Parent Privilege: The youth worker/parent relationship

Joel Joa and family at his baptism

Joel Joa and family at his baptism

Snark MeterrealMID.003The one thing I wish someone had helped me with when I was young in youth ministry: Relationships with parents. Like many young adults, I was a bit intimidated by parents. After all they had 10 to 20 years on me. In truth, I didn’t think about parents very often-mostly when one was upset because we didn’t return from an event on time. If someone had asked, I might have described the youth ministry as a sort of stand-alone program. But mostly no one did ask, as the rest of the church saw us as a stand-alone program as well. Our calendar was full and parents and their concerns were not really part of the classic youth ministry model. The disconnection from parents is even more pronounced if you are working in a parachurch organization, or if the student rather than the parent is the connecting point to the church.

Becoming a parent caused me to see through new eyes, though. For the first time I took seriously the scriptural call to the family to be the front line in the spiritual formation of children (Deut. 6, Ps. 78). It is parents who are tasked with the responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). The Scriptures are supposed to be taught to our children in the home (Deut. 6) in order “that generations to come might know…and put their confidence in God” (Ps. 78:5-7). Youth ministry does NOT exist to replace parents. Or be smarter, cooler or more spiritual than them either. Youth ministry exists to come alongside of parents in their God-given role in the spiritual formation of children. This is true whether the parent is a follower of Christ or not.

Here are four things I wish someone had told me to do:

1. Pray for parents: Learn parent’s names. Keep a list and pray for them weekly.

2. Connect with parents: Meet a parent a week for coffee. Let them know that you support them. There are three things that I would love to hear from my kid’s youth leader: 1. “Your children are the most important thing in the world to you, and I want you to know that I take this responsibility and your trust seriously.” 2. “You have a great kid! I really appreciate______ about them.”  3. “It must be fantastic to be a parent on a good day and nearly impossible on a bad one. How can I pray for you?”

3. Resource parents: This one might take a bit of budget and involve other folks on the church staff-which is a good thing.

  • Ask your parents what sort of help would be “helpful” help.
  • See if there is a seminar or class they are interested in that your church could host.
  • Let them know what you are teaching and doing in the youth program. A monthly email might be a good way to do this.
  • Read a couple of parenting magazines and include “tips from experts” in your email. (But make sure the “tips” are not manipulatively aimed at something a particular parent is doing that you are frustrated with.)

4. Support parents: Adolescence is a time when kids are distancing themselves from their ‘rents. This is a developmental necessity. However, if a teen’s only alternative sources of relationships and information are their peers and the media, our young people will be in real trouble. That is why one core task of a youthworker is to be the trusted Christian adult who will say what the parents say but simply not be the parent when they say it. When you earn the right to be heard, use part of that capital to help kids understand where their parents are coming from. Our job is to not to replace parents, but to point their kids to Christ and be a dependable adult Christian leader in their life.

Someday you will most likely have kids. Be the leader you would want someone to be for your children. You can choose to see parents as a pain. Or you can choose to see them as a privilege. Parents are neither a curse nor a necessary evil: They are God’s means to bless their kids…and you too, if you cultivate your relationship with them.

Blessings to you, fellow youth workers, as you seek to impact not just students but partner with their entire family for the extension of God’s Kingdom.

Matt+

USA Today: More Confirmation That 20-Somethings Are Bailing On the Church.

Money quote: “One in three (32%) are under age 30 and unlikely to age into claiming a religion, says Pew Forum senior researcher Greg Smith. The new study points out that today’s Millennials are more unaffiliated than any young generation ever has been when they were younger.”

Read the article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/08/nones-protestant-religion-pew/1618445/

Nancy Going, Veteran Youth Minister and leader of Luther Seminary’s youth ministry program who blogs on First Third comments: http://www.firstthird.org/blog/default.aspx?m=3924&post=1378 

Lets just stop pretending that this is not happening and start doing things differently to change it for the next generation- i.e. the kids in our youth group right now!

Not another blog.

Actually, yes.

What will this be about? These are the ruminations of a post-Young Life Episcopal priest who helps people think about walking with the triune God. I will deal with various topics such as youth ministry, multi-ethnic church planting, and the Anglican Communion/Episcopal Church.  I will post rants, resources, and things that make me smile. My name is Matt Marino. I am married to Kari and have two children, Ellie and Luke. I like the Phoenix Suns and sailing. My paying gig is “Canon for Youth and Young Adults” for the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, which is a catch-all for getting to do about ten things, at least nine of which are really fun. I am also one of the founders of St. Jude’s Church in the I-17 Corridor of Phoenix (www.mystjudes.com) and lead the Youth Ministry Apprenticeship training program (www.youthministryapprentice.com).

“The Gospel side,” for my low-church friends, is the side of a traditional 2-pulpit church from which the Gospel is read…as opposed to “the Epistle side” from which the Epistles are read. The Anglican tradition is to balance the size of the pulpits with the altar to architecturally demonstrate the value of both Word and Sacrament in worship. Assuming the sanctuary faces east (towards the rising sun and the returning Son), the “Gospel side” is the north, or left side when looking from inside the church. It is from “the Gospel side” that we hear Jesus proclaimed, and from whence the people of God hear the implications of the Good News expounded upon. The people then are tasked with extending the glory of God by carrying His message to the world. Currently the gospel is proclaimed from the center of the church, among the people. Jesus was often in the midst of the people, rather than off to the sides. I seek to live my life the same way.

People want to know up front where their bloggers are coming from. My brief answer: Orthodoxy. There is a term in radical feminist theology: kyriarchy. It is a word with highly negative connotations, somewhat of a catch-all for power inequities. It is a combination of the Greek words: “Kyrios” (Lord) and “archy” (rule). It is literally the “rule of the Lord.” The first creed among the followers of Jesus was, “Jesus is Lord.” It was a response to the cry “Caesar is Lord,” mandated to be shouted by the crowds as Roman rulers would pass through towns. It was also insisted that the followers of Jesus sign statements “Caesar is Lord” during persecutions. To say, “Jesus is Lord” was to defy all illegitimate human authority and systems of the world for another, higher obedience. I have decided to reclaim the word kyriarchy and claim myself as an unrepentant Kyriarchist- someone seeking to right wrongs by placing my own life under the gracious leadership of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and inviting others to know the freedom of the reign of God in their lives.

Matt Marino+  August 24, 2012