After 20 years in youth ministry my role in youth ministry shifted this week. My eldest son headed off on his first junior high youth camp. That means that I am no longer the youth minister, I became one of the parents dropping their child off at church for camp, while the child tries to get away without a hug or a kiss.
Whilst as a youth minister I know a lot about what happens on youth camp, I find my mind has shifted now that I am a parent. The things that I am looking for in a youth ministry as a parent are different to what to what I may have wanted from a youth ministry being on the leadership side. Whilst I have never seen parents as the enemy, I see things differently now my own son is involved.
Here are a few thought about youth camp now that I am a parent:
- High expectations – perhaps my expectation of youth camp are a little high but I hope that my son has an encounter with God at youth camp. I hope that he gets a passion for reading the bible, that he meets some great friends, gets some excellent mentors as leaders, that he likes going to church and that he fights for world peace, ok perhaps not the last one. Are my expectations a little high? As a youth ministers I would tell a parent that those might be good expectations after five or six years in a youth ministry but not for their child’s first youth camp. As a parent though I can’t help wanting the best for my son. In reality I know that my son will enjoy camp but will come home talking more about the fun games than the bible talks, he will still be the same kid who won’t like doing chores around the house and whilst he may not be against going to church I am sure he won’t always be begging us to go.
- Being part of our family – we hope that our son maintains a sense of family and isn’t sold an idea that the youth ministry is the most important thing in his life. As a youth minister I heard numerous stories of young people who got involved in youth ministry in spite of a lack of support from home. In our case my wife and I are very supportive of our son being involved in the youth ministry. Yet as a parent I hope that the youth ministry acknowledges the vital role that we as parents play in nurturing the faith of our son as well. I don’t want my son going off to youth events every week at the expense of our family time. Sometimes our son will miss a youth event to spend time with our family and it isn’t a sign of a lack of commitment to the youth ministry. Too often youth ministers blame families for a lack of attendance from young people, yet as parent I now see the family time is often more important than time at youth group.
- Bigger picture of church – as a youth minister I focused so much on the youth ministry that youth camp or going to a youth festival was the biggest thing in the year. As a parent I still have one son who won’t be going to youth camp for another two years. I also am more aware of parents in my small group who have kids in the children’s ministry. As a parent I am far more interconnected with the other things happening in the church so I now realise that whilst the youth ministry is important, so are a number of other ministries in our church. Perhaps as a parent I am more thankful of the role of the children’s ministry which nurture the faith of my son long enough to help him want to go on youth camp.
Perhaps my expectations are a little high but maybe that is a good thing. As a parent I should want the best for the spiritual life of my children. One thing that I must remind myself is that the Holy Spirit has its own plan for my son and I must accept what ever the Holy Spirit does with him. It will take a life time for my son to understand God, so I can’t expect it all to happen on his first youth camp, but I am just a little excited at what God might do with y son on youth camp.
In the next post I will share a few reflection after my son comes home from youth camp.
Perhaps you have recently become a parent in a youth ministry, what are your thoughts? share them in the comment section below.
markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net