I started this by asking myself what I do to encourage parents.

It was more difficult for me to come up with answers than I cared to admit.

Because the solution sounds simple: Text them some encouraging messages at a random time during the day. Send a handwritten note telling them they are killing it at this parenting game. Any of those could be great things to do to make someone smile in their day. But what about those times when parents don’t feel like they are killing it? How can you encourage a parent whose kid just made a dumb choice and not make it sound like a platitude?

This is the same thing I tell my students when they are going through rough moments; you are looking at this moment through a microscope. And sometimes, you need some perspective to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, I want to share three tools you can use to encourage parents who feel like they aren’t doing enough (which, let’s be honest, is close to all of them). Somehow these are all nautical-themed, and I am ok with it.

The first tool is a shovel. We all have those students who have EGR – Extra Grace Required – and we know those kids often need it the most. When those EGR kids are saying goodbye to you, they are saying hello to parents who are preparing to give them that grace. But they may struggle to find the motivation to give it. And let’s be honest; we may have to fight to find the inspiration to give it sometimes too.

When I think of the EGR student, I think about the gem. The Imago Dei. Sometimes the ONLY thing you can find in a student worth celebrating is the Imago Dei. Sometimes, we must excavate the gem that is the image of God in our students’ lives. We need to find those bits of the divine spark in our students and use a shovel to dig those out. Then we need to show the parents what we’ve discovered.

You use the shovel to help parents discover the treasure in their students’ hearts. The shovel says, “This is who they are…”

The second tool that we need to give our parents is a telescope. A telescope helps you see what you usually can’t see. Parents often see the worst in their kids. I know my children are usually on their best behavior when they are at church or a friend’s house, and then they get home with me and become gremlins who were fed after midnight. Kids are typically the most comfortable at home (with exceptions, obviously), and because of that, home is a safe place to not be “on their best behavior”. They can let their guard down.

Because of this, parents only sometimes see the good things their students do. For example, just a few weeks ago, there was a moment when a middle school girl shared something in our group and broke down crying. One of her friends from school (both girls in 6th grade) pulled her aside and prayed for her right there on the spot. I was so proud of the girl who prayed. And I know that the parents would have been proud too, so I told her dad. You should have seen his smile; he was beaming. And I realized how powerful the telescope was.

You use the telescope to help parents see what you see. The telescope says, “This is what they do….”

The last tool is a map. Maps show directions and tell you where you are going. And parents can sometimes lose sight that God has not finished writing their student’s life story. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama and struggles of life and even begin to think that the drama and struggles are it. That there is nothing after the drama and struggles. Students need that reminder. Arguably, parents need it more. We youth pastors know God has a great plan for our students. Parents need that reminder.

You use the map to help parents believe in God’s future for their students. The map says, “This is what they are capable of….”

Tools are great, but they are best used for the intended purposes. Therefore, you must discern the best time to use these tools. Can you identify three sets of parents who need these tools? Who needs a shovel to help unearth the gem inside their student? Who needs a telescope to see the things that may not be visible to them? And who needs a map to get a picture of what God wants to do in their students’ lives?

David Wood is a wizard.

Before I lived in Modesto, my wife, my three daughters, and I lived in Belize as missionaries. Before that, we lived in Southern California where I had an awesome opportunity to travel the U.S. performing at colleges and churches sharing the gospel through my illusions for about 3 years. I’ve experienced a whole lot in my life, and I love to share God’s story through my life as often as I can.

Parent Ministry: Conversation Starter Kit

Conversation is the glue that makes connection happen. Deep down inside we all want to know and be known by others, and talking is absolutely crucial to healthy relationships.

So, in a world where emojis and texts have replaced real words and expressions, how can we connect through conversations in our home?

In this Communication Kit, you will find a number of tools and resources to better help you engage with your family. You will find a brief purpose and summary of the resource and tips to use it.

Parent Texts

You probably didn’t go into youth ministry to focus on parents. In fact, sometimes we look at them as a hurdle to what we are trying to accomplish. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that they are an integral part of what we do and how we do it. Sometimes the best way to minister to your teens is by ministering to their parents. Allow these texts to serve as encouragement and coaching to them. Many of these are seasonal: first week of school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mothers’ Day, etc… Like a great DYM-product… it’s done for you. This is a great deal!