It’s often helpful to think about youth ministry in three parts: teenagers, volunteers, and parents. For most youth leaders, ministering to parents is the most difficult of the three.
As the two of us have grown older, we’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that parents don’t need certain things from us. For example:
- Parents DON’T need us to be perfect. They DO need us to be authentic (although, “I slept until 1 p.m. because I stayed up all night playing Madden” might be too authentic).
- Parents DON’T need fancy graphics and T-shirt designs. They DO need details such as dates, times, and costs—ASAP! It’s impossible to overcommunicate details to parents.
- Parents DON’T need youth leaders to have all the answers for their parenting struggles. They DO need us to walk with them through the challenges of adolescent attitudes, breakups, and curfews.
- Parents DON’T need fart jokes. They DO need us to demonstrate in conversations that we’re responsible adults who will care for their kids while we’re away at camp… telling fart jokes.
- Parents DON’T need to hear only the bad things their teenagers do. They DO need to hear every bit of praise we can offer, even if it seems small to us.
- Parents DON’T need us to be experts on adolescence. They DO need us to respect that when it comes to their own adolescent, they’re the expert.
- Parents DON’T need us to be in our 40s for them to respect us. They DO need us to value and respect that even though they’re in their 40s (or beyond), they still have lots of relevance in young people’s lives.
- Parents DON’T need us to have it all together. They DO need us to extend grace when they don’t have it all together. (If you figure out how to get parents to preregister their kids for camp—or for anything—please let us know.)
- Parents DON’T need us to know everything. They DO need us to ask them what they think and demonstrate that we value their input…even if it’s terrible. (Just being authentic!)
- Parents DON’T need us to be cool, attractive, musical, or athletic. They DO need us to live and reveal God’s kingdom in a way that’s infectious, passionate, Jesus-centered, and inspiring—to them and their kids.