Written by Matt Larkin:
In Part One of Equipping Parents, I talked about all that parents are facing as they seek to bring up and disciple their children in our modern setting. And I talked about the importance I see in listening and learning about what needs the parents of our students really have. This is where the process of equipping parents really begins because it is difficult to help equip parents if you have no idea where their struggles lie. But the learning part of this equipping process doesn’t end there.
BECOMING A STUDENT OF YOUTH CULTURE
One of the key struggles that many parents are facing is that they don’t completely understand all of the cultural factors that are influencing their kids. This is becoming harder and harder as time goes by. With the way that culture has changed so rapidly in the 21st Century, many parents (and for that matter, many youth workers) are feeling left behind. Information flows so freely and so rapidly now that it is difficult for many parents to keep up.
And with as busy as most parents are, they simply don’t have time to be students of youth culture. So, one of the ways that we can work toward equipping parents is to become students ourselves. There are a number of great resources out there to help us in that endeavor. FULLER YOUTH INSTITUTE and the CENTER FOR PARENT/YOUTH UNDERSTANDING are a couple of great resources that can help in that endeavor. YOUTH SPECIALTIES is also regularly sharing great resources on the subject.
The key to equipping parents is taking the time to learn from them and from other great resources.
COMING ALONGSIDE OF PARENTS
Finally, as we look at what it looks like to get into actually equipping parents, it’s probably first worth mentioning that we need to come from a posture of coming alongside them. If we approach parents from the posture of a lecturer or teacher, or as some sort of self-important professional youth culture expert, they are likely to tune us out faster than many of our students do! (Or they’ll just want us to raise their kids for them!) But, if we approach parents as a resource who desires to walk with them as they raise and disciple their children, we are much more likely to positively impact their efforts as parents.
So as we begin to work toward equipping parents, rather than starting out with parenting offering parenting seminars and curriculum; it may be best to start out by offering advice when asked, giving a parent a good book or resource that you’ve found helpful, or even offering some personal assistance when you come across a really overwhelmed parent. Things like that project a posture of coming alongside as a resource rather than a posture of an impersonal instructor.
You see, equipping parents doesn’t have to be a formal educational endeavor. In fact, you’re likely going to be better off if it’s not in many cases. Parenting seminars are great, and there is some excellent curriculum out there. But, a formal educational endeavor (especially if you are a fairly new youth worker without established relationships) can come off cold and academic. Whereas helping parents in more informal ways, like some of those I mentioned above, projects personal care.
EQUIPPING PARENTS IS BIG MINISTRY
Ultimately, the reason why we take the time to equip parents is because we care about our students and their families.
The families God has entrusted to us in our ministries are a gift.
They are people who, at times, may have great need. They may be high maintenance. The parents we are called to minister to have an enormous responsibility. If we can help them feel better equipped, even in some small way, we have accomplished something big in ministry. Helping to equip parents is a way that we can take the impact we have in the couple of hours we have with students each week and multiply it for God’s glory; because a well-equipped parent will have significantly more time to spiritually impact the lives of their kids than we will. As such, equipping parents is one of the most important tasks we have in front of us as youth workers.
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