Three Great Youth Leaders Address Three Urgent Needs
Compiled by Ron Fitch
Article One: the parent trap
By Mark DeVries
Do these lines statements sound familiar? “These parents never volunteer.” “Our parents keep complaining that they don’t get enough information, but I email them every week!” “What am I—a baby-sitting service?”
Now that I’ve sat on the other side of youth ministry—the parent side—for almost 15 years, I’m seeing parents from a totally different perspective. With my kids grown and out of the house (well, mostly), I see how desperately I needed help from their youth leaders. Here’s why:
I was tired. Most parents of teenagers are exhausted. They’re logging more hours at work, bouncing between obligations, sometimes caring for aging parents, and juggling the exploding time time-bombs called teenagers. It isn’t that they don’t want their kids involved in youth ministry; they just can’t keep all the balls in the air. (If anyone should understand that feeling, it’s youth pastors, right?)
I wanted help. I longed for someone who could make my parenting job a little easier. I wanted my kids to spend time with godly adults, but I didn’t have the time or energy to force them to attend youth group. I wanted them to want to go.
Recently, I sent an e-mail to parents of all the kids we hadn’t seen in the previous three months. I was overwhelmed by the response. Parents poured out their hearts and expressed their gratitude, and —some pleaded for help in re-engaging their kids.
I felt like a failure. We weren’t having meals together regularly enough. We weren’t having family devotions consistently. We were mad at our kids more than we wanted to be.
Expecting perfection in parents is as short-sighted and misdirected as parents expecting perfection from us. If we hope to receive grace from parents, it starts with extending grace to them.
When most of us think of parent ministry, we think programmatically—parenting classes, family retreats, and cross-generational activities. But keeping parents on board with our youth ministry begins much more subtly. It begins, simply enough, by communicating relentlessly that we’re on their team.
By learning parents’ names, noticing when their kids have been missing, and responding to criticism with non-anxious grace, we communicate that we’re one of the few people who are consistently for them.
Maybe we can reset the default button from complaint to support, viewing parents as partners rather than as threats. Then we’ll begin to accomplish the kinds of things we can do only together.
Article Two: pleasing pushy parents
By Danny Bowers
The phone in my office has a little red light. It’s small and not really an important feature of the phone. Actually the phone works just fine whether the light is lit or not. But I dislike that red light. It means there’s a voicemail waiting to be retrieved. The reason I don’t like that red light is because of who may have left the message.
I think many of us have a hard time trying to figure out how to deal with certain types of parents. I call them Agenda Parents. The sole reason they call you, talk to you, or email you is because they have an agenda that they feel needs to be your agenda. My favorite moments are when they “just happened to be driving by the church and saw your car here” so they stopped in to “talk”…but the talk isn’t casual, it’s intentional.
Before you think I’m anti-parents, please know I love parents. There are times I actually love working with parents more than with teenagers. I enjoy their feedback, ideas, life learnings, and suggestions (good or bad).
I just don’t enjoy Agenda Parents.
I’ve learned that Agenda Parents are often either misinformed about certain situations or they just want something a certain way. Here’s how I’ve learned to interact with them.
Listen. When you listen without being defensive it will help the conversation stay civil (hopefully), and it will display a lot of integrity on your part. Most people who are frustrated really want to have their voice heard. If you show enough care to listen, odds will be they’ll do the same to you.
Give enough information and make sure it’s clear. If parents are misinformed, then inform them properly and clearly. Give them the details. Be specific. Help them see the bigger picture. They may be confused about the cost of a camp or why so many changes are taking place. They still may not like the answer, but at least you’ve left no question unanswered for them.
Be the pastor. Care for them, their family, and their kid with a pastor’s heart. Show them pastoral care and love but also remind them of your role. If you’ve made a decision that has the backing of the senior leadership of the church, or you have the authority to make certain decisions, inform parents of that, but not with pride. I’ll never forget when a parent at a church actually went to my senior pastor to ask if I was a “real pastor” or not. Sometimes certain parents do forget your role in the church; let go of the ego and stay humble in those moments.
Be willing to disagree. People who are wired to be people-pleasers can get pushed over by Agenda Parents. Agenda Parents wants it their way, and if you’re a people-pleaser, you may go their way so you don’t lose their support or their son or daughter’s involvement in youth group. But if their agenda doesn’t line up with a kingdom mind-set or the overall direction of the student ministry, you’ll have to disagree. But do so in love and be sure to explain how it doesn’t fit.
For me Christ’s kingdom and the overall direction of the church and student ministry matter more to me than Agendas. I still need to make room for Agenda-based conversations but I need to do my best to use those moments to teach, and help parents see the bigger picture.
Hang in there, be dependent on the power of God, and trust his Spirit to guide your words and conversations when those moments arise.
Time to go check my voicemail.
Article Three: are your volunteers happy or sad?
By Mark Eades
I was walking through a major chain store the day after Christmas to find some deals on Christmas cards—which we’ll provide to our volunteers next December as a way to show care to our youth.
As I was walking through the store some of the employees’ actions were less than ideal. I overheard one muttering a few cuss words. Another stormed away from a customer—visibly upset, as was the customer from which he was retreating. And one hurried employee about knocked me over in his haste to get somewhere.
Now I understand it’s a stressful season for retail employees, so I wasn’t too surprised. But what really stood out to me was the contrast between this store and the next one I entered. There, the first employee I saw was whistling a Christmas song with a big smile on her face. Another one walked by with a full cart of returns, humming to himself. The employee helping me not only answered my question but took me to the Christmas cards.
What made the difference between Store A and Store B? I think one of the reasons Store B’s employees were so much happier was how they were managed—they seemed to feel valued.
This made me think about how I manage the ministry I’m in. For example, just today I had to sit down with a couple of my volunteers who approached me with some concerns about how I handled a situation. Now I could have become really defensive with them but I decided to just listen and hear their concerns. As I listened I realized I’d made some mistakes, and they had some good suggestions on how those mistakes could be corrected. We walked into that meeting with tensions high but we left it laughing and relaxed.
Each of us has a management style that’s reflected by our team. A look at the health and atmosphere on our team is often a telling reflection of our management style. Some thoughts for you:
* How are you managing things with your team?
* How do you interact with them (lots of tension or calmness)?
* Is there a spirit of grace or of finger-pointing?
* Are your volunteers Happy or Sad?
From: www.youthcommunity.com web site. August 2009
This article “Three Great Youth Leaders Address Three Urgent Needs” was taken from www.youthcommunity.com by Ron Fitch and may be used for study & research purposes only.
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.”