[Queue Scary Movie Sound Track]
You see them coming from across the church, the parents. Internally, you groan because you know what’s coming. They’ll feign interest in what’s happening, but what they’re really here for is to give you another mini-session on how to lead a youth ministry.
The Big 3 Continual Critics
From my experience as a youth pastor, I’ve identified three types of continually critical parents or the CCP (because we like initials in YM). The CCP is a rare breed but emerges in many environments in the youth ministry world.
1. Know It Alls: The KIA typically are male. They come from the land of “unusual social habits.” They strike up conversations with everyone about everything; and you, dear youth worker, have become one of the everyones they always want to see.
2. Mama Bears: These females see their offspring as though they stopped developing at 5 months old. Everyone who is within 20 feet of their little ones must be identified, background checked, cleared through NSA, the CIA and TSA, grilled via enhanced interrogation tactics, and constantly monitored. If the offspring are poked emotionally or during a game of dodgeball, the claws come out.
3. Control Freaks: Either male or female, the control issue here may be regarding their children or just because they have control issues. They are hyper-involved with knowing and/or telling you details of the youth ministry but not necessarily jumping at a chance to be a part of it.
5 Boundaries to Engage a CCP
To engage a CCP, you need to create boundaries. Boundaries start with prayer because they are going to be difficult to set and harder to enforce. Boundaries are not arbitrary rules set by one party but are negotiated relational practices that ensure respect for all participants in a relationship. It ensures that you don’t get walked all over, the parents are respected, and others are protected.
1. Stick to One Topic: Conversations can’t be productive if you’re chasing through a web of issues. Set the expectation that you’re only going to talk about one issue at a time.
2. Set Times and Time Limits: If they are stopping you in the hall, dropping by after youth group, or catching you in your office at unexpected times and taking ministry time away from your students, you’ll need to set times and time limits. You’re going to have to say, “I can’t talk about this right now, but I have 15 minutes later today and will call you.” If it is that important for them, they’ll set aside the time.
3. No Degrading People: If any person is degrading others (e.g., you, other teens, other parents, your volunteer team, etc.), then you need to put a stop to it. Repeat what they said to them about another person and tell them that you will not listen to them if they choose to continue to degrade people in that way.
4. Yelling Means We’re Not Talking: If you don’t let teens yell at you, then don’t let their parents yell at you. If people are yelling, put the conversation on pause until all parties can be civilized.
5. No Bullying: Don’t accept being bullied by a parent. You’re going to have to say, “The way you’re talking to me right now is bullying, and I will not accept it.” Walk away, and let your ministry supervisor know about the situation.