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What a new dad wants you to know about youth ministry

20 Jan Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on What a new dad wants you to know about youth ministry
What a new dad wants you to know about youth ministry
 

“Life with a newborn is like running a youth group all-nighter that never ends. Hey Parents, come pick up your kid!
…oh wait.”

A little under two weeks ago, I crossed the youth ministry Rubicon and became a parent. I now have a pre-teenager, and while he still may be thirteen years away from Adolescence, my son Eliot is already changing how I think about student ministry. I think about the values that my wife and I long to instil in him as he matures, the relationship with Jesus that I desire to nurture in Him, the community of family and friends that will become his world.

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What new parents think about

I think about the men and women that will have a profound influence at his life during critical moments and stages – those guides,advocates, and nurturers who will  speak into his life in ways that I can’t. I’m already deeply grateful for their investment. I’m also finding myself thinking deeply about how that spiritual influence will be fostered. I’m not thinking so much about all-nighters, concerts, and icebreakers that get awkward. I’m thinking about slow, intentional, consistent influence that takes time, patience, and vision for the long haul.

I’m starting to understand how a parent, desperate for those things, may be willing to let a youth pastor do just about anything in the name of “student ministry.” The desire for their children to have a deep, meaningful relationship with God that provides love and security is so strong that they’re willing to go along with even the craziest youth ministry idea.

The trust a parent places in you and your youth ministry is something to hold as a sacred trust.

Parents will always be the primary spiritual influences of their children, but they need a community of influencers, supporters, and reinforcers in the lives of their teens. Parents are often quick to trust youth leaders with that hugely important role, and perhaps it’s because that trust happens so naturally that we sometimes take it for granted or don’t fully realize it’s gravity. Perhaps a helpful question to sit with from time to time would be: What steps am I taking personally and what are we doing as a ministry to be worthy of that kind of trust?


What you can say to a parent

I remember as a young youth pastor hearing the advice, “If you don’t have kids of your own, don’t offer parenting advice. You’ll end up sounding like an idiot.” I took the advice to heart, because who wants to come across like an idiot? In reality, there’s a nugget of truth in that statement – the abstract conceptions of parenting that I may get from reading youth ministry books and articles is nothing compared to the day-to-day reality of parenting an adolescent. What works on paper rarely works in real life.

As a young youth ministry professor, I repeated that same advice to my students. Encouraging them to refrain from offering advice, but instead to find champion parents within their church and then connecting them to parents who needed help. “You’re not the parenting expert in your church but you can be the connection point for those needing help.” I think that advice is pretty solid, but as a new parent I think I’d offer one important addendum:

While you might not be able to offer advice, your encouragement and affirmation are invaluable.

In the first few days of caring for our new son, I found myself incredibly grateful for the words of encouragement and support that my wife and I received. It didn’t matter who was offering them. It didn’t matter how experienced they were with parenting. What mattered was a loving community that surrounded us and strengthened us through affirmation and prayer. It strikes me that youth pastors have that same opportunity with parents in their ministry – whether the youth minister is fresh out of college and single or a seasoned veteran who’s already raised a family of their own. Don’t ever think that your encouragement isn’t worth giving.

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Aaron Brown
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Aaron Brown is an Assistant Professor of Student Ministry at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA. He attended Biola University and Talbot School of Theology. Before coming to LBC, he was the Sr. High Director at Living Word Community Church in Red Lion, PA. Aaron serves as the Project's editor and web guy.