Did you ever wonder why there weren’t more parables and stories of Jesus dealing with his committees? How come the Holy One never had to address the disciples’ parents and explain his ministry to them? Why is it that the Alpha and Omega never had to submit his 3-year plan along with a budget report and explanation of new accounts? Have you ever thought youth ministry would be easier without boards, budgets, and parents? I know the thoughts have crossed my mind in the last few weeks.
But every night when I come home, I’m greeted by the cutest reminder of dealing with life’s difficulties. My daughter is a couple of months shy of two and she’s on the verge of having life figured out (in her own head, of course; she doesn’t have to report to a committee yet). One of the most amazing gifts that God has given her is the gift of teaching me life lessons through her daily experiences.
Just the other day, she was convinced that her destiny was to continue playing with her toys while wearing a dirty diaper. When I asked her if she wanted to “change her pants,” I was given a quick “no” (her new favorite word). However, despite her requests, I picked her up and carried her on to her room where she proceeded to kick me and scream at the top of her lungs. It seemed there was no way she was going to cooperate with me.
Now I knew the best plan of action was changing that diaper. It was better for her and it was better for everyone else in the house. My dilemna was that I had to find a way to convince her this was the best plan. I quickly picked her up and held her close until she was able to calm down. After she had calmed down, I let her pick out her diaper and then she calmly allowed me to remove the dirty one so I could replace it with the one she had selected.
I couldn’t miss the obvious lesson in this situation. Earlier that day, I had one of the more brutal meetings I had ever been a part of, where a couple of parents were upset with decisions our staff had made. And even though we had prayed about these decisions and felt it was the right plan of action, we were searching for ways to convince them. Here is the wisdom I gleaned from my daughter that afternoon:
The Most Satisfying Idea Is Not Always The Right Plan
Although she was perfectly comfortable in her old diaper, it needed to be replaced. So many times, we cave into comfort and convenience. We shy away from making bold decisions that will allow for us to minister to teenagers more effectively because we think our parents or volunteers will not agree with us. Even worse, we avoid the right direction because we are seeking the popular choice of our teenagers. We must be willing to discern the right plan of action. We do this by spending time in prayer and in communion with God and then seeking the advice of those we respect.
We Need More Sensitivity and Less Shouting
One of the reasons we become so frustrated is because we feel that we’re always having to defend our actions. When dealing with an angry parent, allow them to be angry and try to soothe their pain. Many times they won’t even acknowledge you’re talking with them until they’re able to calm down themselves. Remember that ministry is relational and it’s our job to preserve and protect that relationship.
Sacrifice Your Ego and Let Them Take the Credit
Even if you knew it was the right idea, you may have to step aside until they’re able to come to that conclusion for themselves. You can listen and guide them through prayer and discussion, but you may have to be willing to let go of the glory in order to seek the prize. In the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the mother of the family refers to her husband as “the head of the family, but I am the neck.” Point them in the right direction and let them think it was their idea.
And here is the best part of both worlds: Tomorrow when I wake up, I know that I’ll have some of the same struggles and frustrations (along with some new ones). But I’ll also see my baby take another step toward development.
Matt Parker is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Simpsonwood United Methodist Church in Norcross, GA. He is a passionate follower of Christ, loving husband and a devoted father. He is the author and editor of www.youthministryexperience.com.