A Parent’s Wish from Parent to Youth Worker
By Ellen Cavanaugh
Thank you for responding to God’s call to work with my children. You’re an answer to my prayers that they be surrounded by loving people trained to respond to the needs of today’s teens.
I want to work with you when I can, but I know my resources are limited. I can barely find time to do laundry and housework, spending the time I’m not working as a chauffeur, fundraiser, and PTA Mom.
May I share with you five of the goals I want most for my child? My prayer and hope is that we can work together in making them a reality. I know other parents have different goals. I admire your ability to listen to all of us and find the common ground on which our children’s best interests lie.
A Sense of Personal Destiny
When my son was four, his little voice asked from the back seat of the car, “Mom, do I have a destiny?” I’ve tried, through moments like this, to remind him that a merciful God created him and calls him. I’ve attempted to help him discover the particular gifts and talents he’s been given to serve God and the world. I push him to get good grades, because I think one of those gifts is his intellect. I drive him to practice, because I think another gift is his health. I take him to church, because I think yet another gift is faith.
But when I say to him, “You are a child of God,” I must shout it over so many other voices that tell him he’s only a limited human being. They tell him to be indifferent to and even cynical of God’s invitation to an intimate and deep communion. They fail to have him look up to the heights to which he is called. They set before him goals not worthy of sons and daughters of God.
Call him to fly high. Call him to be holy. He struggles today because so few adults in his life know his name, know his strengths, know his weaknesses. How can they begin to show him his destiny? Please try to get to know him. Call on his talents when they’ll serve the community. Don’t be afraid to challenge those parts of him in which he has yet to grow confident. Fearfully, yet faithfully, I trust you with my son, his name, his likes, his dreams, his very soul.
When my daughter was in fifth grade, she fell in love with the story Anne of Green Gables. She has looked for a “Diana Barry” ever since—a bosom friend, someone to share her adventures and secrets, her fears and deepest longings. Rumors, teasing, jealousy, and envy pull at all her relationships. I pray that God sends her good friends. I try to send her to places where she can discover others who share her love of Christ and desire for goodness.
Thank you for taking her to all those big events. It may seem frustrating to you to only have one, two, or three teens who sign up. It means the world to her to meet so many teens in love with God and trying to live as disciples. She comes home from each event with two or three new e-mail addresses and Instant Messenger names. There are more than a few of these relationships that have seen her through the various crises of high school days.
Give her time to grow in genuine friendship with Christ. In moments of prayer, help her speak to him face to face and recognize in him a model for all friendships. Interrupt the business of youth ministry with silence. Allow her moments with a friend who shows no greater love.
A Safer World
You would think I’d be numb, having brushed aside so many different nightmares while my children are away. The world is filled with menacing realities: pedophiles, drugs and alcohol, AIDS and other STDs, drunk drivers and just inexperienced teen drivers, terrorists (do you know how hard it is to let them go on a mission trip now?), pornography and the behavior it inspires, and date rape drugs. It’s routine now to turn to prayer each time my fears drop me to my knees, but I rise with concrete rules and precautions I expect my children to follow.
I have expectations that similar rules will be followed at youth events. I expect that drivers won’t be taking cold medicine (or anything stronger), will obey the speed limits, and make sure every child has a seat belt. I expect that my 13-year-old won’t be handed a power tool and no safety glasses and my 16-year-old won’t be put on a two-story barn roof after only two hours of sleep.
Call my children to have a respect for just rules, seeing them as tools to build a more loving world. Point out the human dignity, raised to divine heights by God becoming man, that underlies all justice. Help them develop and follow basic rules that make this world ever more humane.
Opportunities to Lead and Serve
At five years old, my son beamed with pride as he told me about the women who came to his preschool to take the socks his class had collected to a shelter for moms and kids who had no homes. At nine, my daughter’s Christmas gift to Christ was the cello duets we played together a s a prelude for the midnight Mass. At 11, when I was frustrated that she’d been pulled from classes for the second time that week in order to serve a funeral, she stopped my anger. With conviction, she explained that God wanted her to be there and how often it was that only she, the priest, and the social minister said goodbye to so many elderly people of our community journeying home to God. At 14, she returned from a leadership service trip to Africa, her eyes open to materialism and greed—and God in the poor.
Please continue to give my children opportunities to serve. When they make gifts of themselves, they begin to understand who they are and what it means to be human. Draw them into the mission of the Church. Through service, motivated by the urgency of genuine love, lead them to build the city of God within the city of humans. Through leadership, help them discover they’re not the sum of their weaknesses and failures, but the sum of their real capacities to become the images of God’s only Son.
There will be many days you won’t feel like a hero, but know that you are one. Christ comes to life for my children through how you live your life. Christ wants them in the church, because you smile and greet them every time they come to an event. Christ loves the outcast, because you won’t tolerate put downs and excluding others. Christ is merciful, because when they really messed up on the leadership project, you forgave them and helped them find a way that they could do it right the next time. Christ challenges them to pursue high ideals, because you call them on the phone and awaken in them a desire to make their lives something magnificent and beautiful.
It’s such an awesome task, to be a credible witness to God’s love for a young person! Impossible, if it weren’t for prayer. And so I beg you, please keep me (and certainly my children) in your prayers. We will keep you in ours.
“A Parent’s Wish – From Parent to Youth Worker”. Written by Ellen Cavanaugh.
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”