I know that not all of those who frequent this blog are youth worker types, but I know there are several. I also know that many of my youth ministry friends are either young and/or childless. It’s to you (young & childless) that I write this post.
I receive many emails from youth workers around the world and read a common theme that I feel compelled to address…at least in part. I hear many youth workers bashing, complaining and criticizing parents. It’s beginning to concern me, although I definitely understand this temptation! I’ve worked in the church for 30 years and have lots of parental war stories. I can’t tell you how many times parents have been the source of my frustration. But, allow me to present a different perspective!
Going thru the journey of my own parenting, I have learned the valuable principle that a parent is only as happy as his/her most hurting child. I NEVER understood this prior to having kids. And, this feeling was enhanced, as my children got older and their hurts became larger and more emotional (like during the teenage years). Bottom line, as a parent, I deeply feel the hurt of my kids and it’s impossible for me to be neutral.
Some thoughts on dealing with parents who are bugging you:
1. Recognize the parent is feeling his/her kids’ pain
Parents may understand your side of the story (they’re wise enough to know there’s always two sides of every story), but they feel the most deeply on the side that hurts their kid.
2. Don’t start with “logic”
As a youth worker, I’ve wanted parents to understand my logic for certain decisions that impacted the ministry (i.e. changing formats, canceling events/trips, sorting out small groups, etc…). Because of this reality, I’ve made mistakes of first appealing to the logic and trying to intellectually “win” them to my side. That’s not a great place to start–their first concern isn’t the ministry or your welfare.
3. Start with empathy
I use this phrase a lot: “I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must be” (and the truth is that if you don’t have kids…you really can’t accurately imagine). Before you bash, complain, and/or criticize…pray. Pray for their hurts, their situation, and their needed wisdom. An attitude of prayer can give birth to a better understand of family dynamics.
4. Consider what’s best for the family prior to making decisions
This is really difficult to do! Most (not all) leaders think about what’s best and/or easiest for them. I really believe that I wouldn’t have had so many negative parental encounters had I considered the needs and feelings of parents.
I realize there are arguable exceptions to all of these, but at least consider these points before turning parents into the enemy.
If you’re a childless youth worker, what’s your biggest question about parents?
If you’re a youth worker with children, what did I miss? Would love your thoughts!