youth worker, yesterday, i wrote you to say thanks. i meant every word. and that letter was not just a set up, building you up so i could rip into you. in fact, i’d only planned on writing that letter. but after i finished it (and was — seriously, i’m not exaggerating — wiping tears from the corners of my eyes), i thought, “i could probably share a few requests also.”
so, in the context of my deep, deep well of appreciation and valuing of who you are and what you do, i’d like to also share a handful of requests:
stop trying to entertain my kids. they don’t want it, and you can’t really pull it off.
well, i’ll add a little caveat to that, a small qualification: my middle school son still likes to be entertained a bit. he likes the fun stuff, still. it’s not what keeps him there, or what he values the most, but it still has its place with 13 year-olds. but my daughter could give a rip if you have entertaining programs or neatoriffic trips. she wants to hang out with people who know her and care about her. she wants to experience something, and worship can provide that. she wants conversation. she wants to be a part of something that impacts the world. please, shut off the frickin’ lasers, scrap the goofy games that worked ok in 1982.
don’t be a poser, please.
i know my kids, and i know that they really do not care if you are into, or even aware of, whatever music d’jour is in their ears. they do not care about your wicked guitar chops (real or of the ‘guitar hero’ variety). your backward baseball cap only works if it’s genuinely you, and not something you do because you think it’s hip. look, i want my kids to connect with you at a meaningful level. i want — need — for you to have a voice into their lives. and you’re not going to have that if you’re a wannabe. please be yourself, for my kids, for me. this isn’t a ‘youth ministry tactic’ — this is a dad who needs this for his kids.
would you please take care of yourself?
look, i’m asking you this for a couple reasons. first, i want you to be around for a long time. i mean, i like you and all, and i want the best for you. but from a purely selfish place, i want you around for the duration of my kids’ adolescent tenure. i don’t want you to burn out or fall into some stupid moral sin. you know that it would be better if you never even came to our church or met my kids if anything like that happens, right? you wouldn’t just undo the good you’ve done, you’d create an additional pile o’ crap that we’d all have to trek through with our teenagers. and, you know what? i can’t walk through your pile of crap without getting your crap on me. i do not want your crap on me, or on my kids. so… yeah… take care of yourself, please.
also, i want you — need you — to take care of yourself because i know you can’t have an impact on my kids if you’re dry and shallow and stressed and your priorities are all screwed up. you can only minister effectively because you have christ in you. that’s the real issue. i’ve seen sh*tty youth workers have a huge, glorious, beautiful impact on the lives of teenagers because of christ in them, because it’s really not about them. and i’ve been stunningly gifted, talented, hard working youth pastors have the impact of a wet fart — lotsa noise and commotion, quite attention-getting, but no lasting impact — because it was all about their gifts and talents and hard work, and not about christ in them. so… yeah… take care of yourself, please. my kids need christ in you, not superman or wonder woman.
finally: please partner with me.
i know i occasionally seem like your adversary. i know — just keepin’ it real here — that some other parents really seem like your adversary. we’re not. i’m not. what i am is afraid, at times; afraid i’m going to squander the most amazing gift i’ve ever been given (my kids). i’m afraid, at times, that i’m a lousy parent. i’m afraid, at times, that my kids are going to royally screw up, and impact all of our lives forever. don’t mistake my occasional fear for antagonism. don’t misread my insecurity as a lack of trust in you. it’s more of a lack of trust in myself.
not that i don’t think you do some stupid or weird or needlessly risky things from time to time. but, somehow, i also think that’s part of your charm.
but i need you to come alongside me. let’s stop this stupid isolation, this absurd idea that ‘youth group world’ and ‘family world’ are mutually exclusive and have nothing to do with each other. look, i know i’m sending our entire family to your youth group when my kid shows up; because my kid shows up with all the family systems and baggage and good and bad parenting and everything else that she or he has received in our home. so, whether you like it or not, you’re getting all of us. and my kids are bringing you home also. so we might as well work together, huh? please, even if i don’t give you the impression that i want you to partner with me, i do. you’re just gonna have to trust me on that one.
and, now, i return you to my words of thanks:
and may god richly bless you, as you have blessed me.