As youth worker’s, we have signed on to be role models, teachers, disciplers, and mentors to the students. Many times I find myself meeting with the students after school, writing curriculum for them, spending evenings at their sporting or musical events and generally just doing everything I can to serve them, ministering to them, and loving on them.
But recently I have been challenged by several people in my life, and also God’s calling, to start to look at the bigger picture of who I am serving, for the sake of these students.
The first big group that has been on my radar are the parents of the students that I am ministering to. Reggie Joiner‘s book, Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide… was the initial spur to bring the Church and parents together, and a highly recommended read. In the book, he notes that the families have been with the students before they started coming to the youth group and will be in their lives long after they graduate high school, so if we empower the parents, we are serving the students and the kingdom of God far more than only ministering to the students.
If we plan a ski trip or over-nighter, keep in mind the parents are probably paying for it, transporting them, dealing with a weekend of fun and not studying and so we should honor the parents. Have a Twitter page that you update every six hours on long trips so parents will not worry. Give them a list 3-6 months in advance of trips that are going to cost money so that they do not see you as just another big expense in a tight economy. One way that we at the Air Force Academy have been serving the parents is via two weekly emails that are sent out. The first is sent out every Monday telling about upcoming events over the next three to four weeks as well as general ways that they can pray for the ministry. This keeps them informed, even if their children forget to take home the flyers we hand out at youth group. The second email, called “Parents 360, we send out the day after youth group that gives a more general overview of what we talked about with all of the questions. In the email, we suggest that the family have dinner together and just discuss the topic and maybe what was discussed at youth group.
These people are usually the ones that sign off on all costs of events, who you send all parents and families that need some pastoral counseling, and ultimately responsible for the work that you do. They have as much or more responsibilities as you do, so who better to serve. Obviously we were not called to do there job, so we are not suggesting taking on their actual responsibilities, but more so doing some pastoral care. I have yet to be rejected when I stop by my chaplain’s office to ask if there is anything that I can pray about for him and then in the next 15 to 30 minutes, I devote time to specifically pray for what he has requested and just everyone that he will be interacting with that week. Remember, he is in the trenches with you. You need to be a band of brothers, not fighting each other.
Another way I have begun serving my chaplains is keeping them in the loop with everything that is going on. I am a huge believer in OVER communicating with everyone involved in ministry. This includes silly little things like letting them know I am having volunteer meetings which do not involve them at all to including them in emails where parents are very disgruntled over tough issues. If they do not comment or complain about the number of emails you are sending, be even more proactive in your communications. Attach them to the emails suggested before that you send to the parents weekly. Include them on vacation dates. Just let them know that you are keeping busy.
I love the chapel’s secretary and building maintenance person. They make my life easy, but I know that I need to be serving them too. One of the easiest and foundational ways to serve them is to clean up after yourself. If my job was to keep a building at top performance, I would be more helpful to those that are assisting me in this goal than to someone who is trying to make my life harder. Want this person on your side? Leave the place better than it was. If the floor was gross when you went to prepare for the event, clean it up and let them know you have helped them out. Talk about making friends fast!
The second way I have come to serve them is keeping a running tab of what they like from restaurants. Right now, I have an Excel file of all of the chapel staff’s favorite foods from either Starbucks or Burger King. Then every month or other month, I randomly show up to one of their doors with their drink or food. Every time I have, they have lit up with joy for first, the gift and secondly, the fact that I remembered their favorite thing. And for that secretary that you are daily (or even hourly) asking for help with something, think about showing up to their desk weekly with a Starbuck.
Speaking of which, I need to go get a Carmel Macchiato for the chapel secretary right now! Remember, love them like you love your students!