An Open Letter to Parents

Dear Parents -

There are days when I simply don’t envy you. So often when I see you, you’re overwhelmed, running from place to place, chauffeuring your kids from one activity to the next, doing all you can to simply survive another day as a parent.

For this reason, I hate to add to your “to-do” list.

Really, I do.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about you. A lot.

I know that I’m supposed to be the “expert” in youth ministry. After all, I’ve got the experience, the Biblical knowledge, and the training.

But here’s the kicker: I’m not you.

And its you – not me – that’s the expert on your child. You KNOW your child in ways that I cannot. And like it or not, it’s YOU, not me, that matters most in shaping your child’s faith. That’s something that research is pretty unanimous on.

Recent research from Notre Dame’s National Study of Youth and Religion says that if you want to know what your child’s faith will look like when they enter emerging adulthood (Ages 20-25), all you have to do is look at what yours looks like during their teenage years. It also concludes that the best way for youth to become serious about their faith is for parents to become more serious about theirs.

Now, I realize that this information probably terrifies you.

And if it doesn’t terrify you, it may well make you feel inadequate.

But here’s the good news, from Deuteronomy 6:4-7:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God; the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.”

Did you catch your job description in that verse?

It’s NOT to make your children holy. They already are. God’s already done that.

Instead, it’s your job to show your children godliness.

And you do this, not by getting a degree in theology or youth ministry, but by being with them; By talking with them (not at them, but with them) about faith in your comings and goings, even as you run from one activity to the next. You do this by faithfully attending worship together as a family; By attending a Bible study that furthers your own faith; By serving, together, as a family; And by reading Scripture and praying as a family. You do this by delighting in the Lord, 24/7, and by showing your children what it means to faithfully use your gifts to honor and glorify Him – both inside and outside the church walls.

That’s no small task. I realize that.

But it’s one you ARE equipped for.

God has already given you everything you need for your children’s faith formation. As author Kenda Creasy Dean says in her book, Almost Christian, “Awakening faith does not depend on how hard we press young people to love God, but on how much we show them that we do.”

Show your children your faith, no matter how insignificant you may think it is, and it will help them to deepen and discover their own faith.

It’s that simple….

And that hard.

Know that as you do, I’ve got your back. I’m your partner in ministry – not your competition. My goal is to set you up for success so if there’s anything I can do to better serve you and your family, tell me. My door is always open.

Remember, your faith matters to your kids, in ways that mine doesn’t. YOU matter to your kids, in ways that I cannot.

And for that, I’m thankful. I hope you are too.

Sincerely, Jen Bradbury Director of Youth Ministry

*This letter was written for Faith Lutheran Church’s October “Dove”.

Comments

Keith

One has 18 years only,to mold, shape and create an adult. If you take out the time you are at work and sleeping lets assume that leaves you 6 years.(1/3) That is not much time. A big assignment but the most rewarding thing you will ever do.

Posted by Keith , almost 9 years ago

Ken

Well done, Jen.

Posted by Ken, almost 9 years ago

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

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