It took me a long time to appreciate this.
When I first started, I had no children. I was a newlywed. I was only 23, barely out of my teens. As a matter of fact, I was usually mistaken for one of the teens. Most people didn’t believe that I was the youth minister.
I loved hanging out with the kids! I loved playing games and having fun. We jammed to loud music, played a ton of video games and had a blast.
But what I dreaded the most ended up being the thing I needed the most … parents. I HATED talking to parents. What did I know about parenting or how they thought? What could I tell a 45-year-old mom about parenting her 15-year-old son or daughter?
Nothing! That’s what.
So, I did what I knew I could – I avoided them. I don’t mean I never talked to them. But I didn’t talk to them much. I communicated information about programs and events, and I learned that kept most parents happy.
But what I failed to realize then and have come to understand since is that parents are the key. They are IT.
Youth ministry begins and ends with moms and dads.
I am the father of a teen daughter and soon-to-be preteen son. I see things differently know. And if I could go back and do things differently I would – radically different!
If I could go back in time and do it all over, my first priority would be the parents (or parent figures). My first step would be to engage them in the process. I would want them to know that I am their ally. I am there to support them and to have their back. I would want them to know that I am for them, that I am there to listen and pray and love.
I am their partner.
All the games in the world can’t replace what a parent can bring to a child’s life.
I am so thankful for the student workers who pour into my daughter’s life now. I am thankful that our student pastor understands the importance of the parents’ role. I so appreciate his willingness to pour into us, as parents, and to partner with us in discipling my daughter.
He still does the same kind of dumb games I did, but what he does better than I ever did is partner with us to speak Jesus into my daughter.
And isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that the end goal? Isn’t that what all the games, events, programs, conferences and mission trips are all about – partnering with families to build more kingdom workers? Engaging young men and women to be the church.
Now. Not later.
So, there’s my advice. Like I said I’m no expert.
I’m just a parent.