No Longer Separate: Equipping Parents and Teens
When describing teenagers, a popular image gets used a lot: a moody, awkward, and explosive young person. And while there's undoubtedly some truth to that characterization, it's not the whole story.
Teens are also incredibly creative, full of energy, and capable of great things. But unfortunately, they don't always get the support they need to tap into their potential. As a result, many teens feel lost and uncertain about their future, but it doesn't have to be this way. Like most adults, they struggle with self-doubt. They think they are not good enough, and the world is against them. After all, they are going through one of the most turbulent periods in their lives, transitioning from childhood to adulthood.
All along, parents are going through all of this with them. They often do not know what to do. They hope that they, both their teens and themselves, survive. With no surprise, it seems to be a mess. Parents depend on the church, specifically the youth Pastor or youth leader. The Pastor is doing the same thing by focused on teaching and leading adults. They often forget that what the adults need is help with their teenagers. What do you do?
It's Time For a Big shift
One of the best ways to help teens is to shift our ministries to partner with parents. Too often, parents are left out of the equation, and that's a mistake. They're the ones who know their kids best and they need to be involved for ministry to be effective.
Partnering with parents looks different depending on the ministry. One of the biggest mistakes we make in ministry is that we are asking something more of the parents. We ask them to attend another class at church or another event. Like all of us, as much as we love our kids and want them to succeed and live as followers of Jesus, we are spent, exhausted.
So, how do you tackle this problem? We already have everything we need for those who are a part of the church. We need to do some realignment of how we do what we do.
Imagine the Outcome
Imagine that you are partnering with the parents in your church while they are already at your services. And no, you don't need to move them out of the adult service to a class. Instead, you align the teachings at age-appropriate levels. In other words, the adults are hearing a sermon or message as usual about a Biblical topic and applying it to their lives. At the same time, the teens are learning the same Biblical passage at an age-appropriate level.
Now partnership can truly begin. For example, the lead Pastor may mention something to parents as he is preaching, like, "your teens are learning this same thing today; on your way home, be sure an talk about..." Likewise, the youth leader can do the same, "be sure and talk with your parents about this issue on the way home and throughout the week."
Always Provide Resources
More than likely, you are already providing parental resources in your ministry. If not, it's time to start. Unfortunately, in most churches, we provide resources to parents that require them to go home and do more homework. Something most of us couldn't wait to get out of school to quit doing. By getting in alignment with your teachings, there is no more homework. There are receiving the training they need during the service. And the follow-up resources are a result of both the learning for adults and teens.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communicate with parents regularly. You may be thinking our youth Pastor does that already. That is not what I said. Pastor, lead Pastor, communicate with parents regularly. Get on the same page with the youth Pastor in the communication during services and throughout the week. If you are a lead or senior Pastor, you are the one who is totally and entirely responsible to "teach these new disciples to obey my commands" (Jesus, Matthew 28).
Not only is it essential to partner with parents, but with your pastoral staff and volunteer leaders. They represent you and your ministry leadership every time they have a gathering or teaching. With the teaching alignment, you can talk about what you are teaching at a new level. Not only will you be better at communicating with parents and teens, but you will also be better at communicating and working with your team. They will feel part of the vision and mission of the church like they never have in the past.
In the same way that parents should not just be handing their teenagers off to the church and hoping the youth group and youth Pastor will make them a disciple, you as a Pastor and church shouldn't either. You are in this together; ultimately, the success or failure of the youth ministry is on you as the leader.
Pray for Parents
Finally, we need to pray for parents and their kids. They face many and varied challenges and can't do it alone. We need to ask God to help them stay strong in their faith and to guide their kids through the difficult teenage years. Do this publicly and privately. When you have your teachings aligned, at the end of a service, you can pray for the parents then and there. You don't have to have a separate prayer meeting. At that moment, ask those in your congregation that don't have teenagers to commit to praying for parents throughout the week. You will begin to build unity as everyone gets on board with the vision.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Most of us, as adults, look back on our teens years with fond memories, even when going through mood swings, dramatic outbursts, and embarrassing situations. We recall our adolescent years with fondness. But, if we as church leaders take the steps described, we will raise a generation of leaders who don't have to dig to remember teen years with fond memories. Instead, we will raise a generation that values the formative years of becoming adults alongside parents and pastors who cared enough to pour the life of Jesus into them. And, in turn, will be warriors for the teens under their care.
P.S. Want to know more about how you can live this out in your church? One Voice Ministries exist to help you. Check out how you can not only do this but get back more time to do and enjoy the ministry God has called you to do: teachonevoice.com