Fix My Kid

Here's another of a few articles I wrote for Interlinc's most recent music magazine (YLO 72) It's one of the featured articles on the theme, "Parents and Family."

Fix My Kid
By Kirk Moore

  • "My daughter has been cheating on assignments at school. She got caught and now she has to re-take all her tests from this semester. She says she’s learned her lesson that that she’s stopped cheating, but I’m not sure. Could you talk to her and be sure she doesn’t cheat anymore?
  • "I don’t understand why my 15 year old keeps yelling at me and acting so bratty all the time. I ask him to be more polite to me and he says that I never listen to him. All I’m asking for is that he stops yelling so much. Do you think you can talk to him and get him to stop?"
  • "My daughter keeps getting poor grades because she isn’t turning in her homework. She says that homework takes too much time and that she’s learning everything in class. I’m afraid she’ll fail her classes if she doesn’t start doing her homework. Can you tell her how important homework is so that she’ll turn it in from now on?"
  • "I can’t get my son to attend youth group meetings. He says that he doesn’t have enough time for church. I’m afraid that if he doesn’t come back to youth group he’ll end up getting in trouble at school and that he’ll ruin his chances of attending the right college next year."
  • "My daughter said that she doesn’t want to go to college right after high school. She wants to work and earn money this year for a big trip next year. That means that she isn’t planning on going to college for at least two years! Can you set her straight with some youth pastor talk?"
Situations and requests like these are familiar in youth ministry. Many parents want their students to be involved with youth ministry so that they’ll become well-adjusted, successful adults. They also expect that because they’re part of a church group, students will behave better throughout their high school years. Youthworkers are often the people parents come to for help when things aren’t working out as they think they should.

What’s a youthworker to do? Are we here to make teenagers behave better? Are we here to mold students into successful adults? Are we a character-building honorary society? Or is there something more that we’re called to do as we minister to youth and to their families?

Some youthworkers want to respond to parent’s requests by immediately laying out the rules. "I’m not a ‘child fixer.’ I teach them about Jesus and help them to continue growing in their faith. I help them to live their lives following Jesus. I encourage them to follow Jesus’ two important rules –‘Love God’ and "Love your neighbor.’ I can’t, however, give them a magic fix that will turn them into perfect teenagers."

I think that the biggest problem with responding this way, however, is that it does no good in the situation. Parents, coming to a youthworker feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, leave feeling overwhelmed, hopeless and angry.

Educating parents about the purpose of the youth ministry you serve is helpful and necessary. This education, however, shouldn’t take place as part of a response to a parent’s request for help in a time of crisis. A much better time to help parents understand about the goals of a youth ministry comes during the job interview process. It comes as part of a parent meeting. It even can happen during a ‘parents of youth’ forum or similar event.

When parents come to you with what may seem to be laughable requests, it is primarily important as it is when ministering to youth, to listen well and to let the parents know that you hear them. Offer support to them in their frustration and offer to spend time listening to and talking to their child. It’s okay to let the parents know that you don’t have a simple fix for a complicated and frustrating situation, but that you are available to listen to both them and to their child as you work towards a peaceful situation together.

Following Jesus two most important rules of ‘Love God’ and ‘Love your neighbor’ can help us to remember that listening and providing a shoulder to lean on is part of the necessary ministry of presence for students and their parents. Parents will come to know, as their students have come to know, that being present and showing God’s love is more important than a quick "fix my kid."

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