by Dave Sippel –

I spent Labor Day 2012 at home. I was watching some TV and Dr. Phil came on. I normally don’t watch talk shows. I’m not a big fan of them. Today’s show was different. Dr. Phil was talking about new trends that were impacting teens. I am always open to learning about new trends.

  • Synthetic marijuana or K2 – Teens are smoking this over-the-counter incense product, which can cause serious illness or even death.
  • Illegal tattoos – Teens are giving each other tattoos and even branding each other at parties.
  • 30-second parties – Teens are fighting at school for 30-seconds or more to establish who’s in the group and who is out.

All of these are troubling things. Kids are taking great risks to establish their identity and affinity groups. Dr. Phil closed the show by challenging parents to be more involved in their kid’s lives. He reminded parents that teachers care, but there is no way that they can be everywhere and know the needs of every teen.

The same is true in youth ministry.  I know some youth workers that push parents away. They’re working under the assumption that parents impact the environment at youth activities in a negative way. Perhaps we believe that teens will not feel safe sharing openly if mom and dad are in the room. Parents often feel the same way and remove themselves from volunteering.

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However, in the National Study on Youth and Religion, Dr. Christian Smith asks, “What are the traits of religious American teenagers who retain a high faith commitment as emerging adults?” The answer…”The most important factor is parents. For better or worse, parents are tremendously important in shaping their children’s faith trajectories.” Also, in the August 2012 issue of Child Development, Dr. Susan Hale shared, “It’s commonly thought that something about adolescence splits kids and parents apart. But, they’re often drawn together as the teenager becomes more capable of abstract thinking and interested in more communicative relationships.”

Well, now what do we do? Parents seem to want to create a safe space. But, we need them to be around and kids need their input and influence. We need to create a system that encourages parental involvement but maintains a high level of safety and openness that kids need. Parents can be involved in a lot of different ways. They can lead in the middle school program if their child is in high school. They can support the ministry from behind-the-scenes planning parties, running fundraisers, or producing mailers.

Let’s get creative. Let’s go crazy and take Dr. Phil’s advice. Youth workers can’t be everywhere or even know every teen. Let’s train up a team of parent volunteers to make sure that our youth are known and loved.

Dave Sippel  is a senior consultant for Youth Ministry Architects. Dave has worked in youth ministry since 1994. He’s served as a youth director at 3 of the largest United Methodist churches in the Florida Conference, consulted with churches from 18 states & 6 denominations, & is a coach for the Youth Ministry Institute.  Dave is a regular speaker for camps, retreats, & youth ministry training events. He is a dedicated volunteer with his local church youth ministry. Dave is a graduate of  Asbury  College. He lives in  Lakeland,  FL with his wife, Teresa, &  their sons; Grant and Cade.

Dave Sippel  – Senior Consultant and Director of Connections
Youth Ministry Architects / Children’s Ministry Architects
Building Sustainable Youth Ministries….One Church at a Time
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www.YMArchitects.com          Dave.Sippel@YMArchitects.com

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