1. Give em dates
2. End on time
3. Get em talking
My goal is to present 10 ideas of how a youth ministry can/should be more family-friendly. These ideas don’t require you to be out another night of the week (which is a good thing) but they will get you thinking more about what parents need. Here are an additional three ideas to yesterday’s list:
4. Keep em home: one of the best ways we can care for families is to not barrage their kids with so many opportunities to leave the house for “church”. I think most youth ministries do too much and they would be healthier if they cut their program opportunities in half. Minimal programs would also make families healthier too. When all three of my kids were teenagers, a family-night got very difficult with all their various commitments. Evenings at home became rare and sacred. This same principle applies to many families. Let parents know that you don’t want their kids out very often and you will limit “church nights” so parents can take advantage of their family time at home.
5. Talk em up: it’s easy to bash parents…and many youth workers do! Taking verbal shots is not family-friendly (i.e. “Your parents don’t know what they’re talking about”… “Today’s parents are scared”… “Sometimes parents can be so dumb”). Parents are already under enough attack and made to look like buffoons in media/culture/stereotypes. Don’t go there in your youth ministry! While there’s lots of opportunities (and many may even feel worthwhile), but don’t fall prey to the easy temptation. Some youth workers believe it makes them look better when they position themselves against parents—it doesn’t! A verbal bash may assist in making a point, get a laugh, or make you look better (for a minute), but in the long-run you’ll be minimizing your integrity. Instead, talk highly of parents. Verbally support them and encourage their very difficult role when you’re talking to teenagers.
6. Speak good words: when you get the privilege to interact with a parent, do everything you can to affirm their child. Many parents of teenagers are constantly feeling like failures. Give them some hope and breath life into their weary parenting bones with some words of affirmation. Parents want to hear positive comments about their kids, and some kind, targeted, encouraging words will make a huge difference (i.e. “Your son was a star at camp this weekend”… “I love watching Lauren talk to those who aren’t connected—she’s amazing at making others feel welcome”… “I smile every time I see Erik, I so enjoy having him around”). Make your words count.
I’m curious…how many nights are you out of the house as a youth worker? And, how many nights are you asking teenagers to be away from their home?