1. Be a Student of What They are Learning
The wonder of God is all around us. But sometimes we’re too overloaded with answers to see the beautiful mystery behind all of our questions. For the ancient Hebrews, the wonder of God was present in their very history—in the God-stories they passed from generation to generation. And when the God of those amazing stories chose to dwell within the temple—when He chose to reveal Himself to His people—that wonder was accessible to them 24/7. But God didn’t stop there. He sent His son so that the temple, the place where He chose to dwell, could move from a place to a person. Because of Jesus, we have become the temple. Because of what Jesus did, we are the tangible representation of God to the world. We are now the place—we are the way—that God chooses to intersect with the world.
2. Be a Student of Your Student
In this series, your student has been walking through the Old and New Testament to get a better understanding of the temple. But not just the temple as the building where God chose to meet with His people; they have been studying and journeying through the idea of the ways that God chooses to intersect with His people—to intersect with us—and the purpose He is serving through that intersection: to bring the kingdom of heaven to Earth through us. We’ve been challenging them to think about their own role in bringing the particular elements of God’s kingdom—peace, justice, mercy—to the world around them. And in doing this, we also recognize the major role that you, as their parent, play in this.
So, in order to move into a deeper understanding of your role as an encourager of your student’s desire to be a partner with God in communicating God’s kingdom here on Earth, we are going to take a look at a roundtable discussion conducted by the Fuller Youth Institute and presented by Kara Powell entitled “Justice Hits Close to Home: A Roundtable Panel on Inviting Parents into Our Service” .
I was midway through my Wednesday night youth group clean up routine. Working with a team of student leaders and adult volunteers, we were stowing away our sound system, stacking up chairs, and scooping up the candy wrappers and smashed paper cups that littered our youth room floor.
But then came a not-so-routine conversation, one that forever altered the way I involve parents in justice and service. Two mothers walked up to me, both of whom were concerned about their fourteen year-old sons.
The mother who reached me first shared her anxiety: “Ever since the series that you taught on missions, my son keeps saying he wants to go to Guatemala on a short-term mission trip this summer. I lay awake at night, worried that something bad will happen to him. He’s only fourteen and I’m afraid he’ll get hurt.”
The second mother, having overheard the first mom, sighed and shared one of the more convicting statements I’ve ever heard one parent share with another. “I wish that was my problem. My son doesn’t want anything to do with church or God anymore, and I think his friends are into drugs. I’d give anything to have a son who wants to serve the Lord in Guatemala this summer.”
Was the first mother wrong to be concerned about her son’s safety? Of course not, but seeking to right wrongs through acts of justice and service are always risky on some level. Perhaps the deeper issue was her hesitation about justice work in the first place. God was inviting her son to participate in the kingdom through acts of justice, but allowing her son to RSVP to that invitation felt way too uncomfortable.
As youth workers, the justice invitation we extend doesn’t stop at the in-box of the fourteen year-old. Like pretty much everything else we do in youth ministry, our impact on both the fourteen year-old and our planet will be magnified when we do the hard work of adding parents’ names to our invitation list.
Why Parents Matter: What MTV Has to Say
In 2006, MTV conducted a nationwide survey in order to understand how and why youth in America are already active in social causes. Here’s what that study found:
- Of the kids they surveyed, 70 percent say it’s important to help others in need. Only 19 percent are “very involved” in doing so.
- 62 percent say the issues that matter most to them are those that have touched them or someone they know.
- 70 percent of kids involved in activism report that their parents’ encouragement played a major factor in their choice to get involved.
In the midst of these findings, one theme emerges: Justice needs to hit kids close to home. It needs to hit close to home thematically as we help kids understand how particular injustices relate to their lives. But it also needs to hit home literally as we invite parents both to exemplify and to encourage their own kids to right wrongs around them.
3. Action Point
We as parents set the stage for the way our family views and interacts with the world. And this is especially true for our children. How we spend our money, our time, our resources—our lives—sends a clear signal to our families about what is most important to us. Throughout this series your students have been learning about their role as co-laborers with God. And what that means is that your student has an important role to play in God’s story. Just as they are. As young as they are. As silly as they are. As creative as they are. They are the exact person God wants to use to effect change in this world. And your ability and willingness to support them can give wings to their God-given desire to reach out and make a difference.
So, take a moment to dig deep and reflect on how you can support your son or daughter’s role as a co-laborer with God as you answer the following questions:
1) Where have you seen your student get fired up to serve or to impact change in their world? Maybe it’s been through a service opportunity with their youth group or a passion that was fueled after seeing a film about the needs of people half way around the world. Think about the thing that breaks your student’s heart or gets them excited. Then, think about the gifts that you have seen expressed in their lives since they were little. How can these passions and gifts come together to make change? Take some time this week to tell your student where and how you see them putting together their passions and gifts to make a difference in their world.
2) How can you encourage that desire and create opportunities through your community, work relationships, church relationships, etc.? After you have talked about the issues your student is passionate about and the gifts they possess, brainstorm some resources that you have as a family. Maybe there are people you know that are directly involved with a particular cause. Or, maybe you have the skills to navigate the Internet and make calls to get the ball rolling for your student. Think through the ways you can support your student’s involvement in God’s story of reconciliation. It may even be as simple as praying with them over the things that are close to their heart—whether it’s a global issue or a close friend who they are concerned about.
The bottom line is that when your student feels encouraged and supported by you in both word and deed, they will be able to take the amazing ideas and gifts that God has placed in them and do amazing things. And you will get to share in the joy of watching them bring God’s heavenly kingdom to Earth.
Get connected to a wider community of parents at www.orangeparents.org.