The Youth Worker’s 5-Minute Guide to Caring for Parents

You probably saw the post a few months ago:

Today’s teenagers are the most exhausted generation in history.

But the thing about busy teenagers is that their parents are often even busier.

Think of all of the activities your students are a part of every week.

Who’s driving them there and back? Who’s really managing a teenager’s schedule?

Have you ever wondered how your ministry is serving the parents who make it all happen?

Youth ministry should be in the business of HELPING parents,
but too often we’re adding stress to their lives.

I’ll assume you already know that parents are the largest influence on their child’s faith development. There are plenty of incredible resources out there—like ParentMinistry.net—designed to help you help them claim that influence.

But that’s not really what this post is about.

Too often we see parents—at their best—as a particularly useful tool to be leveraged for the cause of ministry. At their worst, we regard parents as an obstacle to overcome.

Both of those are incorrect. The truth is this:

Youth worker, remember that parents are people too.
Tired, broken, overwhelmed people.

Talk to the mother of a high school wrestler about how stressful it is to prepare meals for a 15-year-old who can’t gain weight until the season is over, even though gaining weight is literally the thing a 15-year-old does better than anything else.

Find one of the 52 percent of families who can’t afford the home they’re currently living in. You wouldn’t be wrong to say that that’s often a result of poor financial choices, but that doesn’t discount the real stress many parents are facing.

Ask a parent what it’s like to care for an aging parent of their own or honestly ask them about how things are going at work.

It’s a wake-up call when you realize that these are people who need the grace and peace of Christ, and too often we’ve issued silent judgment or pent-up frustrations instead.

Then ask yourself what you can do to serve the parents for their own sake, not just as an indirect strategy to get their students to youth group.

And if you’re looking for a few concrete, practical suggestions, well, SmarterYM has those too, because when you’re surrounded by tired, broken, overwhelmed people …

… well, you minister to them.

The Youth Worker’s Five-Minute Guide to Caring for Parents

Be mindful of a parent’s drive-time.
If a family lives 15 minutes from your gathering place, they could spend a full hour dropping their student off and picking them up from a single event. Thing is, there are absolutely families who live even further away than that.

“Chunk” your programs whenever possible.
We do all of our “fun events” on Sundays right after worship services. It gives our students Sunday nights to do homework, but also takes two “church commutes” off of our parents’ agendas.

Say ‘Thank You’ more often than you do.
My New Year’s Resolution is to send a hand-written thank you note to each of our students’ parents during the school year.

Create space for parents to wait for their students.
If you’re running an hour-long Bible study, parents won’t want to run home after dropping their students off, only to turn around and come right back again. Set aside a room for parents, complete with coffee, Wi-Fi and a few books. It won’t always get used, but when it does, parents will appreciate it.

End your programs on time.
If it’s important that parents not be late to pick up their kids, it’s just important that you not be late to give them back. Dad’s spent 40 minutes in the car driving kids back and forth to youth group. I’m sure he doesn’t want to sit out there for another 20 minutes.

Reach out.
When a student shares a prayer request that mom lost her job, make sure that someone is reaching out to mom. If no one’s doing it, then you’re up!

Especially be mindful of prayer requests with grandparents, as these often hit the adults (that’s their mom or dad!) harder than teenagers.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s where you come in. Leave a comment below and let me know how you’re caring for the parents in your ministry too.  

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Aaron Helman
Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes at Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – things like leading volunteers, managing money, and communicating effectively. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

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