Parents Are Intimidated--And Not Just By You

If you are like me, you cannot wait until those children from children’ church become old enough to enter the youth ministry program.As excited as you are about those future souls you get to teach and influence is probably no more than the nervousness of those parents who are watching their children become teens.The truth is parents are intimidated of becoming parents of teenagers.There have been too many parents-of-teenagers jokes, news stories, legendary stories, etc., to feed this fear.To add to this fear we now live in this crazy, technological, and fast-paced world—a world which their child is way more adept with than they are.For so many reasons, parents think they have lost what “training up a child” means when their child becomes a teen.

When kids were younger, parent and child could pray together at bedtime, maybe read Bible stories together.But how do you do this with a teen?How do you do this with a teen who doesn't like you in his/her bedroom?This is the intimidation parents feel.

 

Parents certainly don't feel like they are the #1 influence in their teen’s life. Even if you show them all of the studies that support this true fact, parents live with the “teenage monster” in their home.Think about it.Who is telling them that they are the #1 influence?Certainly no one in pop culture, unless they catch those anti-drug commercials and believe them.They don’t see it in their teen’s actions.This is a role you need to fill for parents.They need you to be their cheerleaders.

 

Parents also feel like they are racing against time.Suddenly their babies are within years of leaving the home, heading off to college, getting married, etc.Just as the darling cherubs turn into teenage monsters, they are also realizing that there are only a few short years left while they are still under their influence.Of course, parents will always have influence but for this short season they have legal covering and influence in a way that completely changes when their child turns 18.To maximize these last influential years is a role the youth ministry can certainly fill.

Parents are also literally racing with time.There are so many things, mostly good, that absorb all of a teen’s time.School stuff, athletic stuff, music stuff, leadership stuff, social stuff,and hopefully spiritual stuff.The home too often becomes a drop-off service and a place for the teen to sleep. Family meals are too often in the family car.Here you have a role such as providing tools such as “Taxi Drive Time” in Moms & Pops Stuff to maximize those times.Another role is for the youth ministry to provide something in that schedule that makes room for the teen and parents to communicate, disciple and challenge each other.

Steve Wright in his useful book, ReThink, came up with these further excuses as to why parents are intimidated to be the passers on of their faith to their teens:

  • I can't disciple, because I've never been discipled myself.
  • We pay the youth pastor to do that.
  • I'm just not a teacher.
  • I don't know the Bible and can't answer their questions.
  • My kids won't listen to me.
  • It's too late; I would start this if I'd known about it before my kid became a teenager.
  • We're not cool enough to relate to our kids; the youth pastor does that better.
  • I'm too busy providing for my kids' needs; I bring them to church to take care of their spiritual needs.
  • I'm not qualified; I've never been to seminary

Blah, blah, excuse, blah, blah, excuse, blah, blah.But these excuses still are too true to too many parents.The youth ministry must help overcome these excuses.Whether the excuses are valid or simply excuses the truth is teens take their spiritual cues from their parents first.That is fact.

So parents feel intimidated to pass on their faith to their teens.You want to grow the spiritual life of your teens.This then surmises that one of the best roles you can serve as youth leader is for you to encourage your parents to step out beyond their fears and have these discussions.

P.S.A truth that parents will often need to be reminded of is:When a crisis comes up, teens always want their parents first.Texting and cellphones are only increasing this tether parents and teens will always have.

P.S.S.For the teens that come from non-Christian homes, they are taking spiritual cues from the parents of their Christian friends who invite them to youth group.

We’ve been doing our form of CFBYM for nine years now.What has happened (but didn’t expect to have happened) is the parents of upcoming 6th graders and younger cannot wait to enter the youth ministry.The tween can’t wait to get older and enter the youth ministry.That is a common experience.But since we require the parents to also enter the youth ministry at that age, they are actually looking forward to the teenage years with their child.I’m not exaggerating.This is because they know they get to be a part of the youth ministry which assays their fears of being a parent of a teenager.They know and they have seen how parents of teens are supported by the church family.How often does inviting the new 6th graders to the youth ministry become a rite of passage also for the parents?!We have stumbled into this wonderful truth.

You can also provide this rite of passage for parents and bless them at a time when they need to be supported the most.But how do you do that?

  • First you need to lose your intimidation of parents.While they think you know more about teens than they do, you know they know more about teens, their teens specifically, than you.So intimidation abounds in every direction.Now that this is acknowledged, move on.
  • Whenever you are in the vicinity of parents, extend warm and genuine friendship to parents every time.And honor parents in every public and private conversation you have with students and everyone in the church family.Sit with them at the school events you attend.Meet with the parents over a meal.Not the teen in the parent’s presence but with the parents.Before you meet, Google where he/she works and learn more about that business and the job.Lead the conversation with some good questions about their world.Keep the conversation purposely away from your agenda for the teen.And at some point directly ask each parent what his/her dream is for his/her child.
  • One practice of incorporating parents more into the youth ministry is to invite them to be a part of your volunteer staff.Some parents make great volunteer staff and you will be blessed to have them and all of their spiritual and parental insight to mix with the teens.But this role does not fit all parents.It is more important to the parents that you release them to be the spiritual influencers of their teens first, then possibly become part of the volunteer staff.Singly dealing with parents like they are volunteer staff or an extension of volunteer staff is not meeting the needs of parents and is also using them to further your agenda.That is so typical of a Brenda-Centered Youth Ministry.
  • Partner with other church leaders to join you in purposely encouraging parents in their role of passing on their faith.This is open to so many ideas.
  • Join parents in genuine prayer for their teen.This can be done together, corporately, or in your own prayer closets.Just do it.
  • Encourage parents in every which way that the best way they can help you is to be active in personal ministry at home.To help them have family chapels or spiritual discussions, over-resource them.Further build up their confidence by giving them so many tools and resources that they will feel confident in their attempts to find one form that will eventually fit into their family dynamic.

I do not believe these practices are inclusive.Are there practices you’ve made with parents that you would like to share here to complete this list?Submit these to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. are actively seeking 150-word submissions for our new interactive digital magazine, YM Shorts.What you have tried is exactly what we are looking for so please submit so others can find success as they become cheerleaders to the parents of the teens.