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The following story comes from a friend who asks the very appropriate question, “Whose job is it to raise godly teens?” It’s a wonderful example of a challenge and a topic about which I suspect most of us have an opinion.

Several years ago, a few teens from the church youth group were caught drinking alcohol in a motel room on a school day. Angry parents demanded to know, “What are you teaching our students in youth group? What goes on there?” It was shocking that parents were so quick to lay blame on the youth pastor and his volunteers. Didn’t the parents have any responsibility? They’d been raising their children for years. How could the youth leaders be blamed when they only spent a few hours with these teens each week?

What can youth leaders expect to accomplish in the lives of teenagers with such a limited window of opportunity? How much impact does participating in youth group nights and other youth ministry events really have?

When students come from homes where faith is talked but not walked or where parents think it’s the church’s job to fix their discipline problems, what can you do? We know there are situations where students are ignored or worse, verbally, physically and sexually abused at home. When they are in an oppressive environment for so much of their days and lives, how can a youth leader make a difference in a few hours?

First of all, a few hours CAN make all the difference. Loving students, accepting them no matter where they are in their messed up lives, is critical. It’s not always that simple though. If you are involved in youth ministry long enough, you’ll find yourself dealing with situations for which you were not trained or prepared. Having the support of your pastor, other youth leaders, and key parents is critical to work through these kinds of challenges.

Maybe you’ve got stories of success and testimonies regarding students where youth group has made all the difference. Maybe you’ve got a few stories about resolving issues with parents like the ones in the story as well. Let’s encourage one another that our labors in the Lord are bearing fruit and we’ve seen the changed lives that prove it!

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