Monday, August 15, 2016

A Word of Encouragement to Parents of Teens

There's something that I have never fully come to grips with in youth ministry. It's how there don't seem to be enough opportunities to eat pizza.

Just kidding.

It's parents. Sort of.... Let me explain.

When I was a teenager, I was in church whenever the doors were open. Actually, my parents were such sticklers for time management, that I was often there even when the doors were not yet opened, because we would beat the pastor there.

Eventually, my parents received keys to the church. Now, instead of simply waiting for others, we could be useful and set up chairs or tables for whatever event was about to happen. Thanks mom and dad!

Now, don't get me wrong. I wasn't rebelling against anybody and not wanting to go to church. I had friends there and I liked my youth pastor and I wanted to be there, generally speaking. But I also knew that it didn't really matter what I wanted  to do. Unless I was sick, I would be in church.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I am now the youth pastor. And as cool as all my teens obviously find me, they still find reasons to miss church activities. On occasion, I've checked in with parents to find out what's going on.

Please understand, from this point forward, any resemblance between what I am writing and any conversations I may have had with you as a parent is purely coincidental. Any names have been changed to protect the guilty and all that....

When I have asked parents what I can do to attract their teens back to youth group (or sometimes Sunday morning services) I'm often met with one of the following;

  • I told them they should go.
  • They were sleeping when I left.
  • He knows we want him to be an active part.
  • Is that something you do every Sunday?
If you're still reading and not feeling judged, let me offer a couple pieces of advice wisdom encouragement.

1. They still need you to parent.

Imagine any response you would have for your teen not being in church. Now imagine using that reason when they were a baby. Or a 5-year old. It wouldn't happen. 

We don't leave decisions like this to little children because it's not their role. If it were, my wife and I, even in ministry, might not have had our kids with us ever in church. 

Every parenting book teaches that kids need boundaries. When our kids were young, we kept regular meal times, precise bedtimes, and had rituals for almost every part of every day. As they got older, we became a bit less rigid, but we are still filled with routines. 

2. Your role as parent comes with an expectation.

It's not an expectation from your teens. It's not the comparison game from other parents and it's not even the perceptions of any youth pastor. 

It's an expectation from God. 

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. ~Deuteronomy 11:18-21
If you believe in God and have a relationship with Him that means anything at all to you, then pass along the importance to your children.

Because it's important.
Because it's commanded.
Because it comes with a promise.

Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it. ~Proverbs 22:6

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