When I first started out in youth ministry I thought my role was to be everything a teen's parents could never be in their life. I focused on being edgy, cool, hip and of course up to speed on pop culture.
Then something happened. I myself became a parent.
So what was my new role as a youth worker going to be now that I was parent myself? Did this eliminate my identity as a hip, cool and with-it youth pastor?
The truth is, being a parent has enhanced my ability to both pastor and parent. Neither of these roles are mutually exclusive, but somehow they have blended together to help me reshape how I lead families in the present and into the future. Here are three things that I'm learning about working with parents in ministry.
1. Parents aren't the enemy. We've all had negative interaction with parents I'm sure, but these experiences don't make parents bad people. Parenting is the most difficult job on the planet. Add into the mix the tendencies teens possess, and you get an emotionally charged scenario 9 times out of 10. Parents are passionate about their kids, and sometimes their passion is mis-communicated as anger, rage or displeasure. Wise youth leaders find ways to disarm emotionally charged confrontations and turn them into win-win scenarios for all parties. Parents sometimes just need someone to listen...just like teens do. I wonder if we spent more time listening to the stories and needs of parents if we'd build greater partnerships with them?
2. Parents need to be loved & valued too. If you're constantly told that you aren't doing a good job, wouldn't you begin to believe it? Most teens (like most human beings) have no problem telling people when things aren't working well for them, but when it comes to sharing encouragement, they might struggle to do so. Consider your next upcoming parents gathering. Spend a few moments encouraging and inspiring parents instead of asking them to change something they do right away, you might find that they are more willing to consider your ideas once you've spent some time listening to them.
3. Parents want to belong & fit in. Often times parents feel isolated in their parenting struggles or wins with their kids. The family schedule is usually oriented around that activities of the children. Parents often sacrifice their own desires and needs for socialization for the sake of their child's development. Are your parent connection times more about information being given, or relationships between parents being built? The most powerful gift you can ever offer another human being is to help them see that they aren't alone in life. Parents long to belong and fit someplace...is your ministry to families a place where they can do that?
What are you learning about working with parents? Post your ideas below!