “Summer Camp Stories Weekend.” We had students share their testimonies about how summer camp impacted their life. They shared on stage in front of their peers during our services. We had 5 students share, and that was the message for the weekend. I will say it is definitely one of our most powerful weekends. Our attendance even increases. It’s just something about a student sharing their life’s story that grabs the attention of their peers.

In order for you to share your testimony you have to go through a process. Now, I started a process a while back that I didn’t know would be so impactful, but it has definitely taken our stories weekend to a whole-notha-level!!! A key ingredient in the very detailed process that I do is meeting with the student parents. I have the student read their story to their parents before they share it on stage. So the student, their parents and I, meet together. Whether they share or not, depends on how this meeting goes. I share with their parents what testimonies are all about and why we do them, and the student reads it right there in front of us. I’ve done a ton of these, and I can tell you that God shows up every single time. I’ve seen him restore relationships over and over. I’ve seen him wake parents up from their parenting slumber. I’ve even seen parents who didn’t care anything about God begin coming to church. I’ve even seen parents recommit their lives to Christ after hearing how He’s been changing their child’s life.

It’s hands down one of my favorite things to do because I get to see, without fail, God move. I get to see first hand how much God cares about my students and their families. I’ve seen God restore relationships, I’ve seen parents come to Christ through the power of their child’s story. This is really just a glimpse into the process, but I’ve been having so many conversations with students about the ripple effect this past weekend that I had to share, and encourage you to utilize and share the life change in your ministry. People are attracted to life change. Students are attracted to life change. So share it!

hope it helps

ac

#ILIVEWITHAYOUTHGROUP

Leneita Fix —  January 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

questions

This post should be about something deep and useful, bullet-pointed for you to apply to ministry. However, daily I navigate my life with a youth group, leading it from the inside out.  You see, I have one child in college, then one each in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. Three girls. One boy.

Everyone seems to have advice for you when you have babies. Then you start scrambling for opinions when they are toddlers.  Elementary school brings a rhythm to life. Then one day you wake up and realize time is so short, before your kids will move out of your house. The repercussions of this truth seems to wash over you and a little bit of panic of, “Oh no I have to get it all together NOW,” happens.

photoHere is what no parenting book truly talks about :

Four Kids. Four Distinct Personalities. 
 

 

Ever met those families where everyone seems to have a similar personality? Take my sister and brother-in-law for example.  They are subdued and super laid back.  They have two subdued and laid back teens.  Not in our house.  The college student is the artist.  My 14-year-old is the perfectionist, who may or may not have had a breakdown recently because she “only” has a 4.09 and should have a 4.12. I’ll just leave that there. (She knows I said this and is mortified.) My almost 13-year-old (the boy) is my compassionate, sensitive, people-pleasing, ultra-competitive athlete. My youngest is our “powerful” child ( aka: strong-willed). She has no filter. Seriously, if it enters her head, it comes out of her mouth.

This means parenting uniquely 4 distinct ways, and that can get overwhelming and exhausting.

They have different love languages, learning styles, and points of view on the world.  They each want all of our individualized attention.  Just because we’ve been through this “once” means nothing- nothing at all.  Also, as we are in the midst of this season with three at once right now,  when is there time to learn anything? Think of that in terms of programming.  Maybe the parent that “dumps” their child doesn’t know what to do, and they are awkward and approach it “wrong” and are feeling like they are getting it “wrong” anyway.

There’s No Real “Book” For That

There are books for parents on individual topics like “social media” or “the changing body” or “dating” or “understanding your teen’s mind,” however, there is no book that tells you how to handle everything at once.  Where’s the book that talks about how you’re child is upset because they are not allowed to watch certain movies their friends are,  while another child comes along and tells you that they want to talk about how their friend just “got their period,”  while third child is breaking down because they need help with their homework? Then it comes out that your son is upset, because he isn’t as tall as his other classmates and why won’t his growth spurt happen again, you try to sit down and have a deep talk on identity in Christ with Him and open your Bible,  when you learn that your oldest is posting on Facebook how miserable she is, and you have moved on to a debate with child #3 about how “unfair” it is that she can’t use her technology after 8:00 p.m. You are trying to help them be molded into fully-devoted followers of Christ while they navigate a world that is constantly screaming that this idea is for “grown ups.”

You see there are days when I wish I could just “go to youth group.”  It is a lot easier. There with the other students I get to take time to plan my message and anticipate the questions that will come.  However, at home they come fast and furious, all day, at any hour, and it feels like there is no amount of “preparation” that actually prepares us for what’s going on. Instead, we stand around looking like idiots who have no idea what we’re doing most of the time.

So yes, I tweet out when my kids say stuff that slay me. Sometimes it’s profoundly wise and other times profoundly hilarious. (They even know I do it.)  All my husband and I have is a Bible, prayer and our Savior to make this parenting thing work.  Thankfully, they aren’t “ours” anyway. We just have to believe that we can’t mess them up too much, because God is bigger than us. Follow our journey in our hashtag on twitter: #ilivewithayouthgroup

Tell me, what are you learning?  If you have wisdom on all of this, we’ll take it!

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

Mom 1

 

“Why did you get rid of the ping-pong table in the youth room?”  Mrs. Jones is snapping at you,  “These students need to have more fun when they are with you.”  

You are thinking about how distracting the ping–pong table was and the number of paddles lost through the years.  She continues, “I heard that you are taking the kids to the Dominican Republic this summer on their missions trip.  You really should take them to Honduras, that would be better.” She walks away before you even have a chance to respond. Before you even get home, an email has popped up from Mrs. Jones. She is taking issue with the way you are going to run next month’s fundraiser.

Mrs. Jones seems to have an opinion on every single thing you try to do in your group. You are feeling judged. You are wondering how to avoid Mrs. Jones and never talk to her again.

Instead of ignoring and avoiding, how can we engage opinionated parents?

Avoid Getting Defensive:

When they come to “share” avoid getting defensive.  When you can explain your methods to Mrs. Jones or your reasons, simply give straightforward reasoning.

Consider Their Ideas:

Are there times when one of Mrs. Jones’ ideas might be a good one?   If it is, can you put her in charge of her own idea?  On the occasions when you are ready to run with an idea, tell her,  “That’s great. Would you be in charge of that?”

Meet With Them:

If Mrs. Jones will not stop,  “sharing” set up a meeting with her asking her heart behind her opinions.  Is it just that she wants to share, or does she really feel like her opinions are the best ones?

Vision Casting:

Have a “vision casting” session with your parents.  Do they know where you are taking their kids in your ministry?  If you let the parents like Mrs. Jones know (and then remind them) of the vision you can let them know when an “idea” doesn’t fit.

Brainstorm WITH Parents:

Brainstorm with parents their vision for the ministry.  What are you doing well?  What would they change?  Are you inviting parents overall in to bring ideas and thoughts about ways they would like to see their children impacted.

There are so many ways to approach parents.  In the end, it is about remembering that they are the major player in the story of their children’s lives.  They have the right to speak their minds.  They never have a “right” to be mean or disrespectful.  We don’t have to “run” with every idea.  I think many parents just have different ways of letting us know that they care for their children.

How do you handle opinionated parents?

Leneita

@leneitafix



The “Blaming” Parent

Leneita Fix —  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?