I know that you are a youth minister but do you know that you also minister to parents like me? Can I, as a parent, give you just a couple of suggestions that might make our relationship a little fuller, less critical, more encouraging, and fun for both of us?
1) Include me – Be willing to include me in your ministry to my teenager. Your confidence in me as a parent means a lot to me, but it will mean more to my teenager. You have become a voice to my teenager that they, at times, will listen to more than my own voice. If they see you trust me, then they will feel more apt to trust me as well. I know you have grand plans to do amazing things this year with my teenager, but would you take some time to acknowledge me in the process. I am the greatest influence in my teenager’s life. We can really help each other.
2) Inform me- I really do want to make sure that the events you are planning are a great success. Please remember that I am receiving information from my teen’s teachers, schools, coaches, and tutors. I am helping them manage their schedules at school, work, and their social outings. It is so much to try and coordinate everything. Please give me grace and recognize all the messages my family is processing. Please communicate with me regularly, clearly, quickly, and in lots of different ways that will help me hear you. I’m sorry to say this, but you will have to tell me something 7 times to make sure I hear it 1 time. I realize that is not fair, but that is my every day reality.
3) Allow me – Please allow me to minister to you. You are not superhuman and you will have needs that will need someone else’s input. You can go from counseling a teenager who wants to commit suicide to planning a jello slip-n-slide event all in the same afternoon. No one can do this alone, and you shouldn’t feel you have to. We, as parents, may not understand all that is involved in youth ministry, but we are aware that you have needs that we can meet. Let us. Invite a group of us to meet with you regularly to pray over you and hear your needs.
4) Recognize me – I may just be a really scared parent, who is totally overwhelmed with parenting a teenager. Sometimes we come across harshly because of that fear. When you recognize that in me, you can see past my criticism and minister to my insecurity. Then I will know that you have my back.
5) Listen to me– Notice that I didn’t say to agree with me. You are not going to always agree with me. But please take time to meet with me and really listen. Repeat to me what I have said in your own words with a caring spirit. This will prove to me that you heard me. Then you might be shocked that it doesn’t bother me as much that you don’t agree with me. I just wanted to be heard.
6) Pray for me- You will never know what it means to me when you genuinely pray for me and my family. Please give me a “safe place” where I can send you my prayer concerns and then follow up with me letting me know you prayed for me.
7) Brag on my kid- If you want to know the easiest way to my heart then just pay my teenager a genuine compliment. It should be your default setting when you run into me in the hall to say something like, “Hey Shellie, you know I noticed the other day that Madison put the chairs up after our meeting. She may have thought no one else saw, but I did. I think your girl is an amazing servant”. If you do this for me, you will be surprised the amount of loyalty I will offer you. I will always love and support folks who truly love my kid.
8) Set me up– I can’t tell you what it would mean to me if you helped me connect spiritually with my teenager. My teenager looks to you for spiritual support, and so do I. But it would be really powerful if you created shared spiritual experiences for me to share with my teenager. Leading them spiritually scares me to death, and I could really use your help. Just think of yourself as a spiritual matchmaker between my teenager and me. I don’t think there would be a more powerful ministry for you to offer my family.
9) Encourage me– You got into ministry to encourage the discouraged. Well, almost daily I am discouraged as I attempt to parent a teenager. It’s a safe bet that just about every time you run into me I will be involved in some kind of drama regarding my teenager. Would you be willing to encourage me? I really don’t need you to be an expert. I need you to be an encourager.
Here’s an example of a Parental Pep Talk that you could offer parents like me:
I know this isn’t easy, but it is worth it. When we team up, we can be a formidable force in the lives of these teens!
Shellie Hochstetler encourages parents of teenagers daily at www.ParentMinistry.net and www.Parentzilla.com. She has survived raising 4 teenagers and in her own words, “they are extremely awesome”. She describes parenting as “terrifying but fulfilling, lonely while extremely loud, and completely exhausting while in the same breathe exhilarating!” Shellie lives in her dream home in Nashville, TN with her husband, kids, a horse, and some chickens.