The Problem of Parents1 By Mike Yaconelli

What's the biggest obstacle to effective youth ministry? Parents. Strange, isn't it? The people who most benefit from our ministry with their children are often the ones who create the most grief for our ministry. Why are young people stressed out? Parents. Why are young people obsessed with education, good grades, SAT scores, scholarships, college, college prep, pre-SATs? Parents. Who encourages many of our youth group to miss church, Bible study, camp, or a service project because of football camp, hockey practice, cheerleading clinics, gymnastic tournaments, dance class? Parents. Who supports our ministries until their child has a negative experience, or is disciplined, or is injured, or doesn't like youth group, or the music, or their counselor, or a new sponsor, or the way the youth group is being run? Parents. Who complains to the minister, the board, the session, the deacons, the elders, when something goes wrong (bus broke down, it rained and flooded out your tents at a service project, someone was hurt), but never goes out of their way to affirm or encourage when the ministry is going well? That would be parents. Who automatically takes their child's side on any issue their son or daughter is upset about? Parents. Who has taught their son or daughter that deadlines, rules and boundaries, and covenants are to be kept—unless they aren't kept and then it's "not a big deal," or "too harsh," or "not clear," or "not fair," or "not understood," or "too strict," or "broken by everyone," or "should have been approved by the pastor?" Parents.
Mike Yaconelli, “The Problem of Parents,” Youth Specialties, posted October 3, 2009, (accessed June 25, 2012).

Who complains that the youth group has too many programs? Parents. Who complains that the young group doesn't have enough programs? The same parents when their son or daughter doesn't have enough to do. Who never talks to their children about sex? Parents. Who expects the youth workers to talk to their children about sex? Parents. Who complains that the youth worker's talk about sex was too explicit? The same parents. Who never talks to their children about faith? Parents. Who complains when their child isn't interested in faith? Parents. Who complains to the pastor, other adults, and church leaders when the "wrong kind of kids" show up at youth group? Who's worried about the potential negative influence these "wrong kids" could have on their "right" kids? Guess who. Who believes youth groups exist to create nice kids, who meet and marry other nice kids, who are encouraged to go to nice colleges, and get nice jobs and have nice children who then grow up to meet other nice kids in youth group? Parents. Who's the first to ask for your head when you encourage their children not to worry about college and worry about calling instead; when you suggest that their young people don't go out for sports; when you suggest that following Jesus may cause the young people to be counter-cultural? Parents. Who's all in favor of their young people becoming serious about their faith? Parents…as long as they don't take Jesus too seriously. Taking Jesus too seriously means altering the parents' plans or vacation schedules, or causing the parents to change their lifestyle, or worse, mom and dad's dreams for their children. So, what, Mike, you are anti-parent? No.

Are you saying all parents are like this? No, not all…just most of them. So, there are exceptions? Certainly…but very few. That's very pessimistic. Yes, it is. What about family ministry? I'm all for it. And…? There just aren't very many families doing it…which is why youth ministry is so very important; but, to be honest, family ministry isn't biblical anyway. WHAT? Jesus himself told his disciples that he'd be the reason families break up. Jesus himself said following him might cause a conflict between family loyalties and loyalty to him…and, when that happens, to choose him. Jesus is all for the family unless it gets in the way of following him. Our job is not to make families better; our job is to encourage everyone in the family to take Jesus seriously, no matter the cost…even if that cost is family harmony. No wonder parents are often the biggest obstacle to our ministries. No wonder our job security isn't all that great. No wonder youth ministry is a dangerous calling…and a rewarding one.

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