Parents just don't understand

I think Will Smith was onto something with this anthem for all those angsty kids in the late 80’s.  And now as someone who works with students and has to deal with parents all the time, this anthem could be just as applicable for us youth workers today!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW3PFC86UNI]

As youth workers, our entire lives are wrapped up in connecting with students and helping them connect to Jesus.  We spend countless hours doing contact work, developing compelling youth groups, and planning special trips and camps.  And the worst part is that parents just don’t understand!

How many times have we had conversations with parents who just don’t seem to get the importance of what we are doing.  It is us who are standing in the gap, who are the last line of defense in the faith development of their children.  They don’t help their kids show up at youth group or our special events.  They seem to think sports, school, and family vacations are more important than youth group.  How do they not realize how important our programs are?

This regular frustration of mine got a major tweak this last weekend.

We just got back form an amazing time at our junior high camp.  Our students had an amazing time and many of them made significant decisions regarding their faith.  On the drive home I was thinking about how sad it is that I won’t see many of them until next week’s youth group.  There are so many follow up conversations that I am not going to be able to have with them.  This is because my time is so limited.

In Reggie Joiner’s book, Think Orange, Joiner points out that in an average year youth workers have on average 40 whole hours of contact time with our students.  And this contact time is usually in the context of a group of students.  Parents on the other hand have over 3000 hours of time with their own kids every year.  Maybe there could be a different way we can partner with parents and use our common goal of the faith development of their kids to build synergy and have a more dramatic and lasting impact on the lives of our students.

Instead of seeing parents as the challenge to student ministry, maybe they could be an asset.  Maybe instead of even asking such a slanted question us youth workers could take a back seat and see our role as a supplement to the work parents are doing.  And maybe we could build a program that takes seriously the needs of families and spend our time building into the people who have 100x’s more influence and time then we ever could.

I am not going to lie, this way of thinking is new to me.  I am a youth worker and my entire life is wrapped up developing programs and relationships to help students know Jesus.  I see the world through the lens of church and church programs.  Parents are the ones who actually have the best interest of their kids in mind and they don’t need young punks patronizing or dismissing them.  They need partners who will encourage and equip them so that the church and the family can partner in more effective ministry.

OC13_250x250_03Why don’t you consider joining me in Atlanta, GA this April for the Orange Conference. This is an entire conference designed to wrestle with the intentional partnership between the church and the family.  (Plus, I need a roommate)

If parents just don't understand, it is probably my fault.  Thankfully I don't have to figure out how to do this partnership alone.  There are great resources out there,  the Orange peeps are ones that I have found.  What resources have you found?

And if you are one of my parents, I am looking forward to some further dialogue about how to do this partnership better!

This post was also published on the Orange Leader's blog.