I talked to a fellow youth worker this morning who made the comment, “I feel like I am so behind already in planning the coming school year.” Although it’s only July, before we know it students will be home from vacation and back in school. One of the questions that lags at the back of our minds as we look to the next year is of course how to work with parents. They are the chauffeurs, keeper of schedules and ultimately the last authority in the lives of the students we serve. Personally, I am caught in a space between parenting teens and being a youth worker.
So as you look to plan a parent meeting for the fall, I wanted to share the parental perspective.
We Want Communication PLUS
We want to hear from you. We want to know your heart and the “why” behind why you want to do what you do. This helps us immensely to plan our calendars and get on board with your vision and your calendar. Tell me how this will help my child grow and be stretched in multiple ways. In addition, never be afraid to over-communicate with me. I want to know the dates, times and costs. I also want to know how to use the “talk sheet” you send home with your lessons every so often. It’s so helpful when you send me articles, blog posts, and websites that aid me in parenting my kids well. We want to partner with you.
It Offends Me When You Tell Me About Me
I had a conversation with a youth pastor from out of town just yesterday that led with, “Well, you know the parents of my students just want to over-schedule their kids, and they don’t care about getting them involved in youth group.” I asked him if he had ever asked the parents about that. His answer was no. As a parent, it offends me when you say things like, “You should care about….” or worse yet, “You don’t care about…” Whether you are right or not, something in me flips a switch when your words, attitude or body language infer you know what I am thinking without asking me about it. I know this might seem subversive, but when you ask me questions or take the time to get to know me then it helps me a lot. I tend to be more on your side when you talk with me more than talk at me.
My Kids Do Love Youth Group (Most of the Time)
I was talking to a student this morning who is in a conundrum for this coming year. Four years ago when she started high school, her school didn’t even have a cheer squad. Through a lot of work and effort she and her friends got one started, got the school to hire a coach, and for the first time this past year it was recognized as a varsity sport. She has learned teamwork, leadership and how to shine Jesus to those who don’t know him through cheer. However, cheer practices and games are all at the same time as youth group, small groups, and Bible study during the week. Sunday morning is the only time she can practically be a part of corporate worship during cheer season. Here is her wrestling match: She likes youth group, Bible study and small group. But if she chooses those things then she can’t cheer. She will be benched for games, and she is told she isn’t being faithful to the team. In everything she has a heart to get closer to Jesus. So what does she do? Some of us say, “CHEER! Be a light, and read your Bible at home and go to church.” Others will say, “Quit cheer, come to youth group!” Did I mention she is a senior and this would be her last year to cheer?
My own children have had to make similar choices about other activities or youth group. Sometimes they really like the other things they do, and God uses those places to stretch, grow and teach them. Sometimes, they go through phases where, honestly, youth group is not the place they are growing the most in the Lord. It is really helpful when you give my kids the freedom to find spaces to learn about Christ and grow in him whether or not they are in your programs. In contrast, one of my own children decided she would rather not play volleyball this fall because she would rather volunteer in our ministry. If you could help me, help my kids navigate how to assess their heart, along with their involvement, it supports me so much.
I Know I Can Seem Crazy
Finally, I know. I know I appear aloof at times, disinterested at other times. I send in my permission slips late, and yell, “Oh crud, I forgot,” way too often. I come to you with tears in my eyes because I don’t know how to talk to my kids. My kids come to you telling me about the list of rules I make them live by. I am over-involved and distant. Sometimes I forget about the meeting you have reminded me about 20 times and I show up 30 minutes late. Then I ask you to recap for me. However, I promise I am grateful for the way you love my kids. Please keep having patience with me and keep trying. Please don’t give up on me and decide I am too far gone. Even when I don’t act like it, I promise I care.
I have had a passion for parents since my kids entered those tween years. Just this morning a parent pulled me aside and told me how overwhelmed they are. Their child has been bullied so much in public school that he barely leaves the house. She doesn’t know how to “make him” come to church. We put our heads together and came up with a plan. Maybe it’s that simple; perhaps we need to find creative ways to meet parents where they are and just help them succeed. Maybe we just need to say, “I know you are trying, and I thank you for that.”
What will you do this fall to see the parents through new eyes?