Parents don’t just automatically make youth ministry a priority for their students. They have expectations, and if we don’t start thinking about how they think, we are going to see more students leave our ministries. Parents’ expectations are all over the board, and sometimes, they are out of line with reality. Nevertheless, we need to focus on what they believe is important for their families. This is what I hear parents wanting: (Not all these things are good for students)
1. Parents want youth ministry to fit their schedule
Parents are on tight schedules, and they want youth ministry to be easy to use. They expect us to know how busy they are and to accommodate for their lack of time.
2. Parents want their students to “like” the youth pastor
Parents believe that “liking” the youth pastor is the key to their students “liking” God. It’s not true, but somehow parents think that if the student “likes” the youth pastor their student will like church and thus “like” God. This is sad and leads to lots of church leadership problems, and at the end of the day, makes senior pastors work on the same theory. We all know that loving God is the key to a strong relationship between students and their heavenly father.
3. Parents want youth workers to have their student as a priority even though they allow students to make school and sports their priority.
This reality is hard on youth workers. They build relationships and plan programs only to discover that students have soccer games on Sunday and can’t come. But the minute that student is in trouble at school, parents want the youth worker to step in and fix the situation. This leads to youth workers feeling undervalued and mistreated.
4. Parents want youth workers to be the spiritual influence in their students’ lives.
Many parents struggle with the depth of their own spiritual formation. That struggle leads them to push off the responsibility of developing the spiritual lives of their students. Parents need to understand that they must be the primary spiritual influencer in their students’ lives.
5. Parents want safety
Parents want their students to engage with the youth ministry and to truly enjoy it, but they want their students safe at all times. They have a good deal of fear of what can happen if the wrong person gets involved with their child. They are also afraid of other students influencing their students. They want to be careful that youth group is good for their child and not dangerous.
After reading through these things, you may be sitting there saying, “Exactly! Preach it!” Many of you could come up with a very similar list. It is really easy to make parents our enemies, yet we must resist this temptation, instead choosing to make them our allies. Lists like these, while often true, do not go away on their own. Parents are appointed by God to raise their children; we have been appointed by God to help parents disciple their children into loving relationships with Christ. It’s extremely hard work, but in the end, it’s better than simply having an airing of the grievances.