By Ben Kerns
In 1989, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, also known as Will Smith, produced a song titled “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. Obviously in this song, Fresh Prince raps about how annoying and clueless parents really are.
And the more I think about it, the more I realize Will Smith was onto something with this anthem for all those angsty kids in the late 80’s. And now as someone who works with students and has to deal with parents all the time, this anthem could be just as applicable for us youth workers today!
As youth workers, our entire lives are wrapped up in connecting with students and helping them connect to Jesus. We spend countless hours doing contact work, developing compelling youth groups, and planning special trips and camps. And the worst part is that parents just don’t understand!
How many times have we had conversations with parents who just don’t seem to get the importance of what we are doing?
It is us — as youth workers — who are standing in the gap, who are the last line of defense in the faith development of their children. Parents don’t help their kids show up at youth group or our special events. They seem to think sports, school, and family vacations are more important than youth group. How do they not realize how important our student ministry programs are?
This regular frustration of parents not caring got a major tweak a few months ago.
We just got back form an amazing time at our junior high winter camp. Our students had an amazing time and many of them made significant decisions regarding their faith. On the drive home I was thinking about how sad it is that I won’t see many of them until next week’s youth group. There are so many follow up conversations that I am not going to be able to have with them. This is because my time is so limited.
In Reggie Joiner’s book, Think Orange, he points out that on average a year, youth workers have 40 hours of time with our students at church. Parents on the other hand have over 3000 hours of time with their own kids every year.
This got me thinking.
Maybe there could be a different way we can partner with parents?
Maybe the church and home can align efforts to build synergy in order to have a bigger impact on our students?
Instead of seeing parents as the challenge to student ministry, maybe they could be an asset. Maybe instead of even asking such a slanted question us youth workers could take a back seat and see our role as a supplement to the work parents are doing. And maybe we could build a program that takes seriously the needs of families and spend our time building into the people who have 100x’s more influence and time then we ever could.
I am not going to lie, this way of thinking is new to me. I am a youth worker and my entire life is wrapped up developing programs and relationships to help students know Jesus. I see the world through the lens of church and church programs. Parents are the ones who actually have the best interest of their kids in mind. They need partners who will encourage and equip them so that the church and the family can partner in more effective ministry.
If parents just don’t understand, it is probably my fault.
I am just incredibly thankfully I don’t have to figure out how to do this partnership alone.
Questions for student pastors:
Do you have a positive or negative view of parents? What has help changed your perspective about parents?
In what ways, have you misunderstood parents? Or have parents misunderstood you?
So what are some best ways student pastors can understand parents?
After a career ending knee injury, I left competitive curling and have dedicated the last 15 years of my life to loving students. I enjoy partnering with other youth workers to help students come to know and follow Jesus. I am a network facilitator for the pacific southwest for the Evangelical Covenant Church and have been a resource for other youth workers for the past 7 years. I still bring pizza to any and every youth gathering. And now have to run 20 miles a week to burn off the pizza weight in order to keep the love alive with my wife. I love my kids, baseball, writing (blog: average youth ministry), and my iPhone, and don’t understand Twitter. For the past 7 years I have served at Marin Covenant Church as the Pastor to Children and Students. You can check follow my struggling Twitter account at www.twitter.com/averageym.