What a youth group leader wants parents to know…

January 31, 2012 in Amber Beery,lessons for moms

Remember my friend Amber who blogs about her sweet family at Here…And the hope and the glory? Her written words always inspire and encourage me and today she blessed us by returning to Pruning Princesses for another guest post. 

I live in two worlds. Most of the time I live in the world of diapers, naptime dramas, Candy
Land and the intricacies of first grade homework. Pretty typical for a mom of small children.
But several times a week I sneak over into another world – a world full of fashion, high school
drama, texting and the intricacies of junior high dating relationships. Because, while I am a
mom, I am also a youth group leader. Which means I’ve entered the teenage world much
sooner than my kids’ ages would dictate.

It’s interesting. Living in both worlds.

Sometimes the worlds don’t mesh so well. Like having a sick child and a youth group party
on the same night. Or the time I was playing an intense game of soccer with the youth group.
Just as I swooped down on the soccer ball, ready to make an incredible steal, I noticed to my
horror that one of my nursing pads had worked itself loose. Beyond my reach, it fluttered to the
ground, right at the feet of a youth group boy.

He looked at me. I looked at him.

Awkward.

What to say?! “Hi! I’m your youth leader. I’m also a nursing mom. That’s a nursing pad. Sorry
about that.” Nope, can’t see that conversation working with a 15-year-old male. What else was
there to do but pounce upon the errant pad, shove it in my pocket and race off after the soccer
ball? Yep, being a mom and being a youth leader can be interesting.

Most of the time, though, I feel similar to the boy in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Like
Charlie, I’m ecstatic to have found the elusive, golden ticket in my role as a youth leader.
My treasured ticket lets me peer, not into a chocolate factory, but into the obscure world of
teenagehood. I get a sneak peek into the peer pressure, courage, drama, friendship, family life
and media infusion of the teenage world long before my kids will actually arrive there.

I spend quite a bit of time with teenagers, but I’m not an expert. Parents of teenagers are the
experts on teens! My turn in the trenches is coming!

Still, if I were asked for advice when it comes to teens, if I could plead with parents, if I could
ask them to teach one thing to their teenagers, I would say:

Redefine success. Instead of listening to society’s evaluation of successful parenting, let your
greatest desire be for your teen to love the Lord God with ALL her heart and soul.

And then live out that desire in the choices you make.

I’ve been involved in youth ministry with my husband for almost 10 years in several different

states and churches. And too often we see parents consumed with their teens’ success in life
while a relationship with God is just left to “happen.”

My children are young. Only one is in school. But already I feel the pressure to make sure
my children achieve success. Success in academics. Success in sports. Success in social skills.
Success in music. Success in potty training, teeth pulling, friendship building, talent honing,
healthy eating, hygiene…the list could go on and on.

Now let’s be honest. I hope my kids find some success in those areas. I hope our youth group
teens find success in those areas, too. But achieving that success is not my passion as a parent
or a leader. My passion stems from these verses:

This is what the LORD says:“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me.”
Jeremiah 9:23-24

To the parents of teens, I would say:

When your child stands before God, it will not matter if she can claim academic excellence or
athletic achievement or wealth. What will matter? Did she know God? Not just know about
him. Did she know him, cling to him, pursue him with all her heart? Was knowing him the
crowning achievement of her life? Did the rest of her life – the friendships, career choices, use
of talents – flow out of her highest passion?

Admittedly, I’m talking about a relationship here. You can’t force your daughter to love God.

But we as parents can foster an environment where there is no doubt in our children’s minds
about what type of success we value. An environment where we don’t just wait for knowledge
of God to “happen,” but where we make choices to instill this desire in our kids.

An environment where they know we value time with God more than good grades.

Where they know we value time with the body of believers more than we value sports.

Where they know we value serving God more than we value a lucrative career choice.

Cheering on social skills, athletic talent, musical abilities, academic achievements…none of that
is evil.

But please, parents, leave no doubt in your teen’s mind about what you value most.

She cannot read your mind.

She may listen to your words.

But she will believe your life. Make your relationship with God your daily passion. She is
watching.

That is my plea to parents of teenagers. I haven’t crawled through the teenage trenches yet as

a parent. When it’s my turn, I may emerge from the journey with a whole different set of advice
in hand. But today, as a youth leader, I ask parents to pour their heart and soul into God’s
definition of success – for themselves and their children:

“…but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me.”

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