Dear parent of a teenager,
Hey there. It’s me, the Youth Minister at your local church. I just wanted to take a few minutes and share some thoughts with you about your student. I know that no two people will ever see things entirely the same way, but as one who works with students on a regular basis, I just wanted to say a few words that might encourage you and help you with your teenager.
Before you get the idea that this is an “us versus them” sort of letter, let me first say I want to encourage you to keep up the good work. I know that at the very core, we all want the very best for your student. I know that you are working hard, trying to balance family obligations and work commitments, and doing your best to mentor and love your student. Keep that up! The amount of influence you have in the life of your student is remarkable, so leverage that wisely.
If you’d allow me, I would love to share some thoughts with you as we partner together to encourage your student in their walk with Christ.
First, let me encourage you to stay involved in every aspect of your student’s life. I often hear parents say that they don’t want to convey to their student that they don’t trust them. May I say lovingly that your job as a parent is not to trust your student, but to raise them. As a parent of three boys, I know how easy it is to let them do their own thing, to not worry about what they are watching, what friends they are spending time with, and the way they are behaving around others. It takes hard work to stay involved, vigilant, and watchful. But time is short, so invest the time, put in the hard work, and guide and mentor them. Trusting them comes later.
Secondly, let me encourage you to be a student of your student. Your teen is navigating a gauntlet of trials, temptations, social networks, interactions, pressures, and more. Be aware of your student’s struggles, their strengths, and the areas where they need more encouragement. Study them, stay informed, and know what they are facing. It does not make you more “righteous” that you have no clue what Snapchat or Kik is, or that you don’t know what your student is posting on Instagram or Facebook. And furthermore, let me just say that if you don’t have some sort of filters or accountability software on your student’s phone, tablet, and computer, you are playing with fire. Stay informed, and know your student better than the social networks do.
Probably the most important thing I would challenge you with is to avoid being “friends” with your student. I see a lot of parents who want to be “best buddies” with their teen, and I implore you not to fall into that trap. Should you have a loving, playful, deep relationship with your student? Of course. But your student needs you to set boundaries, to clearly delineate right and wrong, to set an example, and to train and equip them. The LAST thing they need is more friends. Check their social networks, they already have 1,000. Be their parent – that’s most important.
Finally, let me encourage you to use whatever resources you have available to guide your student spiritually. There are hundreds of great books, blogs, devotionals for families, video series, local churches, family small groups, and even youth ministries out there than can help you as you seek to help your student grow spiritually. Tap into anything and everything you can so that your student sees how important their spiritual well-being is to you. Among those resources is me, your local Youth Minister. In me you will find your biggest fan, a person that knows students, and a prayer warrior who can encourage you all the way.
Most of all, know that I’m with you, I’m rooting for you, and I’m praying for you, your student, and your family. I want nothing more in life than for your student to know the joy, the hope, and the peace that comes from knowing Christ. If I can partner with you in making that happen, or reinforcing the truth of God’s Word that you are already instilling, then let’s go for it! We’re in this together. I’m excited about what God is doing in the life of your student, and I know you are going to play a huge role in how God shapes them. Thanks for trusting me as we partner together!
Your Youth Minister
Keith Parker is the Youth Minister at Hazelwood Christian Church in Clayton, IN. He began doing Youth Ministry in 1997, and has been at his current church since 2001, ministering to Middle School, High School, and College Age students. He is married to his best friend, Jill, and has 3 boys - Tyler, Zach, and Matt. Follow Keith on Twitter - @Keith_Parker1 or Instagram - kparker170