This year’s theme is “The Story/The Stories.” Each week our blog will focus on a story from a youth minister. We hope these stories help inspire you in the great work you are doing, as well as let you know you aren’t alone in the crazy, sweet, often hard to fathom world of youth ministry. This week we are hearing……

The Story of a Bold Parent Leading the Way

Danny Steis

Danny Steis is the Minister of Students at Yates Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina and a Campus Minister at Duke University. He enjoys fishing, reading, ska music, homebrewing, and most of all – unstructured time with his family (Johanna, Marley, and Ruby).

Our youth ministry has been doing a “Parent Discussion Group” (I don’t have the ministry naming skills that MegaChurch youth ministers have) for a year or so and it has had some really great moments. We meet once a month on Sunday nights while the youth are in their Sunday night program. Each meeting has a set topic related to Christian parenting (setting boundaries and giving freedom, sheltering vs. exposing our kids to the world, sex and dating, grace and rules, etc…). As the group has solidified and become established the parents in it have become more and more comfortable sharing their struggles, doubts, and questions. Things were touch and go for the initial few meetings but a “bold” parent helped pave the way to where we are now. Below are two highlights from their work:

  • We began one of our meetings with a broad opening question – “What is your overall parenting strategy with your teenagers?” I think parents were afraid to answer out of fear of judgment and so there was quite an extended silence; It was eventually broken by this parent responding “You mean besides screaming at them?!?” Immediately after this “strategy” was spoken the room erupted with extreme affirmation. Every parent thought they were the only one who “lost it” frequently with their children. We then spent the night sharing stories of our tempers getting the best of us. We concluded by discussing the power of apologizing to our children, of admitting that we don’t have it all together.
  • Our discussion on sex and dating began with reading through a list of common ways Christian parents and leaders discourage sexual activity among teenagers. I read each tactic and asked the parents to evaluate it. The first tactic on the list was “If you have premarital sex your wedding night won’t be special.” After a looonnnggg awkward silence the same parent blurted out “Well mine wasn’t special, it HURT!” Again, the group affirmed the statement. We then discussed the damage this approach to purity has done to sexual identity formation in teenagers and how we can be more honest in our parenting and teaching.

My time with the parent group has been very helpful and illuminating in many different ways. I have often been guilty (and I think many of my youth ministry peers have as well) of making youth parents the “enemy.” They commit their kids to everything but church, they don’t read the youth newsletter, they believe everything their kid says about church (i.e. “What did you do at youth tonight?” “Nothin’.”). But this discussion group has really helped me understand the struggles and frustrations all of my youth parents face. I am grateful for my “inappropriate” parent that has helped the group be open and vulnerable.