As a parent I spend so much time worrying about my own kids and their development. When my son plays soccer or little league, I am always judging him and his ability compared to his peers. If everyone is hitting without a T and my son can’t, then we go home and spend the week practicing hitting. I love my kid and I want him to succeed.
My son is in first grade right now and is learning how to read. In the same as baseball, I am trying to get an understanding of how my son is developing academically. Is he on grade level, is he falling behind. If he is, then I want to work with him so that he will succeed.
In both these instances, I long for feedback, for help, for training. When the coach says, “Dad, you might want to play catch a little more with your son.” Then I do. When the teacher ask, “How many minutes are you reading a night?” I get the hint that we need to step it up. While in the sports world it is a little less formal, in the academic world there is an actual process for this kind of feedback, it is the parent / teacher conference.
A parent / teacher conference:
About a month ago we had our first trimester check in, known as the parent teacher conference. This is a half hour conference where my wife and I meet with the teacher to discuss the academic and social development of our son. She show us his work, share highlights areas he is doing well in and shares areas of concern.
Because we care deeply about our child’s academic development, we carve out time to show up, we listen intently, and we are ready to put into practice what ever is suggested. His teacher is an expert at first grade and has hundreds of kids come through her classroom. She has a good idea of his development track and has plenty of tools to assist us in developing our son academically. It is one of the best half hour investments we could make for our son.
Could this work in student ministry?
A lunch with a parent recently challenged me to consider this sort of encounter for the parents of our students. We so value the academic development of our children and our lives and lifestyles communicate this truth. We also value the spiritual development of our kids as well. While we might communicate with our mouths the high value of this, the truth is that our actions tell a different story.
Of all the development that is supported by families, sports and academics get the lion share. I get that the spiritual development of our children is difficult, it is challenging, and we often feel unequipped to do it. But what would happen if the youth worker and the parent were seen as on the same team? What would happen if the youth worker was given a little space and authority as the expert on the spiritual development of adolescents? Would parents be willing to sit down with their youth worker and be open to a fair and honest assessment of the spiritual development of their child and take seriously the input they receive?
We live in a culture that devalues authority and “spirituality” is personal, so I can not imagine this actually working. But since we can all agree, at least with our mouths, that the spiritual development of our children and students is of utmost importance, we must attempt to find ways to make that a reality. I think a strong partnership between parents and the church where both institutions are respected, lifted up, and encouraged, can we truly make progress in this area. Since this is just a brainstorming post, I would like to simply pose the question:
Could a parent / teacher conference work in student ministry? As a youth worker and as a parent, what are the potential risks in implementing a conference check in into a student ministry?