parents who expect the church to raise their children...or create a miracle to undo the mess they made.
I'm all for ministries in the church that minister to specific age groups or needs - children and teens among them of course. But we have to be careful that as parents we don't expect the church to do our job for us. Years ago when my husband went into the church where he was first youth pastor in Clayton, NJ, one of the deacons approached my husband after he had been YP there for about six months and he said, "Pastor Larry, I have a concern. My son has been coming to your youth group for six months, but he's still not serving the Lord. I have an issue with that." He was upset with my husband personally and felt that he had failed him somehow, as the youth pastor. Well, my husband was young and perhaps shouldn't have said such a strong word to a deacon, however it was just what flew out of his mouth and, true to boot. He said, "With all due respect, you've had Tim for 16 years and I've only had him for six months."
Being in ministry for 21 years now, I've seen parents blame the children's or youth ministries for the state of their children's lives many, many times. I've seen it whether the ministry was small, or whether it was large and booming. I've experienced this in rural America, in the inner city, and the suburbs -- we have pastored in all three type locations.
The bottom line is, parents many times want to blame the church for their own failures. I have personally found that although Sunday School teachers, children's pastors, youth leaders and other adults in the church have been an incredibly helpful influence in my children's lives, NOTHING takes the place of my involvement. We must have a relationship with our children. It's not about having the biggest boomba for them to attend. It's not about "things". We've all heard about the parents who try to buy their children's love and think they are doing the best by them by just buying them Wii's, Playstations, even cars or whatever and think, "this is what they want." The truth is, nothing takes the place of a loving and nurturing parent. Not even a children's or youth ministry. Those things are great but I believe they are the icing on the cake!
Don't expect the children's pastor to "save the day" when you've ignored your responsibilities. Don't expect the youth pastor to do what you haven't been able to do for 16 years.
Dustin is 18, but that doesn't matter - I'm still his mother and placed in his life by God to help and guide him. Some nights I go into Dustin's room until he kicks me out. :-) Seriously. We'll talk for 2 hours and then he'll say, "Mom, I really need to get this paper done, you need to leave now.." or "Mom, I really promised I'd call Casey in a little bit, so can we finish this up?" I hate that our little chat has to come to a close, but I realize he needs time and space for other things. Sometimes they have pushed away from me at various time and when I reach out for a kiss or hug they go through the "too cool" phase where they resist. I don't let them get away with that. I realize this is just a cover up. They truly do want my affection they are just going through a phase. So I push back and say, "c'mere or I'm going to hunt you down and tickle you!" and plant a big hug or kiss on them whether they like it or not.
We are not a perfect family and sometimes I am at my wits end with them and very frustrated. But I won't give up even when times are difficult.
Children and youth pastors have my utmost respect, but I don't expect them to do my job for me.