What a Parent Expects Out of a Youth Leader

From the Y.L.T.S. Youth Notebook
By Allen Crabtree

Understanding Adolescence

Adolescence has been called a variety of things from a disease to miracle. People Look back on the years from 12 to 18 as some of the happiest of their life –and also the most distressing. Adolescence is the age of revelation, awakening emotions and newly discovered capabilities. It is the age of revolution against adult control and adult direction as the young person begins developing an independence that will be necessary or them in a few years to function as an adult. Adolescence is the age of anxiety and moodiness. Altogether it is the joy and pain of growing up.

Quick changes of mood color the whole adolescent period Changing attitudes and behavior begin to show as the youngster approaches adulthood. He suddenly becomes oversensitive about many things and hypercritical about his family, home and church Emotionally he is unstable: today he may be at a high while tomorrow finds him ala low It is at this critical stage of life that the parents of your church are sharing their children with you. They are allowing you to accompany them on this particular journey of life.

Understanding the Parent

In dealing with the subject of parent—teen relations, the youth worker must not only understand his youth but the parents of his young people. We have discussed the awkwardness of this time in the adolescent’s life but we must also realize that this is a very unusual time for the parents as well.

Parents find themselves facing a period of seeming rejection by their child.

As James Coleman has stated adolescence is a unique transitional period when a boy or girl is no longer fully in the parental family. but has not yet formed a family of his own, and close ties with friends replace the family ties that are so strong during most of the rest of life.’ This new found independence by the child sometimes leaves the parents with a feeling of being separated from them.

A common mistake that is made many times by parents is that they compare their child with when they were growing. We have commonly heard, when I was a boy’ or when I was growing up.” Realizing that not all these memories are wrong and that there is no room for compromise on the values of life, parents must be aware of the unusualness of our day. Our young people are growing up in a world very much unlike the day of their parents. Many of the things that they encounter were non-existent in their parents day of youth.

Communication is one of the greatest tools of life. It is through the blessing of being able to communicate that we are able to function and exist. When the line of communication is broken, living becomes very complicated. This is often the situation in many parent relations. Because of any number of reasons, the lines of communication are severed. Thus, the relationship of the parent and teen become very strained. It is these periods of time that misunderstanding arises. It is in this bind of circumstances that you, as a
youth leader have the privilege to minister.

Bridging the Gap as a Youth Leader

Today’s teenagers need to be understood and they need to be helped. You must have a clear picture of them, their developmental process and their relationship with their parents if you are to be successful as a youth leader. You must understand their needs, characteristics, frustrations, desires, and interest.

Parents see the youth leader as someone to bridge the gap between them and their children. Adolescence is often accompanied by rejection of the parents’ domination and rebellion or separation from them and their values. It is at this difficult time that parents many times feel helpless and turn to their youth leader for help. While they may not express this desire vocally, the need for your assistance is there nonetheless. Youth leader, it is here that you become the extended arm of the church—doing your part to bring the young person into a proper relationship with God’s truth and values, as well as that of his parents.

Let us realize that you as a youth leader are more than a figurehead that has been given the awesome task of babysitting a group of teenagers. More is required of you than leading your youth group through the boring rituals of an uninteresting Sunday School lesson and keeping order while you oversee a game of “twenty questions’ once a week on youth night.

You have been called and chosen to bridge the gap between your youth group, their needs, their questions and frustrations and their families, God and the beautiful truths of doctrine, holiness and righteous living. Youth leader, the parents of your church are counting on you.

Be a Guide

At this time in the young persons life, there are many decisions he must make; friends, dates, vocations, values, etc. Parents often feet their hands are tied because of this new found independence of their teen, It is at this point the Godly youth leader can communicate on their level, guide and direct them n making both social and spiritual decisions. You can actually be used in turning them toward their parents rather than away from them.

Youth leader, parents are looking to you to feel the role of a guide. Adolescents are on a trip; a trip from childhood to adulthood when in reality they fit in neither. During this time of probing, questioning, searching, experimenting, challenging, learning and testing, you have the distinct privilege of coming along as a guide. Not someone who crams them into a mold, but with love and understanding, like a gardener, cultivates and nourishes their growth.

Listed below are some of the things that parents and teens disagree on:

1. Selection of friends, dating.

2. Selection of clothes, manner of dress.

3. Study hours and school grades.

4. Nights out, time of arrival home.

5. Use of the car.

6. Household chores, care of room, care of furniture, house.

7. Work outside the home, earning money.

8. Relationships with younger brothers and sisters.

9. Attitude toward parents, parents attitude toward teenager.

10. Use of leisure time, interest, hobbies.

11. Living arrangements, privacy.

12. Discipline and guidance (too strict, too lenient, too much or too little parental guidance and interest).

13. Use of radio, stereo, telephone.

14. Family standards, values, morals.

15. Choosing a vocation.

16. Choice of life partner, age of marriage.

Some of the friction points listed above are present in some families, lacking in others. What causes parent—teen conflict in one family may not in another. Some may even seem trivial to you. How silly for parents and youth to have friction over that,” you say. But remember, a small problem repeated over
many days or months can become a major crisis for the family.

There are several reasons for parent—teen conflict:

1. Changing times. Sometimes we overlook the fact that we are living in a very unusual day. Social customs, styles, and even moral standards are very different today than they were a few years ago. While we are not in agreement with many of these, we must understand the peer pressure that our youth face. A good example is clothing styles.

Youth tend to want to be like the group, to keep up with everyone else; adults tend to evaluate them in terms of what they did at the same age.

2. Lack of Understanding is often a reason why parents and youth disagree. One of the most frequent complaints of youth is: ‘My parents don’t understand me.” ‘They don’t listen to what I have to say. “They don’t understand how I feel.”

Parents, too, complain that youth don’t try to understand their situation and problem. Parents complain: ‘My daughter doesn’t realize that money doesn’t grow on trees.” ‘Young people today take everything for granted.’ ‘My teenage son just doesn’t listen.”

3. Communication breakdowns between parents and youth is one reason for a lack of under standing and increasing friction. Some parents and youth never really talk to one another.

Both parents and youth must be willing to keep the doors of communication open, to try to exchange ideas, feelings, and problems, and to learn to respect each others ideas.

4. Lack of maturity is another reason for disagreement. Sometimes ii is the adolescent who is too immature to be reasonable. He has a chip on his shoulder, is too sensitive to criticism, gets frustrated and upset too easily, feels fearful, insecure, or anxious about something which causes tension. At other times it is the adult, who because of his own fears and anxieties is over-cautious.

Knowing Your Parents

How well do you really know your parents? This may sound like a strange question, but it is entirely possible to live with someone for a number of years and yet not really know them. Understanding must be a two-way street. You want your parents to know you, understand and appreciate your feelings, problems, and wishes. Your parents want you to understand them too. Only in this way can you help and appreciate them.

The following quiz should help you discover how much you know about your parents and their problems.

Questions About Dad

1. Where does your father work?

2. Exactly what sort of work does he do? (Be as specific as you can.)

3. What hours does he work each week?

4. Does he get a paid vacation each year? How long?

5. What are his favorite hobbies?

6. Is your father a sports fan? If so, what team does he root for?

7. Does he drink coffee? With or without cream and sugar?

8. What organizations in town is he a member of? Has he ever been an officer?

9. How much education did your father receive?

10. Did he have to work when he was in school?

11. Where was your dad brought up?

12. Did your father’s family have a car when he was your age?

13. Name two foods your father doesn’t like or can’t eat.

14. What worries him most?

Questions About Mother

1. Does your mother like housework or cooking least?

2. What things bother her most?

3. What sort of recreation does your mother like?

4. Name two best friends of your mother.

5. What organizations does your mother belong to in town?

6. What month is Mother’s Day? When is your mother’s birthday?

7. Name one of your mother’s girlhood movie idols.

8. What is your mother’s favorite dish?

9. When mother was a girl, was she good at sports? Which ones?

10. Where was your mother born?

11. How much education did your mother receive?

12. Did she have to work when she was in school?

13. What types of radio programs does she like best?

14. What sort of clothes does your mother like?

Questions about the Family

1. How much does it cost each month to support the family?

2. What is the monthly telephone bill?

3. How much does it cost to run the car each month? Is the car paid in lull now?

4. How much is the rent, or mortgage payment, on the house (or apartment)?

5. Does your father have life insurance?

6. Does the family have medical or hospital insurance?

7. Where did dad and mother first meet?

8. Where did they live after they were first married?

9. Did your mother work after she was married?

10. Has either parent ever been hospitalized for illness?

Parent Blunders:
1. ___Yes ___No Do your parents listen to you when you have a family discussion?

2. ___Yes ___No Do your parents act like they trust you?

3. ___Yes ___No Do your parents treat your friends nicely and make them feel welcome?

4. ___Yes ___No Do your parents admit their mistakes when they have been wrong?

5. ___Yes ___No Do your parents openly express and show their affection for you?

6. ___Yes ___No Do your parents avoid comparing you to brothers and sisters, or other youth?

7. ___Yes ___No Do your parents keep the promises that they make to you?

8. ___Yes ___No Do your parents show their appreciation and give you credit when you do something good?

9. ___Yes ___No Do your parents set a good example for you in their personal honesty?

10. ___Yes ___No Do your parents use the kind of language in front of you that they told you to use?

Teen Goofs:

1. ___Yes ___No Do you listen to your parents when they want to share an idea or advice with you?

2. ___Yes ___No When your parents say NO” to your plans, do you accept that answer without complaining?

3. ___Yes ___No Do you try to understand the pressures and problems that sometimes make parents grumpy and hard to live with?

4. ___Yes ___No Do you say ‘Thank you” for everything that your parents do for you?

5. ___Yes ___No Do you try to plan something nice that you can do for your parents occasionally?

6. ___Yes ___No Do you say “I’m sorry” when you know you have been out of line or have said or done something you shouldn’t?

7. ___Yes ___No Do you try to earn and keep your parents trust by doing what they expect of you?

8. ___Yes ___No Do you play fair with them and discuss things honestly, without covering up for yourself?

9. ___Yes ___No Do you ask your parents’ advice about decisions that you have to make?

10. ___Yes ___No Do you try to avoid problems and arguments by doing what you’re supposed to before you have to be told?


1. List those things you do in your relationship with your youth because you love him or her.

2. List things about your youth that you particularly appreciate.

3. List things about your youth that particularly bother or upset you.

4 Complete the following sentence: “I attempt to guide my youth by

5. How do you feel the youth department has helped your youth? (Name specific items)

6. If you were going to plan a month of special events for the youth what would it include?

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.”