Serving in student ministry for the past 18 years, I have seen quite a bit. I have been through the highs and lows of student ministry. I have seen many come to know Christ and I have seen many fall away from Christ.
As students enter the youth ministry, a danger and possible epidimic I see is that parents tend to have a hands off approach in regards to the spiritual direction of their teenager hoping that a youth group or other adults may help guide them for the next 5-6 years.
I can understand how this happens because at the age of 13 or 14, it seems that our once precious children turn into aliens–creatures that have their own language, different looks, and odd body odor.
How do we handle these “aliens”? How do we become missionaries in our household to those we love the most?
1. Pray for them–get on our knees as parents and pray! Pray not just a sentence prayer, but in humility cry out to God for the protection of our teenagers.
2. Go to church with them–don’t just drop them off in the youth ministry or at the front door. Every once in a while, go into their world. Much of what I hear from parents in regards to this area is, “My kid doesn’t want me there.” Can I ask you a question? Has your teenager ever told you that they don’t want you at their ballgame or concert? I would guess not. The enemy has planted this thought into the lives of parents thinking that they shouldn’t be involved in the spiritual lives of kids.
3. Talk with the youth pastor. Have a serious sit down talk with the youth pastor and ask some questions and have him/her be honest: “How is my teenager doing when they come to church?” “Where would you say they are spiritually?” (Do not be offended by what he/she may say if you are really wanting the truth) How can I get involved in the spiritual life of my teenager/how can I come alongside other students as well?
4. Don’t just rely on Sundays and Wednesdays to be the catch all for your teenagers walk with Christ. Out of the 168 hours a week, 1-2 hours on average are spent at the church and the rest is in the world. Is Jesus your Lord? Is He truly present in your home? If, a guest were to come in your home, would their be enough evidence through your speech and actions that would let them know you are a passionate believer in Christ?
5. Examine your heart? Are you truly following Jesus or are you a counterfeit Christian? Most teenagers mimic the behavior of who they are around and what they see. Are you presenting an accurate picture of Jesus to them.
6. Love them where they are. Do not get frustrated at them because they are not super spiritual…..remember they are still teenagers. Love them where they are, but don’t leave them where they are–talk to them about spiritual matters, experience Jesus with them.
7. Encourage your student to get plugged into the life of the whole church. Student ministry to some degree has become a bubble and a separate church and I really don’t think it is healthy. I love the fact that many of our students are serving alongside our wonderful adults in preschool, creative arts, children’s, and student ministries. Maybe you could even serve together in an area of ministry.
8. Have authentic faith discussions. I am not talking about another sermon, but maybe at the dinner table share what God is doing in your life and what God is teaching you. Through that maybe they would be willing to see your example and then share what God is doing in their life.
As parents, we are in the trenches every day and being a parent is one of the coolest responsibilities we have but it is also one of the hardest responsibilities we have, but isn’t it cool that God has entrusted us with such a great responsibility?