Let’s be honest. There is no perfect church. Any time there are people involved human nature will play out and conflicting opinions will surface. Part of life for us as parents is to navigate those difficult waters with our kids so that it doesn’t trample their desire to be part of the church and to follow Christ.
I love what Benjamin L. Corey says in his blog, “The Church of all places should look like Jesus!“
Wouldn’t it be awesome if the church was filled with authentic people who were others focused and conflict was worked through and resolved. Truth is that everyone we come in contact with is on a journey and not everyone is at the same place of maturity in their faith.
So what do we do as parents when problems arise for our teens and they are hurt by people in the church?
Shaunti Feldhaun’s research in For Parents Only says that teens tend to stop talking because parents don’t listen. They want to feel heard.
It is only natural when we as parents feel strongly about our Faith that we would want to defend our decision as parents to attend a particular church. After all, we want our kids to not only take on our faith and live it out in their lives but we also want them to see the value in being part of a church body. All too often parents tend to freak out because of the emotion involved when our kids decide they don’t want to attend church any more which can turn the situation into a downward spiral.
When your kid tells you they no longer want to go to youth group or they don’t want to go to church anymore, take the time to listen and understand. Don’t dish out judgment, condemnation, or threats.
LISTEN and problem solve.
Here’s some suggestions:
- Listen with ears to understand. Watch your body language and tone in the conversation.
- Ask probing questions that lead to further understanding.
- Once you’ve identified what you think the problem is, ask your child for time to look into it further and seek information from other trusted adults.
- Don’t panic. What was a problem one week might totally blow away by the next week. If it persists, continue investigating.
- Know that sometimes a persistent problem may have been going on for some time and your child is just now telling you about it. Be aware that the wounds from the offense might be deeper than you think.
- Be honest with your child about your concern that a situation could taint his view of God and the church. Talk about it.
- Work out a win-win for your child and you. Offer up options to solve the problem and try to do so, but know that in the end the goal is to make sure your child knows that you are on their team.
Several years ago one of my kids signed up to play keyboard on a rotating youth worship team. He was so excited. As a freshman, he would be playing with a group of mostly juniors and seniors who had been leading worship for several years. I knew the kids and their parents. They were awesome kids so I thought it would be a great experience for him.
I also had met the adult leader who had responsibility for the group. She loved music and she loved the kids. Another big plus and reason to believe it was a perfect situation.
His excitement was high initially. Even though the youth group had a keyboard, it was marginal at best. My husband went out and bought a case for my son’s keyboard so that he could be more successful. We ended up hauling it back and forth for practices and Sunday worship—a huge commitment on our part.
About five months into the experience I sensed something might be going on. I would cart my son and the keyboard to practice and sit in the parking lot only to find out that practice had been rescheduled but my son hadn’t been notified. About a month later, my son started complaining that he didn’t think the other kids liked him. Soon after he had not only quit the team but refused to go back to youth group.
What I discovered was that the older kids were leading the band. The adult leader saw her job as supervisor only to make sure the kids didn’t do something stupid while they were in the building and to make sure they had a set list put together for Sunday morning. She didn’t involve herself in the practice at all. She was strictly in the building.
These kids didn’t have the experience of working with a keyboard player nor were they quite mature enough to lead a group of varying instruments. I knew my son had the skill set to play well. I heard him when he practiced regularly at home. However, the kids didn’t realize that it is much more difficult to change keys for voice range on a keyboard than it was on a guitar. So when they were giving my son the music, he was playing it in the key that it was written while the guitar players were using their capos to play it in the key they wanted.
The teen leader’s solution was to turn off the keyboard from the sound booth on Sunday morning. This left my son frustrated because he didn’t understand the problem. No one was invested enough in what was going on to try to hear the issue, let alone solve it. My son’s solution was to leave the youth group because he felt excluded and humiliated.
After trying to fully understand the issue, I realized that it truly wasn’t anyone’s malicious intent to exclude my son. They were each trying to do the best they knew how in having teens lead in their sphere of influence. My son’s feelings were a result of insufficiently skilled people doing the best they could do given what they knew.
Was my son hurt? Absolutely! Was my son justified in wanting to quit the team? Absolutely! Did I try to explain what was really happening and how sorry I was that he had been hurt? You bet!
After a year of sitting in the main church service with us, I asked my son if he would be interested in trying the youth group again. I even agreed to volunteer to work with the youth for the year if he wanted me to. He said ‘yes’.
Luckily the next two years were a success for him. He even played on the worship team that was now under the direction of someone who understood and worked the music issues.
As parents, our job is not to defend the church, but to defend our kids. For that, we need to listen and help solve the problems or at least give them context for the imperfection of other humans. The only way our kids will stay involved in the church as they mature is if the can come to realize that the church isn’t perfect but the benefits outweigh the difficulties.
“Let go…and let God”,
Sign up for our on-line eCourse which starts September 26, 2016. You’ll have an opportunity to go through the new book With All Due Respect:40 days to a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens with me and a group of moms just like yourself. Learn and interact while gaining new communication skills. Be sure to get in on the discounted price while it lasts. I’ll be available for personal interaction in the class. Hope you’ll join me. Click here for more information.