She came into my office ready to let me know her thoughts and what I should do about a particular problem. Her voice was stern, her eyes locked on mine and it began: “You should not allow Bill (name changed) to come to youth group because the way he acts makes my son Tim (name changed) feel uncomfortable. Do something about it!”
I know, this is a very brief description but it gives an idea as to the conversation that she had with me. It was not so much a two-way conversation but a monologue of words directed to the Youth Pastor. I had to agree with her—Bill was a little bit of a nuisance at youth group and it had to be dealt with—but I had a problem with the mom coming to me first. When she finished her rant the first question I asked was if she had talked to Bill’s mom about the situation before coming to me. I sort of got the ‘deer in the headlights’ stare and after a few seconds' pause she said, “No, but I am coming to YOU.”
Do you ever have this—parents coming to you first and telling you that you need to fix the problem? This mom was totally taken off guard when I asked if she actually talked to Bill’s mom. As a good Reformed youth pastor I reminded her of what we all agree to in our Baptismal form (page 961 in the grey Psalter Hymnal): “Do you, the people of the Lord, promise to receive these children in love, pray for them, help instruct them, and encourage and sustain them in the fellowship if believers? Our response, “We do, God helping us!”
I have often found that parents forget this portion of the baptism—perhaps they are distracted by the cute little baby. Youth Pastors have become the first person parents go to with a problem. What did they do prior to youth pastors? My guess is they went directly to the source and talked face-to-face with the person. In today’s day and age face-to-face conversation seems odd. Going to the youth pastor is a much easier solution.
When I encouraged this mom to re-read the back of the hymnal and actually talk to Bill’s mom the conversation ended and she walked out. I’m still not sure how it all unfolded or if she actually called Bill’s mom to talk about it. But what I do know is this:
- Tim still came to youth group pretty much every week.
- Bill came to youth every week (more faithfully than Tim ironically).
- The forms in the back of the hymnal are a great resource when talking to parents.
Parents need to talk to parents. Youth Pastors should be advisors and if needed mediators to the situation but not the solution.
Over the years I have found it tremendously helpful to first ask the parent with the complaint if they had a conversation with the one they have the problem with. If not, that is the first course of action I suggest to them prior to me stepping in. I always tell them that if the situation is not resolved after a face-to-face conversation then I would be willing to step in and assist.
Sometimes our ministry as Youth Pastors is not with the youth but with the parents. So Happy ‘Parenting’.