I have a different kind of youth group issue. My son is youth-group aged and I am wrestling a bit with where he should go to youth group. In a perfect world, he would go to my congregation's youth group - which is what we have done for the past year.
However, it is not a perfect world, and after a year, the parent in me is thinking about allowing/encouraging him to attend another church's youth group (same denomination). Here's the reasoning in order):
1.) The other congregation is in the town where he attends school. He has friends in this youth group.
2.) My congregation's youth group members are entirely from that town's school (with the exception of my son). It's been that way for years uncounted, hence it's a 'closed' group. He doesn't really fit in and hasn't really been able to make friends in the group.
3.) The group meets once a month, for a meal and fellowship and to plan fundraising for summer mission trips. The only observable faith component of most meetings is the grace before the meal.
The pastor in my knows that he should attend our group. He needs to participate in the fundraising activities to prepare for next summer's mission trip. And there's the spectre of how it would look if the pastor's kid goes somewhere else to youth group.
There are issues with the youth leaders which don't really allow me to do much in the way of making the group more inclusive and open. The current leaders are stepping down in 3 years when their last child graduates - but that doesn't help my son. I'm doing what I can to expand the group to 'outsiders', but it's a delicate situation. It doesn't help that I'm new and the youth leaders have been doing this for 26 years. There's a lot of re-organizing and re-building to do in this group, but it's going to be VERY slow process as we allow the current HS kids to age out and the current youth leaders to retire.
In the meantime, my son is caught in the middle.
The parent in me wants my son to be able to go to a youth group where he is actively included and not grudgingly welcomed. I want him to be in a youth group where he feels comfortable and where there is a faith component of some sort (beyond grace before the meal) at every meeting.
What do you think? Can I get away with sending my son to the other youth group?
Thanks for your advice!
I don't have kids and never had to worry about part of ministry, but I would suggest that you ask your son which group he would rather hang out with. I think that is an important thing that PKs need to have -- some control over their own faith lives.
It is all too easy for us preacher types to allow the ministry we are called to become the ministry our whole family must subscribe to. Before I was ordained, I heard many women bemoan the fact that they were living out their husband's vocation even when it was not theirs. And in my tradition there was even a phrase in the ordination service that the ordained would submit the behavior of the whole family to the Church.
Please God, we have come to the place where we are beginning to understand that kids often need to be able to practice their faith differently than their parents in order to deepen their relationship with God. You can explain to your son your concerns but let him make the choice. It will be healthier for your kid and for your youth group.
Crimson Rambler notes:
I hear that this is a conundrum for you. Some circumstances aren't spelled out -- what about his transportation needs, for example? (Is he old enough to drive, that is).
I think I would be fairly hard-nosed about allowing him his choice of which group to attend -- this may be an area where he sees that his mother stands between him and congregational criticism, which is inappropriate and intrusive. And people who are looking for reasons to find fault with you will not be placated by your son's suffering in a closed and unwelcoming youth group, after all.
That said, it might be an opportunity for you to promote some combined activities between the two groups? perhaps an occasional swap of venues and activities?
what does HE want to do?
blessings on you both, and all the young'uns and their leaders.
Kathryn offers these thoughts:
I think not only should you let your son go to the other youth group, but you should also step away from this youth group until those youth leaders do, in fact, retire. There is no reward in you continuing to try to interact with them. You name it as a delicate situation, but it sounds like it is delicate for you, not them. They have nothing to lose, they are the ones who have been willing to do youth group for over 20 years! You are the newbie = no win.
Back to your son, if anyone asks you why your son is not attending youth group there just keep it simple, "His friends from school are in the other youth group." Every parent gets that. As for the fundraising piece, if he wants to go to the mission trip, then offer to pay the full rate or have him participate in the fundraisers. OR, he could just not go and stick with the other youth group's activities. I can tell from your email that your gut is telling you to allow/encourage him to go to the other youth group, and that's ok.
You don't owe the church your son or your son's faith journey. I encourage you to ignore the voice in your head and those that may be in the congregation, and do what you think is right for your son.
From Martha, blogging at Reflectionary
Dear Mom of Teen,
That's a lot of change you're hoping to lead in an established group.
As a mom, I've been in a similar position, while working as an Interim. The youth group was a very closed system. The kids were nice, and the adult leaders were *very* welcoming to my child, but the group had no way of making space for her. So I let her off the hook. It was probably easier for me as an Interim, although I was disappointed that she wouldn't have the chance to make church connections with other young people while we were there, and we had no other available group for her to join.
I think it's okay to have your son go somewhere else to youth group. Here's my suggestion for handling passing the word to the leaders: make it a family thing. Say, "It's better for him to be in youth group where his mom is not the pastor." That buys you the time to get to know them better before addressing the issues around the closed system and the content of the meetings. You need to establish trust with the leaders and be their pastor.
The more prickly question is the mission trip. Does your son really need to go? Does the benefit of his participation (for him or for you or for the project in question) outweigh your other concerns about the closed group and the content of the meetings? If he needs to go, then you're right, he also needs to go to the meetings and be part of the fund-raising. But if you can let the trip go, then let him go to youth group with kids he knows, and take the long view where the youth ministry in your own church is concerned.
My 2 cents worth,
And from Sharon, blogging at Comfort and Joy:
You are both Mom and Pastor. That's a fact. Take both of those roles seriously, separately.
To you, Mom: Of course, if he wants to go there, you will let your son go to the other youth group. You seem clear that the other youth group will meet his needs better. You will also have the opportunity to be "mom" to him there. At the same time, he has the chance to relate to another pastor and a faith community where his mom is not the pastor. At a critical time, he can grow his faith without having to be a PK all the time. This is golden. You already know that.
To you, Pastor: If a mom came to you with this dilemma, I hope you would help her to figure out what was best for her son and support her to do that. As a pastor, you don't owe your congregation your son's presence if God's Spirit is calling him to another community and inspiring you to make that happen. As for how it "looks": You can help people "see" how not being his pastor is good for your son, for you, and even for your own faith community. In other words, take this decision out of apology / guilt mode and put it in a cute frame.
A loose thread perhaps: Please make it clear to your son and to your church's youth group leaders that he will not be going on your congregation's mission trip or other activities with them, even if / when you go.
You are not "getting away" with anything. You are leading and teaching and loving, PastorMom. Be bold!
Thanks to all our matriarchs who have responded with words of grace and experience. Now, readers, it's your turn. Join the conversation by posting your comments below.
May you live in God's amazing grace+