Mama Caro

Stephanie "Mama" Caro's humorous, straightforward style keeps her busy presenting at conferences, training events, camps, mission trips, retreats, churches, etc. She is Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects and author of "Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches" and "99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker." Her next book, “Ten Solutions (to Ten Common Mistakes Small Churches Make)” comes out in 2015. Stephanie is a contributing author to several ministry resources in addition to her regular column “Smaller Church Youth Ministry” in Group Magazine. Stephanie and her husband, Steve, live in Houston, TX.

YOUTH WORKERS: I realize that mostly youth workers will read this post. Not sure how you’re going to “accidentally” send the link to the parents who will need to see this most…maybe a typo in the bulletin?

PARENTS: Moms and Dads: You love your teenager. You want the best for them from their experience at church. (I have 7 kids of my own.) So do we or we wouldn’t be investing time on this blog. But did you know that dealing with high maintenance parents is the #1 reason many youth workers leave a church or the youth ministry all together? I know you don’t want that, either. Every time the ministry leadership rolls over, your teen suffers and so does the ministry.


So I’ve developed a list of “suggestions” – areas, traits and conversations you’ll want to avoid or adopt so you don’t become “that parent” – the one that drives a youth worker into consuming excessive amounts of mountain dew and skittles or spiraling downward into one too many mindless episodes of “Storage Wars.” Let’s stop the madness! 🙂

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1) Don’t be the parent that doesn’t pay attention to the info the youth director sends home. Your youth director has enough to do the 48 hours before a trip to stop and go over the details that were covered in the multiple posts, texts, bulletins, letters, etc. Need info? Call the parent that always knows everything.

2) Don’t be the parent that wants “out of the norm” rules or guidelines for your child: When there are multiple families with multiple “home rules” involved in the ministry, the leaders have to find the middle ground that meets the most needs. Don’t be the one that expects rules to be looser or tighter for your child. Although you have just your child to be concerned for, your youth ministry leadership has to find a common boundary for all. Examples: Whatever the deadlines are, obey them. Whatever the swim suit policy is, abide by it.

3) Don’t judge the effectiveness of the total youth ministry by your child’s sole perspective and experience: Your teen may have just had a bad night. It doesn’t mean that the night was bad for everyone. And lets face it, some teens fit in better than others and some have fussier tastes in what they like or don’t. Know who your kid is and weigh your evaluation with a little of that salt in mind.

4) Do tell the youth worker what you like about the program: No one rarely comes into the youth office to say, “You’re doing such a great job, Miss Youth Leader. Thanks for giving up a week with your family to take my kid to camp.” Nah, its more often like, “Why didn’t my 17 year old come back with the same luggage he left with? Wasn’t it YOUR job to make sure he got his stuff on the bus?” (This exact conversation happened to me after a week at camp at…I’m not going to tell you.)  Here’s a rule of thumb: For every complaint or criticism to the youth worker, you must say 10 positive things or 5 things if said with the gift of a  Starbucks Frapp in your hand.

5) Do wait 48 hours after a trip before bombarding the youth leader: They’re tired. They need to do laundry. They may have another job they have to catch up on. However, this wait time can be reduced to 24 hours if said bombardment is in the food, flower or frapp form of a “thank you.”


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  • Shane Hinderliter says:

    Right on, Stephanie! If I could add one more it would be this: Parents, if the youth director has appointed another adult leader to run an event, handle a situation, etc, let them do it. Please don’t insist that the youth director handle the situation directly if she or he has asked someone else to do it. It’s healthy for the youth director to share responsibilities and it shows respect to the youth director and the other leaders if you allow them all to lead. The youth director loves all the students but can’t handle every need of every student on their own.

  • Gary Schrock says:

    Stephanie! Right on sister. As volunteer head youth leaders my wife and I pack our weeks with our 40-55 hours of career and another 12-20 hours of “calling”, each. Our church family is overall very supportive, but we know who “that parent” is. Most days we are very capable of dealing with “it”, but occasionally we just need some grace. Thank you for so eloquently stating what we have all thought at one time or another.

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