A plan for helping parents reach their teenagers

I accidentally came across this on my computer the other day. It’s a presentation I made back in seminary for one of my Family Life classes. It makes a great follow-up from my post last week about what parents actions often teach kids about God. Kind of ironic that I do some of this in my ministry already, but never defined it as well as I did several years ago in this presentation.

The Need
Teenagers can sometimes be difficult for parents to understand. A teen’s entire generation functions differently from any of the ones before them: different attitudes, ideas, dreams, values, goals, and spiritual disciplines. With each emerging generation comes a culture that is unique from the rest, providing its own resources and new thinking, but it also comes with new challenges for the ones guiding them toward maturity. A disconnect often takes place between the generation gaps due to a lack of understanding and commitment to knowing each other better, how they think, how they act, and the reasons behind such actions.

In more concrete terms, it’s nearly impossible to fix something you don’t understand, like a computer, a car, or a dishwasher. Personally, I would never attempt to open my watch and fix the little components and gears inside because I have no understanding of those parts or how they work. Even if I tried for days, it would be unlikely that I could ever make a broken watch function properly again simply because I do not understand it. Likewise, it is essential that we understand the parts that make up our teenagers, their culture, and the things that make them “tick” so parents can intelligently work with them on their playing field as teammates.

The Putty
Silly Putty is a lot of fun! It is very impressionable and can be manipulated and flexed to take almost any shape the user wants. It can be stretched very thin, but fortunately it can also be returned to its normal state as a rolled up ball.

Teenagers are like Silly Putty – they are at a very impressionable time in their lives. The values they adopt now will be the ones they often hold to for the rest of their lives. Thus, it is essential that these teenagers have parents and older adults around who will mold them and shape them into the spiritually mature individuals they are called to be. We want whatever rubs off us to stick to them and to become a part of who they are.

However, often stretched-out parents feel that they’re probably better related to Silly Putty. As they raise their teens, issues arise that they’ve never dealt with before. New culture values, new dress standards and new attitudes can cause parents to feel pretty lost when it comes to relating to their teenager.

The Bible
Scripture has much to say about a parent’s ministry to their students. This is what forms the foundation of the youth ministry’s desire to equip parents.

Colossians 2:2, “My goal is that they will be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love.” (NLT)

Our goal is that all families would look like this. As the youth ministry encourages families we want them to develop a greater understanding of each other that leads to “strong ties of love.” Not just casual cohabitation, but a strong love that is knit and interwoven together.

1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” (NLT)

The body of Christ is made up both of the group of believers collectively as well as the individual members in it. We see the family as a picture of this body, formed to function together as a body but also as individual members who contribute to that body. Thus it is important to minister to the parents and teenagers on an individual level, providing resources to the parents to better lead and nourish the body of their family.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up.”

Colossians 2:7, “Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught.” (NLT)

It is the responsibility of the parents to teach and train their teenagers in the works of God. The youth ministry is here to make sure that they are well-equipped and that they have all they need to be successful at their calling.

So then how can stretched-out parents begin to bridge all the gaps that sometimes exist between them and their student in order to be most effective in their rolls as parents? How can they become the effective Godly parents the Lord has called them to be? This is where the youth ministry wants to help.

The Strategy: E3
As the primary ministry in the church that works with teenagers, part of our responsibility becomes to Equip, Encourage, and Excite the parents and adults of the church to be effective in their relationships with teenagers.

  • Equip: No parent is perfect. Every parent out there has the potential to improve and somehow become a better parent to their teenagers in some way or another. For those seeking to grow in parenthood, we want to have material to give them, sources to lead them to, and even other parents to talk to in order for them to receive the necessary instruction.
  • Encourage: Many parents are facing difficult times with their students. Teenagers often rebel, make bad decisions, and heed to ungodly wisdom, all making a parent’s job that much harder. When things like this take place in the life of a teenager, a parent’s heart just breaks. They need to be encouraged that bad things that happen to their kids are not always their fault and that they’re still doing a great job as parents. Even the parents who seem to have “perfect families” need to be encouraged and motivated to continue what they’re doing and encouraged to make it stronger.
  • Excite: The youth ministry wants the parenting stage in life to be an exciting time, both for the parents and for the students. Family relationships do not have to be stressful and negative. We would love to see families having fun together, taking adventures, and enjoying each other the way God intended.

The Name
Taking after the putty analogy, it is fitting to call this branch of the youth ministry P.U.T.T.Y.


The Mission
“To encourage healthy family relationships through resources that unite teenagers with their families, both inside the church and out.”

  • To encourage healthy family relationships: A family approach always keeps in focus the teenager’s family and explores ways to support individual family members along with the teen.
  • Through resources that unite teenagers with their families: Resources that encourage communication, equip with understanding, and excite cooperation between youth group members and their individual family members are the primary weapons in the family battle plan.
  • Both inside the church and out. Successful relationships and resources should be expressed in the home and in the community, as well as in the church. It is our belief that healthier families in the church will result in healthier communities. A teenage girl whose friends see her demonstrate a clear love for her parents will undoubtedly create a ripple effect in those other families.

The Plan
The youth pastor, as overseer and implementer of P.U.T.T.Y., will make the following plan available to all parents in the church:

  • Youth culture newsletters: Either bi-monthly or monthly updates into the lives of the teenage world. It will consist of music reviews, movie briefings, culture trends, shifts in values and attitudes, and more.
  • Family Bible Studies: The youth ministry will make available Bible studies for families to do together that intentionally promote stronger relationships. For those families who cannot find time to get the family together during the week, they will be given opportunity to do so on Sunday morning in place of breaking up the family for Sunday School.
  • Parenting helps: Articles will be made available on various parenting topics, such as, “How to talk with your teenager about sex” or “What to do when you think your student is depressed.” These articles will provide practical advice on how parents can best handle situations that may arise.
  • Counseling network: The youth ministry will also develop a list of recommended Christian counselors to make available to parents who experience issues outside the scope of the church’s resources and training.
  • Share stories: Families need a way to share what God’s doing with their lives, what they’re struggling with, and to find encouragement and input from other families. This can either take place in a small group setting or on an online discussion forum.
  • Frequent communication between youth leaders and parents: Youth leaders will take the responsibility of making frequent contact with parents. The youth ministry’s small group leaders will share with the parents what is being discussed in their groups and the parents can share with the youth leader what’s going on in the home. In this way the youth ministry and parents can team together.

The Cost
The specific resources we plan to provide:

  • Youth culture newsletters: $99/12 months
  • Family Bible Studies: Written in-house, so they’re FREE
  • Parenting helps: FREE articles and resources from around the Internet
  • Counseling network: FREE
  • Share stories: FREE
  • Frequent communication between youth leaders and parents: PRICELESS

Posted on February 12, 2008

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