An open letter to all youth group parents

NOTE: This is not an actual letter I ever plan to send to my youth group parents, nor do I currently experience all of these problems in my youth ministry in the first place. It is a fictitious letter based on common issues many youth workers would love to address but often don’t have the guts nor freedom to express.

Dear parent,

It seems like more and more of your kids are coming to church without you. I know you see this as a pretty good deal for your student since you get some quiet time at home and most of the events we do are paid-for, but you should know that there is no greater influence in your child’s life than you. Whether they tell you or not, your kid actually wants you involved in their life, even here at church. Come visit us sometime with your student and see how your relationship can grow together!

And then there’s some of you who actually forbid your teenager from attending youth Bible studies. You should know that the church is one of the last places on earth where basic morality and values are still taught, since schools are now forbidden to do so. We teach your teenager to obey you and respect you because that’s what the Lord expects from them. We also help your teenager address matters like relationships, making good choices, and setting priorities. With all the negativity and lies the media is using to bombard teenagers, we remain a light to help steer your student toward a growing relationship with the Lord.

Parents, please guide your child to be faithful in church attendance. Teenagers aren’t allowed to choose whether or not they want to go to school. Neither should you assume that they are mature enough to decide for themselves about church. Please, do not enable them to form the idea that church involvement should be based on the level of entertainment it provides. Teach your student not develop a consumerism mindset of, “What can the church do for me?” but instead approach church with the biblical mindset of, “How can I serve the body?”

What I don’t understand is how you’ll never ground your student from school, yet grounding him/her from church is acceptable, as if academic education is more important than spiritual training. You keep your student at home to watch TV, play on the Internet and listen to the radio when they actually need a good dose of spiritual encouragement. Maybe you should ground them to church instead of away from it.

We love going on trips and pulling off events for your student, but please ensure that he/she honors their commitment. The church invests many resources into these activities and when your child drops out at the last minute, it wastes money that was sacrificially provided by others.

The most important thing you can do is communicate with your student’s youth leaders. If you’re struggling with your child in a specific way, we’d love to pray for you! If you’re trying to teach him/her something at home, we’d love to help reinforce that at church. What you have to share with us can be critically important to how we interact and teach the student at church. Plus, the youth leaders may see and hear things that you should know about, too. Team up with us!

Whether you’re supportive of the youth ministry or not, please do not gossip about it or spread your negativity unless you’re speaking directly to me about it. Especially do not share your “critical evaluation” of the ministry or about individuals in it when you’re at home. You’ll only raise your children to be cynical and negative toward the church. They will grow up viewing church with the perspectives you model, so please be a gracious in your speech and attitude.

I’m actually not against criticism at all. In fact, I embrace your loving and respectful feedback since you can often see important issues I may never notice. However, please come straight to me with your concerns. Going to anyone else first is what the Bible calls gossip. When you come to me with a problem, also come prepared to offer a solution and the willingness to be a part of resolving the issue.

Thank you for your support! I pray for you regularly and hope we can continue to partner together in seeing your students’ lives transformed into a reflection of Christ.

— Your Youth Pastor

Posted on April 21, 2008

  • Pingback: Phillip Santillan - An Associate Pastor of a Calvary Chapel in South Orlando()

  • Pingback: Eastview Parents()

  • i love this letter. especially the points about grounding your teen from youth meetings.

  • Lee Roberts

    Great letter Tim. And actually there are pieves of that letter I might use to send to some of my parents. I'd love to use the whole thing, but my faith in my caller id won't allow me to take that next step. Thanks.

  • Love it! It hits home with a lot of youth pastors like myself.

  • ky_wildcat

    Great letter although I am not sure about actually sending it out to parents.

  • Good stuff, Tim. Lots of stuff in there I’ve wanted addressed at times. (smile)

  • Pingback: An Open Letter to All Youth Group Parents « elevating a generation()

  • GiGi

    Amen Tim. Amen.

  • Tim this is awesome. I wish more parents would invest in the lives of their kids and not treat us like child care providers.

  • I have tried to tell parents who don’t come to church but who send their children that they are sending a very loud message: “Church is for children.” Once their child starts wanting to act like an adult they will start pulling away from church as well. One of the big reason I think that older students and college kids pull away is because of “drop-off” parents.

    Children model their parents. It is that simple.

  • great letter… thanks for stirring the pot!

  • Wow! This letter is definitely off the chain, Tim. Dude, I love your site and I have learned muchos much from you. The free ebook was good stuff as well. I am definitely saving your letter and I appreciate the encouragement. Have a great day in the Lord!

  • G-ma B


  • @ Jose: I do not have children, so I cannot speak from experience, but my (uneducated) opinion is that I would always encourage church to my teen, ESPECIALLY if it is their favorite place. Instead, I might take away things like participation in their next sports game (what parent has ever done this?), take away the sport altogether, TV, Internet, car, etc.

    I also agree that the parent is the most influential person in a teen's life, but reality is that most parents do not ground their kids from church and instead use that time to invest into their child spiritually at home. In fact, that rarely happens regardless of if grounding is involved or not, which says more about the parents than anything else.

  • @Tim

    Yes I agree that parents should encourage attendance and in my experience most do. I agree about finding other things to "take away" first. As a consequence for something a Youth Group kid of mine did, one of my Christian families took away his full Varsity sophmore year of baseball. He also missed opportunities to participate in a youth group trip and several events we had.

    I am not advocating that parents use "grounding from church" as "the" form of discipline. I am suggesting that sometimes it may be the only leveraging tool the parent is left with. The difficulties and challenges of having kids in any home are really unknown to everyone "outside" those particular four walls.

    I deal mostly with un-churched teens and that is the avenue I approached this subject. (Take note of my "favorite place" comment's intro)

    I agree that usually families don't use the time (given by grounding) to invest spiritually and that is to the fault of the parents and undermines what we try to instill in their teens. However, we must continue to pray.

    I find that talking and loving on parents is more like real youth ministry anyway. I absolutely love being around teens but am growing up more and more and finding that influence on teens will happen when I can also influence their parents.

  • I love the letter, but have a different understanding of the “grounding from youth group” issue. I know and sincerely believe that Church is still one of the last frontiers for teaching moral absolutes but having children helps me evaluate this idea of grounding from youth group differently.

    Prior to having children I would be hurt and try to convince parents and teens to make it to Church events and not use grounding. Now I understand why they use grounding from church events. Especially but not exclusively non church going families…because it may be the most favorite place for their teen to be and thus the only effective form of discipline.

    We may not like it because we feel the best place for the teen to be is at church, but that is not entirely true. If we say the parent has the most influence in a child’s life, then we would have to say that the best place for a child to grow in Christ is in a Christ centered home with the love and support of a Christo-centric church body. (this statement is not applicable entirely to a non-christian family)

  • Pingback: [Life on Life.]: Open Letters()

  • Marissa

    Great letter!! I have a friends who’s parents grounded him from youth group..I can’t understand why they did this..if he’s getting into trouble I think it would make more sense to send him to youth group and church so he can get help..

  • 4youth

    Wow Tim! This is so right and true! Couldn't have written it any better!

  • JB13

    Tim, you forgot one: So-called Christian parents who not only allow, but encourage their children to participate in every sport in high school, while not even allowing their child one night each week to come to youth services, be a kid and get fed the Word in fellowship with other believers. It's maddening how many "Christian" parents believe it is somehow more important for their kid to run track, play football, play basketball, play soccer, play baseball and then be involved in every summer athletic camp under the sun, than it is for them to develop a deep love for the things of God and get to know their Creator and Redeemer. Sheer madness. High school sports remains one of my biggest obstacles to growing our youth ministry and reaching the teens of our community. While I expect it from the world, I am appalled by the parents in my church who do the same thing.

  • I just mailed this out to our parents…
    Oh wait, that wasn't supposed to be sent out? Uh-oh…time to polish up the ol' resume :-)
    Good stuff Tim.

    • LOL! Yeah, might wanna be careful about even hitting the Facebook "like" button on this one. :)

  • RevLando

    @ JB13 – You got that one right. I love sports and my daughter does gymnastics and my son plays baseball. But the priority put on sports by Christian parents is insane, to say the least.

    The other one that gets me each year (its a recently fresh wound once again) is that we tell parents if they want their kid to go on our missions trip, the post-trip debriefing meetings are just as important than all the training meetings up front and they are mandatory. A day or so before we leave the country we're serving in, I start hearing from half the team that they are going to miss the first and main debriefing meeting because their parents (some of whom are leaders in our church and in missions!) signed them up for camp that week or are going on vacation. Madness.

  • It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I am happy that you simply shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99