It’s your fault my kid doesn’t go to church anymore!
Have you ever had a parent say this to you? Or something similar?
It happened to a youth pastor I know recently and his response showed such grace that I wanted to share it with you. In the last few posts we’ve talked about handling feedback in youth ministry well, even if it’s negative and hurtful feedback. This is one practical example of a youth pastor getting it right.
First, realize the hurt underneath
When confronted with the angry parent, this youth pastor realized the incredible hurt behind this accusation. He didn’t immediately fire back in anger and stated that spiritual formation is still the parents’ primary responsibility. No, he was able to take a step back and see the hurt.
The youth pastor didn’t get angry with the parent, but showed compassion and understanding. Both parents were committed Christians, active in the church. The youth pastor realized how deeply hurt and disappointed they were that their child did not want to go to church anymore.
Second, ask the hard questions
The fact that the parent lashed out from a place of hurt and anger, doesn’t mean their opinion is without truth. After responding to their pain, he took the time to talk about their frustrations.
Why do they blame the youth ministry or the youth pastor? What weaknesses do they see, what mistakes? Be willing to ask questions that you won’t like the answers to.
Third, have the courage to be honest
Is there a grain of truth in what the parent is accusing you or the youth ministry of? Despite the fact that their method and timing may be way out of line, they could still help you realize painful, but necessary truths about yourself or your ministry.
In this case, the youth pastor realized that the youth ministry had been neglectful in explaining the vision of reaching unchurched teens to the parents of teens from their own church. This led these parents to feel that the churched kids were not getting enough spiritual food.
When you realize you’ve made mistakes, apologize. You don’t need to take the blame for everything and it’s doubtful that you are indeed solely responsible for this teen’s spiritual choices, but have the guts to apologize for where things did go wrong. It will help the parents find a way through their anger and grief.
I was impressed with how this youth pastor handled this situation. As a result, he got into an honest conversation with the parents and was able to help them deal with their disappointment and hurt. It was also a big lesson for him and his leaders on communicating their vision better. This would have never been able had he immediately lashed out in anger.
Have you ever been in a situation like this? How did you handle it?