Monday, March 10, 2014

Ministry Monday: Do You Trust Me?

Trust is earned, over and over again. 

Because in youth ministry, the teens eventually graduate and move on. At least, the goal is for them to graduate. If they don't graduate, then you probably have other problems that will arise. You may have had a certain group of teenagers really connect with your personality. Then the next group? Not so much. 

Because in youth ministry, the parent base is always changing. You may have been around a long time, but the parents might be new to your ministry. This may be their first teenager. Pardon them if they don't want the safety of their cherub taken lightly. After all, they did just successfully keep this kid alive for the first 12 years of their life. This may have involved keeping said child from falling off a bed, from choking on a LEGO and even from endangering themselves while having adventures in the backyard. It's not easy to keep a child safe. 

Let's face it, trust, even once you have it, is something you are always one dumb mistake from losing. 

What can youth pastors do?

Remember each kid is a privilege for you to minister to, not a right. 
We preach against the expectant mentality of teens all the time. They assume their parents' money is to be used on them. Is there an updated model of phone, tablet, game system, etc? They need it, don't they? We preach against this kind of thinking as we pray for our teens to mature.

Maybe we need to heal ourselves. Yes, I want parents to partner with me and instill a habit of church (and youth group) attendance with their teen. But if I'm honest, my expectations don't end there. There are events, small groups and leadership team meetings as well to attend. But we should never assume that because a teen has joined our youth group, or just tried it out, that they will always be there for everything. But when they do, I have an opportunity to share God's love and mission with them. That is my privilege. 

Remember to communicate clearly about what you're doing.
It could be an event, a teaching series, a new volunteer leader. Whatever. Keep the parents informed. I have tried to be as present in the life of a family as I can be without becoming a nuisance. This includes a monthly newsletter with lots of articles to equip them. It also includes a weekly email where I let them know what I'll be teaching about in that week. I provide some follow-up questions for them to discuss as a family throughout the week. I include them in other emails which detail cost and registration info for upcoming events. 

Will parents and teens still ask me questions that I answered in previous communications? Yes. But that doesn't matter. Part of my job is to ensure the information is out there, on time and organized. When families know what is going on, and the purpose behind it, trust will be established, maintained and increased. 

The benefits to having trust are plentiful. But the flip side is a ministry killer. When you lose trust, either of the parent or teen, you lose any capacity to be a voice in the life of that family. Trust me.

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