Thoughts from a Former Youth Pastor (part 2 of 2)

Sometimes when you’re in the role of youth pastor there are things that need to be said, but you really can’t. It may come across as harsh or even my motives might not be right even though I’m speaking the truth. These thoughts are meant to be a help to parents and I trust you understand the spirit with which they’re written: love and concern for you and your family. (part 1 can be found here)

Punish by taking away something else. From time to time a parent would tell me that their teenager needed punishment. The punishment was to keep them away from youth group on Wednesday night and/or the paintball activity on Saturday. Now I certainly understand withholding a teen from paintball, skiing or even bowling, but don’t use Wednesday night youth group as a tool for punishment. It really is best for your teen to be hearing preaching consistently. I think it communicates the wrong message when we pull a teen from the preaching.

Teen camp really is important. I can’t tell you what an encouragement it was summer after summer to have parents work around their family vacations for teen camp. I really believe in each instance it was a major help to your teen. You demonstrated what was important. Disneyland or the Outer Banks is great, but spiritual growth that happens at teen camp is more important. The greatest lesson wasn’t that you simply moved the vacation, but that you modeled that spiritual growth takes precedence.

The level of influence is equal to the level of participation (or “if you desire me to influence them have them on the front row” principle). If I can speak for all youth pastors? Youth pastors are burdened to help each teen, but they only have the ability to influence those who participate in youth group and at youth activities. If you desire to see your teen influenced let me encourage you to have them present for everything.

Love your church. I have found that when parents speak critically of their church or pastor that it kills spiritual life in the heart of a teenager. If it doesn’t change it will do long-term damage in the life of your teenager. Pray for your church. Praise God, in front of your kids, for your church family. Love your church as much as Christ loves it – He gave himself for it.

Don’t be afraid to ask forgiveness. One observation of parents and teenagers I’ve noted.  Those parents that seemed to have a strong, growing relationship with their teen were parents that didn’t have a problem asking for forgiveness. They were people who asked forgiveness. They did not mind stating that they were wrong in how they dealt with an issue. There is something endearing and attractive about a person who is genuinely humble even to someone younger than them.

There’s no magic cure for seeing your teenager “turn out.” But these are some simple observations that will be a help to you as you seek to raise your teen for Christ.

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