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Why are youth pastors blamed for every bad thing any young person ever does in church?

And why do some parents put so much pressure on youth pastors to disciple their students, while taking little responsibility for their own kids’ spiritual lives?

These questions will probably continue to haunt us for a while, but it’s interesting to see study after study demonstrate just how influential parents can be.

Here’s the kicker. In spite of the incredible influence parents have on teenagers, they don’t use it. Parents are spending less and less time with their kids. Some say they spend an average of 10 minutes in meaningful conversation with their teenagers every week.

Youth pastors are not and cannot be replacement parents. In fact, instead of traditional “youth ministry stuff,” we might find that some of our time is best spent helping parents be better spiritual leaders in their own homes.

That’s quite the challenge, especially for youth pastors who have never been parents themselves. But our experience with students gives us a lot of valuable insights that most parents, who are scrambling to understand these strange creatures now living in their house, would appreciate.

Here are some tips for working with parents from some of my blog’s readers:

  • Don’t be a know-it-all, because you don’t, and parents won’t listen to you if you sound like you have all the answers.
  • Affirm that the family has much more impact on a young person’s development than the church and youth group, because it does. Emphasize your desire to partner with parents so you don’t sound like you’re trying to replace them (some parents may feel that way about you already, and resent you for it).
  • Demonstrate your credibility and talk about what you do know, like trends in youth culture and issues teenagers deal with. If you don’t know an answer to a question, then say so, and offer to find an answer together.
  • Always by sincere in your concern for parents and their struggles. Never judge parents for their lack of understanding or knowledge about youth culture. And always listen before you talk.

Nathaniel Dame is a youth ministry coach and youth culture expert. His passion is to equip youth pastors to be the leaders that God has called them to be and to have a deep, lasting impact on their students. He is the founder of Called to Youth Ministry and blogs regularly at Effective Youth Ministry.

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