If you didn’t know it yet, Chris Wesley is a great youth ministry blogger. He blogs here on the DYM blog, as well as on his own Marathon Youth Ministry. On the latter, he wrote a solid post this week on what parents need from youth ministry: affirmation, other adults who care about their kids and to be challenged in their own discipleship.
I agree completely with him, which is why I wanted to write a complementary post about what parents don’t need from your ministry.
Parents don’t need guilt. My guess is, they experience plenty of that without you rubbing it in. Are you communicating about youth ministry related stuff in a way that encourages them, or in a way that makes them feel guilty?
Pay special attention to the tone of your messages—especially the written ones where you call upon parents to do something. My son is six and I get frustrated sometimes with the constant fundraising requests from his school. Every other week he comes home with something else we’re asked to do, collect, save, pay, sign up for or whatever. Guilt. I don’t like it and neither do other parents.
Another thing parents don’t need from your ministry is extra stress. If serving parents is your goal, then truly serve them. Make their life easier and simpler. Serving does not mean asking their constant help or planning too many activities. Parents don’t like being forced to choose between, for instance, attending youth ministry, birthday parties, family nights/events or sports for their kids.
I made this mistake with my small group once. We met every week on Sunday for dinner, even on nights when we didn’t have small group. Parents started to protest after a while and I didn’t get it. Didn’t they understand we just wanted to get to know their kids? Build a relationship with them? It wasn’t till later that I understood that Sunday night is often a family night (at least it is in the Netherlands where I did ministry back then).
One key focus of youth ministry should be to never undermine parents’ authority—unless there are serious issues going on (the most obvious being abuse and similar problems). We have to support parents in raising their kids and have to be careful not to go against their wishes, even when we don’t necessarily agree.
One practical way in which we did this was a ‘rule’ that we had that we would not baptize students under 18 unless their parents agreed. If the parents did not agree to the baptism (for instance because they were not Christians themselves), we urged the student to obey their parents and wait till they were 18.
Another example that comes to mind was video games. We had a few parents who objected strongly against any kind of video games. Well, you have to respect that, even if you think it’s ludicrous. If you go against the parents’ wishes, you’re basically telling the student it’s OK to disobey parents and it’s not. You can sure try to talk to parents (although I’d even do that without the student knowing), but at the end of the day, it’s their decision.
Three things I think parents don’t need from your ministry. Do you have any to add?