Youth leaders: Spread out your attentioncomment (1)
February 2, 2006
By Betty Baggott
It was a good article — “What youth pastors wish parents knew.” But as I reflected on the words, I found myself thinking about an incident from years ago. I began thinking about comments from parents of youth like:
“I wish I could tell our youth director … ”
“It seems a youth director would know better than to … ”
“I wish my daughter’s youth director would wake up and realize … ”
It never entered my mind that as a college-age teacher, I was playing favorites. The age does not matter — young people are more observant than we think they are.
A student once asked me why I used the same people over and over to do everything. I did not know quite how to answer, but I did and I was truthful. “Helen and Timothy (names changed) are always willing to do and they volunteer,” I said.
The conversation that followed opened my eyes to a shortcoming I had as a leader of youth. I was playing favorites. After years as a pastor’s wife working with youth, observing youth directors firsthand and listening to the hearts of young people and their parents, I offer the following suggestions to those who work with youth. And let me add I feel that this is such a strategic job in the church. You touch not only the youth but also their parents.
- Don’t play favorites. It is so easy to develop an “in group” before you realize it. It is true some kids do volunteer more than others, but I believe it is the job of a good leader to bring out the talents in all those with whom you work. There is some way for all to be included.
- Be careful not to show favoritism to the youth who have parents who are very involved in the youth program. Perhaps the youth who need you most are the ones whose parents show no interest. The young person should not have to pay the price for uninvolved parents.
- Examine the church’s role. How many in your youth group have parents who are not members of the church? Or if they are members, do they drop that teenager off and you never see them darken the doors on any given Sunday?
I was one of those teenagers, and I would have loved to have my dad attend church. Many times, I wondered why no one ever called or tried to enlist my dad. My mother did go on Sunday morning. The preacher’s wife and a pharmacist in the church won dad to the Lord in his 70s. So much wasted time but I was so thankful. If you care deeply about the youth group, you will care about the parents
Let me say thank you to the youth directors who ministered to my three children as they were growing up. Thank you for the calls and visits, not only to my children but the youth group as a whole.
How many times I have watched a youth director approach a table at church where a group of youth was sitting not just to chat with one person but to at least give a pat on the back, a hug or wave to the group that admired him so much. They wait for your attention, and it makes them walk 10 feet taller.
Some ministers of youth make it a point to go to the schools and eat with their group at lunchtime. It is a wonderful ministry. Blessed is the youth minister who makes it to all the schools.
To the congregation, love and support that young man or couple who ministers to your youth. Why not offer to baby-sit for them some time? Be sure that on any holiday, they have a home away from home. Be their adoptive parents. Be a mentor for them.
Most of all, parents want to see the minister of youth lead by example. What the youth see in a youth minister’s life will ultimately make a difference in theirs. A godly minister of youth is what all parents desire. And what we as parents and grandparents can do most of all is pray for you and say thank you.