June 28, 2016

What Youth Leaders Wish Parents Knew

by Jordan Standridge

A while back, I wrote an article on truths we’re keeping from our youth groups. While the response was positive, some people wrote back desiring an article directed towards parents.

Parenting is one of the most difficult things God has tasked us with in this life, but it can also be one of the most fulfilling. Parents desire much for their kids: happiness, success, friendship, marriage, and many children. Perhaps the greatest struggle parents have is to balance physical needs and spiritual needs. We all want our kids to be saved, but few want their children to be missionaries, or even worse, martyrs.

The youth leaders also have a difficult responsibility; they want to influence students while also respecting parents and their leadership. Sometimes he or she must tell the children to do things or think things that are different than what their parents believe, and this causes great stress and difficulty for the leaders. Here are some things that most youth leaders wished parents knew and believed before ever dropping their children off for youth group.

  • Youth Group is not a substitute for your responsibility

cachedblobMany parents are tempted to see youth pastors as a profession. They drop the kids off to the doctor and expect them to take care of their kids’ health. They drop them off to the dentist and expect them to take care of their teeth. They drop them off at school and expect the teachers to do all the teaching. In all three of those areas, the parent isn’t involved. In fact, most parents realize that any input from them is probably only going to do damage. Many parents treat their kids’ spiritual life this way as well. And while there are people gifted by God who know scripture well and can have great influence on their kids spiritual life, parents cannot be tempted to see youth group as THE place where their kids grow spiritually. It is only one place where that happens. It may be the most impactful place where it happens, but it cannot be the only place.

If only one hour of 168 hours a week is spent learning about God, then we are training our kids to believe that God only matters one hour out of the week, when He should be the center of every single second of the day. As parents, we must own up to the fact that God has given us great responsibility over our kid’s spiritual maturity, and that youth group is just a cherry on a Sunday.

  • Church is the weekly priority

One way we can teach our kids that we value their spiritual life more than any temporary success they can experience in this life is by prioritizing church. Even though it isn’t a substitute for parental responsibility in their children’s spiritual life, it is the weekly priority. We are communicating where our heart is when we value sports above attending church. We are teaching them something when watching football, or allowing tiredness to come between us and the incredible blessing of fellowship with the body of Christ. There is nothing more important in our week than to gather with our eternal brothers and sisters. Sports, money, or rest should never some between us and God. Instead, we should fight–and fight hard–for the opportunity to meet with the church.

  • Your attitude towards church influences your kid’s attitude

Just making church the priority is not enough. We must have the right attitude when coming to church. If going to church is like pulling teeth, then we will be communicating a great deal to our kids. They will hate it more than us. If we are always criticizing people and gossiping, we will ruin our children’s view of the church. Of course, we don’t want to lie about the situation because that wouldn’t be wise either, but we must be excited about going to church.

And there is so much to look forward to! We have a preacher who has spent all week studying a passage of Scripture in a way that I could never have time for. On top of that, he had my interest at heart. He wants me to grow as a result of his message. We have other people who are eager to pray for us and get to know us, to encourage us to love Christ more and serve him better. We have music that is chosen to help us know God better, and chosen to help us worship God in a unique way that we cannot do at home by ourselves. We must see Sunday morning as the greatest couple hours of our week, and our joy will be communicated to our children, as well as to their leaders.

  • Youth Leaders need your prayers

Leading a youth group can be discouraging when so many kids are apathetic towards God. You may preach a sermon with so much passion that you’ve worked on all week, and the response is minimal; kids would rather be on their cell phones. Sometimes parents are a little difficult to deal with. Your kid’s leaders need your prayers: for their marriages, for their attitudes, for their preparation, and for their love towards your kids. And there is no one more suited to pray for them than you, since you know your child’s weaknesses better than anyone else.

  • Youth group can’t save your kid

jcryle quoteIt is always very difficult when a child walks away from the Lord. With every passing year, the number of kids that I know who walked away from
the Lord grows exponentially. Kids who once professed a love for Christ now no longer care about Him. The parents are devastated, and rightfully so. We must resist the urge to blame. Perhaps we could have parented better. Perhaps the youth leader could have spent more time with their children. But it is not wise to blame humans. It is God’s responsibility to save our children, and even the best of parents have children who walk away from the Lord.

Instead of blaming, our time should be spent evangelizing our kids. Once we’ve done that clearly, it should be spent loving them and praying for their salvation. It may be wise to evaluate where our priorities were over the years. Perhaps if we need to repent and change in some areas to do so, it may also be wise to ask forgiveness to our kids for prioritizing things that weren’t as important, and asking them to forgive us for not prioritizing church. Then we must quickly cast our burdens on the Lord and go on the attack with the Gospel and with our love towards our kids.

Too many parents think that by simply taking their kids to youth group, they will be magically saved in the same way that taking our kids to the dentists takes care of cavities. The Holy Spirit doesn’t work that way.

  • Youth Leaders might be scared of you

It is sad to say that many youth leaders are scared of the parents. You can tell even at a young age when one of my children bumps his head or gets a scratch that nursery workers are afraid to tell us, not knowing that I’m excited about my boys being toughened up a little bit. This fear only grows exponentially as children get older. Youth leaders may be afraid to confront a kid over fear of how the parents will react. They may be scared to give advice over fear of contradicting parents. It would be helpful for parents to let youth leaders know that they trust them and are thankful for them and the time they invest in their children, especially when the youth leaders are volunteering their time. As parents, we should be the youth leader’s biggest fans, and they should see parents as their greatest allies rather than their enemy.

Many people think that youth groups are a waste of time, but I don’t. I think that they are some of the greatest things God uses to advance his kingdom and to stir up a desire to serve the Lord like nowhere else. As parents, we have a huge responsibility to be thankful for these people. After all, God has given them a desire to influence our children to love Christ and to value Him above all else.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • Jane Hildebrand

    I can’t count the teenagers that came through my kitchen to stop in front of my refrigerator to read the verse on the white board from our breakfast devotions. One girl said, “My mom used to do devotions with me, but she stopped. It’s cool you didn’t.”

    Both my grown children now have white boards with verses on them in their kitchens, and my two beautiful Grandbabies are being raised in the Lord. NEVER give up!

  • Kermos

    Youth group is not in the Bible. It is very scary how parents and pastors embrace youth group. Here are some real world examples of my personal experience:

    http://www.JesusDelivers.Faith//ChristianWritings/OneSpiritAndOneHeartInGod/#Destructive%20Division%20Among%20People%20of%20the%20Church%20(Galatians%205:19-21)

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  • Nick Stuart

    Doctors bury their mistakes, youth leaders graduate theirs. A former senior pastor at my church liked to use the phrase “lives miraculously transformed.” He never used the phrase “lives hideously screwed up.”

    The most valuable way a church could do youth ministry is facilitate the parents doing home Bible study, and facilitate the parents doing events. I know this latter is anathema to many youth leaders because they don’t want the parents hanging around.

    If the decision were “all or nothing” the Church would be better off without youth ministry except to the extent it is outreach to unsaved youth.

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  • Johnny

    This was helpful. I’m not a big fan of the “youth group” idea but we do have different Sunday school classes for different age groups, including one for our teenagers, so I can see the application for that.

  • Andrew Henricks

    Thanks a bunch Jordan! I would add one as a youngish person who has helped with youth ministry…

    We need parents to help practice discipleship of other less equipped parents! The single twenty something with the weeknight time to spare isn’t going to have as much to share with parents as those who have a rich experience of family discipleship.

  • Fibber MaGee

    Good info Jordon. Never occurred to me the YG leaders may be apprehensive around the parents. For those of you who don’t like the idea of youth group because of something that has happened which maybe shouldn’t have, there are a lot of churches where this happens also, yet there is no talk of doing away with church services. Not in the Bible? Really? Is everything in your church or home in the Bible? You don’t want to send your kids to YG, ok, but you guys haven’t come up with any real reasons to do away with this ministry.

    • Kermos

      Fibber MaGee, yes, youth group is not in the Word of God. And this is key, after all our Lord Jesus Christ is the Word. Do you have a Scripture reference to support youth group?

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  • Eddie_in_Ky

    As a former youth pastor, I have lots of former youth still going to church. We did discipleship constantly. The kids usually responded well. This is a good list for parents. The home discipling can be extremely influential.