In my first ministry, I had the dreaded conversation many youth ministers fear.
As I was gently talking to a parent about their child’s behavior, the father placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “You don’t even have kids. Just wait until you have teenagers, and then you’ll understand.”
It was a gigantic blow to my ego. In my eyes, it invalidated my ministry and authority with the parents of the church. Since I didn’t have kids, let alone teenagers, I had no business lecturing a parent on how to raise their child.
As I’ve matured and grown in my ministry, I realized something: he was wrong. I had the knowledge and responsibility to speak into his life.
To illustrate my point, let me take you back to my newspaper days.
When I was a sports writer for a local newspaper, my editor approached our editorial team about speaking to a high school journalism class. I was still quite new to professional journalism at the time. What could I contribute to such a discussion?
My editor gave great advice. She said: “To this community, you are the expert in sports writing. They see you at games. They read your articles and see your pictures. No other newspapers exist here, so for this community, you are the expert. Who else are they going to go to?”
Where do these two anecdotes intersect? With this: to your community and congregation, you are an expert.
Let that sink in for a second. For the parents and teenagers and school administrators in your community, you are an expert in youth ministry and teenage culture. Yes, you.
Let me rephrase my editor’s quote for youth ministry purposes. “To your church, you are the expert in youth ministry. They see you with the youth. They read your bulletin announcements and newsletter articles. No other youth ministers exist at your church, so for them, you are the expert. Who else are they going to go to?”
At your church, you are THE expert in youth ministry. If not, why did they hire or appoint you to do youth ministry? They trusted that you knew teenagers, or could learn about them. In rural communities, not every church has a youth minister. At best, there may be only a handful of them in the entire area, ranging from full-time employees to volunteers. You are one of the select few and for your community, you are an expert.
You spend every week immersed in their lives. You keep up with trends and culture. You’ve seen their school and been to their ball games. You’re reading youth ministry books and blogs. You are an expert on youth ministry and the students within it.
So heed my editor’s advice: share your expertise. Feel confident in addressing parents of problems. Feel empowered to lead parenting seminars. Feel bold in speaking Godly truths into their lives.
After all, to your church, you are an expert. Who else are they going to go to?