3 Tips for Partnering with Parents if You Aren’t a Parent Yourself
Maybe you’re a young youth worker just getting started. Maybe you’re a veteran youth worker who, for whatever reason, hasn’t had children. Maybe you’re somewhere in between. Whatever the case, there is a youth ministry truth that few people address:
It can be hard talking to parents about their children when you don’t have children yourself.
It’s true. And it’s not always a fun truth because there can be some real pain-points wrapped up in it. Some of us WANT to have children and don’t (or haven’t yet). Some of us aren’t necessarily ready to start a family, but we’ve seen our youth ministry influence marginalized because of this. (“Well, when you have children you’ll understand . . .”) I want to acknowledge that there is some emotional baggage cooked into this topic. I know there is some pain here. But, I also want to encourage you.
Just because you don’t have children of your own doesn’t mean that you can’t be an invaluable resource to parents in your youth ministry.
Some of the best youth ministers I have known over the years have been single or married without children. How are they so effective at partnering with parents? I've thought about this a lot, and I think it starts with a particular foundational philosophy.
I think the most effective youth workers (and this goes for youth workers who are parents as well) come alongside parents and say, “I am not here to tell you how to parent your child. But I am here to help you disciple your child.”
Now, if you have ever heard me teach a parenting workshop, you may be surprised at this statement. I make it a big point to say as parents, there is NO DIFFERENCE in parenting and discipling. And as it pertains to parenting, I stand by that statement. But as you consider your role as a youth worker partnering with parents (especially a youth worker who isn’t a parent), I think this is an important distinction.
Do you feel like you have a lack of resources to equip your parents to know and understand their students? We've got you covered with Parent Resources from YM360. For great Gospel-centered Parent Resources please CLICK HERE.
One of the most valuable roles you can play as a youth worker is helping support parents in the discipleship work they are already doing. Here are three thoughts on how to do this:
One of the most powerful ways you can partner with parents is to see yourself as a source of information to them. I love the word aggregate. The verb form of the word means “to group something into a category or a class.” That’s all Google is. When you type in “funny cat videos” (c’mon, we all know you do), Google aggregates content. It combs through all that’s available and collects whatever you’re searching for into a page of results.
What if you saw yourself as an aggregate of content for your parents? What if part of your job was that every week or so you spent 20 or 30 minutes searching for interesting articles on youth culture, discipleship, parenting, and so on, and then sent a list of those links to parents?
You don't have to have children to know that parenting is tough. As a father of teenagers, I can attest to the fact that it is maybe the toughest thing I have ever done. I feel defeated a lot. I feel beat up. Sure, there are a ton of parenting wins. But we often own the failures more than we celebrate the victories. Or at least I do. A well-timed word of encouragement is fuel for the mission. It doesn’t take much to encourage someone. Consider stocking up on stationary and 5$ Starbucks gift cards; maybe you could send a couple parents a handwritten note and a gift card each week. My hunch is that it would provide a meaningful boost to any parent in your ministry.
What if you saw yourself and your ministry as a source of parenting insight, not from you, but THROUGH you? What if you set up training workshops with outside “experts” (that could always be someone from your church or community)? It doesn’t have to be in-person; it could be a video course. Or what if you started a book club for parents reading books on discipling their children? There are many ways that you can help put tools in their toolbox without having to be the source of the information.
As a parent, I have learned so much from youth workers. I am deeply thankful that God has allowed me to see the eternal impact youth workers of all walks of life have on the students, and parents, they minister to.