My new small group of Freshmen is starting up soon. I’m excited, it’s going to be great. Click here to read the first email I sent them. Since then, I’ve a had a couple of other parents contact me. They want to get their sons involved….however, there’s a problem: their kids aren’t so sure if they want to be involved.

CLASSIC youth ministry dilemma.

If you’re like me, your heart breaks both ways: you want to see the kid get connected, but you don’t want to ruin the dynamics of your group by having a kid who’s forced to be there. My goal was to balance the following needs: minister to the parents, be inviting for the fringe kids, and protect the dynamics in the small group. I also had a goal to be funny without sacrificing the first three goals, but I didn’t want to spend the extra time to make that happen.

Below is an excerpt from my letter. I’ll make a few comments after the letter, so I’ve numbered the paragraphs.


Thanks for contacting me!

1. Here is my advice, and please take it for what it’s worth. On one hand, I’ve led high school small groups for 11 years, but on the other, I’m NOT a parent of high schoolers (my oldest is only 9).

2. I get it that you want to son to be involved. This is great, especially when there are so many parents who don’t care enough about their children’s spiritual life. Parent’s have the greatest impact on a person’s spiritual life, and it’s personally encouraging to see your heart for your kids to know Jesus.

3. Encouraging a kid to move beyond their comfort zone is a fine line between “pushing” too much or not enough.

4. If a kid “forced” to attend a small group, it won’t be a good experience for him, especially for a high schooler. If it’s NOT a personal choice, they will show up, but their heart won’t be in it…

5. Of course, some kids only need a nudge in the right direction, and if you do nothing, you miss out on an opportunity.

6. I’m not telling you what to do!
I’m not in your shoes and wouldn’t presume to tell you how to parent!
What you do is up to you!

7. Maybe your son just needs to meet me for a quick coke or coffee and I can tell them what a small group would be like. If your boys are interested in hanging our or being in our small group, have them give me a call, send me an email, or message me on facebook.


Here’s my thinking:

1. I want to disarm the parents because I don’t want them to be defensive in case they end up reading something they don’t want to read.

2. I want to affirm their role in the spiritual health of their kids…and also encourage them to keep it up because their efforts are a whole lot more important than anything being in my group can do.

3-5. I want to define the choice they need to make, letting them know there are (basically) two sides… I’m sensing that these parents may be pushing their kids too much (it’s more complicated than this, but this is already a long post, so I’m not going to go into it.)

6. A repeat, see #1

7. This may be the most important paragraph in the letter… I offer to meet one on one with the kids…AND I set a clear boundary (I hope): I don’t want to talk to the parents any more, if the kid wants to join the group, let him show some initiative and contact me.This isn’t a very high bar, but it is higher than, “I’m here because my mom dropped me off.” Maybe I could have just written this, and let them figure out the rest…but, I love the sound of my fingers on the keyboard.

What’s your take on all this? Did I miss the boat somewhere?