9.17.2008

Thinking About Parents

I was recently doing some writing on the topic of Middle School Ministry parents...what parents need, how to best minister to them, how to get them on board etc. Here are a few random tid-bits from that writing session.

- The key to getting parents "on board": Earn their trust.
When parents trust you and your ministry, it is as if you can do no wrong. When they don't trust you, it is as if you can do no right. Trust is often earned in the littlest of things such as getting home from trips on time, not changing dates and prices of events, making sure there is plenty of supervision at activities, communicating regularly with them and allowing them to have a "voice" in your ministry.

- One thing parents secretly think about jr. high youth workers: "If you haven't raised a young teen, you don't know squat."
They know that you understand youth culture and that you are an expert on adolescent development and that their child respects you etc. But deep down they also know that until you have a junior higher living under your roof 24/7 and until you experience your own flesh and blood going through the angst of early adolescence, you really don't understand the plight of parents.

- What do most parents need? Hope and Help.
That's it...just a little bit of hope and encouragement thrown their way. Reminders that they aren't the only ones struggling, that they will live through this, that much of what is happening is totally natural etc. Just a little hope. And a little help. A book sent to them in the mail, an email with a link to an article, getting connected with another couple who has already raised young teens for some support. As a youth worker, you don't need to have all the answers, and you can't fix all the ills the parents of your students face. But you can provide a little hope and a little help.

8 comments:

Stacey Windover said...

Call me crazy, but i think that translates well for children's ministry too. Maybe a different book choice, but other than that..... If you get a chance, please say hello to the wonderful and talented Bethany from The (capital T) texas Windovers.

aaron said...

how do those of us without jr. high children get past the 2nd little tidbit.

I've been working at my church since I was 20. While I'm only 24 now, its like parents can't get past the fact that I'm so young, and its really hindering the youth ministry. Its like no matter what I do, I'm always seen as too young to be capable of my position.

Kate said...

Gotta admit, even though I don't have kids, being old does seem to help. Certainly talking with them, especially listening, and being interested in their kids seems to make a difference. Reassurance and someone who cares seems to work!

Kurt Johnston said...

aaron,
a simple, "I've never raised junior highers, so I know my perspective is limited...." is a great start.

followed by a, "...but I do spend a ton of time with students and families and here's what I've learned..."

Too often young leaders try to compensate for their youth by playing the role of "expert" etc. and playing the "I'm young, cool and in touch" card. Instead, just concede that you haven't raised kids but that you feel called to this age group and want to do whatever you can to help families.

Pastor Matthew said...

Could you expand on the idea of ways you let parents have a voice in your ministry?
Help Please!

Kurt Johnston said...

Pastor Matthew,
Letting parents have a voice is probably as much theoretical and philosophical as it is tangible. We encourage parental feedback, we have an "open door" policy that allows parents to come sit in our programs unannounced etc.

I want parents to know that we value their input, we want to be held accountable etc. That's how I define letting parents have a voice in our setting.

Anonymous said...

I'm walking through the general session trying so hard to enjoy the spirit filled messages on the stage but my worry for the hearing loss of the small children in the room is overwhelming. PARENTS OUR CHILDREN'S HEARING IS EXTREMELY SENSITIVE. I SPEND MY WEEK EVALUATING BRAIN INJURIES AND LEARNING DISABILITIES IN YOUNG CHILDREN. PLEASE PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN'S HEARING. THE DECIBLES IN THE GENERAL SESSIONS ARE TOO HIGH AND IS LIKELY TO CAUSE SEVERE HEARING LOSS. YOU ARE NOT LIKELY TO PERCEIVE THE DAMAGE CAUSED UNTIL THEY ARE IN A FORMAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. PLEASE GO TO WEBMD.COM AND STUDY HEARING LOSS. YOU WILL SEE THAT IT TAKES 12 MINUTES OF EXPOSURE TO 100 DECIBLES OR 9 SECONDS OF EXPOSURE TO 120 DECIBLES TO CAUSE PERMANENT DAMAGE.

DR. JO
PEDIATRIC PSYCHOLOGIST
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

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