in late april, a group of 23 veteran junior high pastors gathered again for a 4-day summit. between all of us, we have 270 years of experience working with middle schoolers. it’s a great group of people, who are passionate about their calling to young teens, and very interested in re-thinking their assumptions and approaches.
this year, noted sociologist christian smith (see post here about christian) join us for a half day, and talked with us primarily about the role of parents in the faith formation of teenagers. out of christian’s data and thoughts, and his responses to our many questions, we formulated a long list of discussion topics, voted on them, and formulated the agenda for the remainder of our days.
we all agreed this was the best of the 8 annual times we’ve met, primarily because we didn’t have easy answers to the issues raised.
i’ll post the notes from the gathering here.
Each person shares a take home from our time:
Mark: I realize I am not doing a great job of encouraging parents and I need to do this better and get parents more involved in the ministry. I need to look at our communication structures and do a better job of encouraging and equipping parents.
Nate: I’m wrestling with knowing what we know about HS students dropping out and is this really a result of bad youth ministry, or is it also a symptom of bad parenting.
Cristin: How can we make sure this type of idea gets carried through from birth through college? For example, we make parents get involved at younger ages, but this drops off at the MS age.
Heather: I love the four style chart not only for parents, but also with our staff and ministry. Who are they individually and collectively and how do we move toward authoritative? Also, in the area of parents, how will I empower and authorize parents?
Alan M: “community is the environment, belonging is the experience” – I need to work on making this a reality. Also, I need to work on doing more of what we have outlined and actually get things done instead of just talking about it.
Ken: part of this is the belonging idea. How do I use what we’ve learned here to help people really belong and I’m going to look for non program stuff to get this done. Also looking to help really make a partnership with parents.
April: Story telling stuff – the importance of the parent role and what we want from them and what we will do for them. A new level of expectation. Showing Soul Searching to our staff.
Steve: I want to give the message to parents that “you really matter” Nate’s idea of once a month parent lunches for conversations.
Alan R: Be more intentional outside of a program and outside of the church and how to juggle schedules to make this happen. How do I have these kids in my group and how am I relational with all of them?
Phil: I want to go the house of a family and try and work together to figure out where to go from here in helping their teen. I also think that down the road, I could ask them to meet with another family and multiply this. Also, in our small groups this is where our relationships happen, so maybe next year we make our small groups even smaller so the family engagement can happen more.
Johnny: Using the believe platform to talk about cognitive autonomy and how to help teens get here. How can we also encourage one to one conversations and encouragement. Christian reminded us that kids don’t get asked what they think about “X.” I’d like to get the questions on the table. Put some tools together to help the youth pastor give this stuff to parents. At my own church, I need to get into the homes of the boys I minister to.
Jason: My kids – my own little youth group – I don’t think I’m intentional enough with them. The belonging thing is big. Can I figure out how to help my adults to help create a sense of belonging. The best volunteers can do this, so how can I create tools to help the others do this. How can I come up with appropriate boundaries to talk with parents about what their kids are feeling without loosing the trust of the kids. Finally, with curriculum, can we provide and bring parents into the curriculum mix and provide more tools for parents to do better at their role.
Eric: family involvement and cultural shifts. We need to look at our positions and are we obsolete in the classical sense? SO many of our systems need to be rethought. It’s hard for us to think outside of our program systems and drill down on what new stuff looks like. How do we empower parents and students in getting away from us being the information sharers to us being the catalysts or helping parents and students interact.
MarkO: do we sometimes need to be “provocateur” or “convener”? we may need to do both of these in our groups. In some ways we need to step up and provoke some thinking and challenging, but we also need to convene some ideas and pull people together.
Scott: I’m going to have a “best” parents meeting. I’m going to invite HS parents who have done well and ask them what they did well. I need to see I can get a list of catalyzing options to help parents learn how to do this. I’m pretty sure I could also find a parent or two who can be volunteer staff to help me think parent stuff. I would look to see if they could help us learn to do better with parents.
Jeff: Being intentional with parents – maybe once a month we could get people together for conversations. Also, the drop off/pick up deal – do we do this well? What can we do to help parents get more face time with us.
Andy: Mark Matlock says “you have all you need.” Belonging is not a program. Parent ministry is not a program. Just get out there and do it. My position is to create the framework for how these things can happen. We need to “re-authorize” parents and empower them to be involved in our ministry and the life of their kids.
Corrie: Parents are currently beyond my comprehension. We do so much and get little return. How can help parents believe their role – they may or may not know it – but they definitely don’t believe it. How can we inspire them.
Christina: I’d like to have some conversations with the powers that be in my church. First, to be more intentional in what is being taught and getting that information to the parents. Also, more small group leaders are needed, and getting more parents involved.
Jim: To me family in the Bible does not mean, mom, dad, kids. There has to be more to family than that. I need to get this clear in my mind. I’m interested to see how I could influence systems in the church. ex. Can I be in the ear of the senior pastor or change adult SS classes or marriage things or adult small groups?
Brooklyn: I tend to fault to what works and what is easiest. I’m taking away I want to be more intentional in focusing on this. Structural disconnect – our teens go to experts for everything. Can I build into the body a better understanding of the body of Christ and integrate this into the life of our students. Parents often say “I don’t want to shove this down their throats” I do the same thing – I need to work on actually thinking about this and how to do this in the right way.
Sean: From a viewpoint of our ministry, I’d like to figure out how to communicate some of these concepts to parents and families that attend our events. Understand and resource the parents to the voice that they have. I need to move from a “general contractor” model to a “I’m a tool” model where I am a part of the process, not the master planner.