In a recent post I shared with you a few thoughts on becoming a parent in youth ministry when my son went off to his first youth camp. I had high expectation for the camp and so on his return I was waiting eagerly to hear something spiritual about the camp. Instead he was full of stories about the fun, games and pranks that took place on camp. After many interesting stories I asked my son what will he tell his best friend about the camp, the one who didn’t attend youth camp, and he replied “he totally should have been there”. It was this one sentence that made me realise that something significant happened on camp.
Over the next few days I had many conversations with my son about youth camp, none of them were deeply theological but they all helped me know my son on a deeper level. In the week following the camp I watched him to see if there was any behaviour change and I noticed that he was a little more reflective and a little more considerate but mostly he was the same kid who loves playing his video games. At some level it was reassuring to me that there wasn’t a radical shift in my son; he was the same son just grown up a little.
In reflecting on the experience there are a few things that I learnt from hearing about the camp from my son:
- Leaders are important – whilst my son only seem to talk about the pranks the leaders got up to, he spoke with a great respect and admiration for the leaders. It seems that he looked up to the leaders and when I dug deeper they really encouraged him in his faith. As a parent I am so thankful that my son had some young adult leaders who were passionate about their faith and willing to share it with my son.
- Christian friendships are important – My son will spend most of his time with non-christians so to meet some committed christians is a really important thing. We spent a lot our conversation time this week talking about the people that he met on camp. I am sure that some of these people will become his long term friends even though they go to different schools. In an increasingly secular world it so important to encourage our young people to seek out and develop christian friendships.
- The next step is important – the youth ministry that ran the youth camp knew how important the next steps were and had pumped up the young people to attend friday night youth group. My son was talking about it all week and was so excited to go that he was encouraging me to leave the house to drive to church. Yet this is just the first in many “next steps” that my son will take. As adults, parents and youth ministers, we need to roll out the next steps so that young people who have never done this before know where they are heading.
- My own faith is important – as a parent the conversation can be directed at my son; I want to know about your experience. Yet the conversation seemed to open up opportunities for me to share my faith with my son. As adults, parents and youth ministers, we can direct our conversation at the young people by asking them leading questions, yet we need to allow them to ask us questions. I have to create a space where by my son can ask me questions about faith, prayer, theology, church, girls, dating etc etc. Sharing my faith journey with my children is so important.
- This is just the beginning – I will admit that my son and i have had some great conversations but this is only the beginning on his faith journey. My son still prefers to play video games and watch tv, so he his not an eager theology student by any stretch of the imagination. My son and I have even had issues where i have had to discipline him and I am sure that this is just one of the many ups and downs we will experience over the coming decade know as “the teenager years”.
These reflections as part of my experience in shifting from a youth minister to a parent. As I dropped my son off to youth group, which i had witness hundreds of times, I got the “you can go now” look from my son. In an instance I had shifted from youth minister to daggy parent.
My hope is that if you are a youth minister without children of your own, these reflection may help you minister to families in a better way than you currently do. My hope for parents of young people is that these reflection may put into words some of the feelings stirring in you and perhaps pass them onto your youth ministry team.
Please leave a comment.
markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net mrmarkmcdonald