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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?

fall

 

 

Ahhh summer.  In ministry it’s filled with camps, trips and exhaustion.  In the world of my children it’s filled with more flexibility, days at the beach,  and of course camps. School starts for us in a week or so.  While I am looking forward to a “schedule” again, this time of year makes me feel more inadequate than every other time of the year combined.  As I read articles on how to “engage” us parents this Fall, I thought I would throw out some helpful hints from the Mom of three in JH and one in college.

Give Me Time
(And A Little Grace Too)

I am so thankful that you have calendars, planning and notices for me.  If you are offering “vision casting,” for the year even better.  While you are doing this, I am trying to get my feet under me as we return to the Fall and all that means.  Everyday involves pick up from soccer practice, football, and guitar lessons on top of school projects that are broken into “teams,” staying on top of homework being finished, the house not falling apart, dinner being made and eaten, and the “regular” stuff that never goes away. (I didn’t even mention we are in full time ministry too.)   I am getting voice and e-mails  along with texts from the school daily about another “need to know.”  I have had 400 papers shoved in front of me in the first 3 days of school.  I care, I am overwhelmed by re acclimating to a schedule that I don’t control.

 

Don’t Ask Me For Money

For three “at home:”

School Supplies: $400 (Why does every teacher require a “special” binder?”)  Uniforms/School Clothes:  $600  (This is with two pairs of pants and 3 shirts each.)   Shoes: AT LEAST $50 a pair if not more. (Once they hit “grown up” sizes all bets were off.) Sports Fees: $100 – $300 per sport (This does not include the “extra” money I am asked/required to bring for raffles, team snacks, new cleats and pictures.)  School Field Trips: $50- $60 per kid  (Thanks for starting the year off “right.”) The youth pastor not immediately asking for a deposit for the “Fall Retreat:”  Priceless. ( Please note “Only $150 per kid” is actually $450 for some of us BEFORE we ask which child wants to “sit this one out.”)   I have not even factored in the gas it takes to drive my children all over or regular “life expenses.”   It’s not that I “don’t care,”  I can’t give what I don’t have, at this point this includes time (see above.)  Notice I didn’t even touch the college student…

 

Before You Judge

I admit it, we can be “that parent.”   I am trying desperately to keep up with everything. It’s not fair, but the 15 different ways you communicate with me are helpful. AND I KNOW BETTER!!  If you have single parents, divorced parents, kids in Foster Care,  ask before you decide “the parent has just checked out”  My husband and I partner together in everything, plus I am always trying to push closer to Jesus.  AND  I feel like I am an abject failure most of the time.  We probably won’t offer it up, but if you genuinely ask, “What can I do to help?” we might not take you up the offer.  However, just offering makes it better.

In the end I am not asking for you to make a “special exception” for my child.  I am just reminding you that the unfortunate truth is youth group does not have the luxury of getting my single focus. We need you as a partner with us on this crazy journey with our kids.  My children need you as another Christ focused role model in their lives.

If you just give me until November I will have the Fall figured out, just in time to start looking at Basketball, Cheer and Christmas-  Oh and the Spring Retreat and next summer’s missions trip



Youth ministry was very frustrating until I realized it’s more of a journey than an experience. My problem is that I wanted instant and powerful results. All I got was disappointment. It’s not that the ministry was a failure (It was anything but that), it’s just that what I wanted was not what we were getting. I was impatient.

Again, youth ministry is a long journey and if you stick around long enough you will see fruit. To produce disciples and bring teens into a deep relationship with Jesus Christ takes hard work, patience andPERSISTENCE. If you are persistent in your ministry you’ll eventually build momentum and see the reward to your labor. Three areas in youth ministry where persistence is key are:

Recruiting Volunteers:There is no silver bullet to recruiting volunteers. It takes a lot of:

  • Meet and Greet
  • Email Blasts
  • Announcements From The Pulpit
  • Phone Calls
  • Invests and Invites

The more you make it a part of your routine and your volunteers the more leaders you’ll recruit. There will be seasons when you get better results than others; however, the key is to continually ask.

Connecting With Parents: No offense, but you are not the first person on a parent’s mind. To bust through the noisiness of a parent’s life you need to persistently call, reach out and connect with them. If you are hosting an event, don’t just throw out a flyer, create a buzz. If you are trying to meet one on one with a parent, set-up the meeting, check-in and then confirm it. Hold them accountable and support them by consistently communicating with them.

Leading Up: If you want your pastor to respect and support you, then you need to make the relationship a priority. To keep it in the front of your mind you need to be persistent when dealing with contention and disagreement. Communicate when it’s hard to talk and shout his praise when it’s not easy. Work through the tension and watch the relationship grow.

Persistence is a key to endurance in youth ministry. It means working through the tension and trusting that God will pull you through. It’s easy to give up, change things around and abandon ship when life gets hard. What you need to do is stand up straight and move forward.

Where else is persistence needed in youth ministry?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Loved this article from last week’s Homeword newsletter. Jim Burns wrote  Taking Advantage of the Parent/Youth Ministry Partnership – here’s a clip of it but the whole thing is solid and might be a great addition to a parent newsletter or meeting soon:

Build relationships with your youth pastor and youth workers. This is so valuable to the parent/youth ministry partnership, yet is so often overlooked. Do yourself and your family a favor and make the effort to build relationships with the youth ministry adults who work closely with your kids. Building relationships with these youth workers creates common ground, understanding, and trust. Building relationships fosters empathy, caring, love, and concern. We are better together, and even more so when we see each other as friends.

Help your youth ministry team help you. The more vulnerable and open you become to those who work most closely with your kids, the more understanding they will have into your family, and the better prepared they can become to help guide your kids, and to provide you with the support and encouragement you need. Scary? Perhaps. Valuable? Absolutely.

Engage with your youth ministry. Do you know what your youth ministry is trying to accomplish in the lives of kids? Do you know what programs are being offered, and what goals they are trying to achieve? The more you engage, the more you’ll know and understand, and the greater the sense of partnership you will feel.

Attend regular youth ministry parent meetings. Ask questions. Read ministry newsletters, emails, and texts. Stay in touch. When those seasons of life arise where you aren’t able to keep up on everything, and when you finally get your head above water, give your youth pastor or youth worker a call and ask for an update.

Volunteer in your youth ministry. Maybe you are a good fit for being a youth leader, or maybe not. If so, and if your kids are agreeable, volunteer! But even if serving on the front lines with kids isn’t your gift or passion, there are still many ways you can help your church’s youth ministry become stronger, healthier, and more sustainable. Prepare food, provide transportation, help with administration and communication, or offer to be a sounding board for new ideas and programs. In providing support to the youth ministry, you will be helping your own teenager.

JG