Get Rid of the Helicopter Parent! Be a Responsible Communicator.

BY: Tony Akers

 

Whomp, whomp, whomp…

That’s the sound of the rotors turning on “helicopter parents.” You have them in your ministry and frankly they can drive you crazy. The “whomp whomp” of their questions can begin to sound like the drone of the teacher from Charlie Brown’s classroom. You avoid them in the halls of your church by dashing into the bathroom. As a matter of fact, you are familiar with all the mop closets as well. When they finally corner you, facing them can remind you of an interrogation scene from an old detective drama. The bright light of the inquisitor is in your face and you cannot escape until you tell the truth! Their questions are legion…

Exasperating really, but why? Hang on to your chair and read this next line slowly…

The inquisition might be taking place because of something YOU did or did not do in the past.

Sorry about the wake up call, but when we love each other, sometimes we have to tell the truth.

In a similar but unfair manner, some of you might be living in the wake of an irresponsible youth pastor who soured parents toward the position of youth pastor itself. That is especially frustrating, but there is a way to overcome the fears and anxieties of the helicopter parent.

Be a responsible communicator. 

Believe it or not, you can anticipate questions and communicate in wide swaths and with laser beam focus as well.

Most of us got in the ministry because we felt God calling us to love and serve his children. Our big hearts, though helpful, did not prepare us for the responsibilities of attending to the full spectrum of the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of other people’s children. That’s why your ministry partnership with parents is so paramount.

Look over the list of questions above again. Are these questions really unreasonable? Are they really?

I still remember the first time I sent my child off for a three-day field trip without me. Guess what? I asked most of the questions above plus, “Were the chaperones background checked?” I received a lot of stares for that one, but you know what? I didn’t care because I wanted my child protected and provided for by the chaperones in the same manner I would have cared for him.

Did that make me a programmatic consumer? No. It’s just what a good parent does.

Being a responsible communicator is not easy. It demands your time, attention to detail, and frankly a youth ministry calendar that is not “flexible” to changes made on a whim. But when communication is done responsibly it can turn some of your biggest ministry adversaries into your biggest ministry allies. Who doesn’t need more ministry allies?

You CAN escape the “whomp whomp” of the helicopter parent…and spend less time hiding in the bathroom!

*****

Tony Akers has a Master’s degree in Christian Education/Youth Ministry from Asbury Theological Seminary and recently entered his ninth year serving as the Minister to Youth and their Families at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Ala. He also serves as a CYMT coach to the Northern Alabama area. He is privileged to be married to Debbi and dad to Madison, Samuel, and Hannah Grace. When not doing youth ministry, Tony can be found at a soccer game, on the river, or reading.

COMMENTS


Rowan Lewis2:15 am

Really? Not to sound harsh, but maybe youth ministry 'created' helicopter parents when it decided to become the expert on young people's faith development and began systematically excluding parents and non-parent adults in the first place. Study after study these days is highlighting that the more youth ministry discouraged intergenerational connections, created age-segragated silos it cut away a young person's most important resource - social capital. When a parent's role is just to drop their kid off, pick them up when we are done, the effective communication is "you are irrelevant to your young person's spirituality - so just outsource that to us". The only role they have left, is to make sure their kid is safe and has everything they need ... that is, they become helicopters. The questions asked above are the questions of a disempowered parent. Youth Ministry of course needs clear communication. But more than that, it needs young people caught up in a network of parent and non-parent adult relationships that will last a lifetime (social capital) - or as you said above, "That’s why your ministry partnership with parents is so paramount."


Rowan Lewis1:15 am

Really? Not to sound harsh, but maybe youth ministry 'created' helicopter parents when it decided to become the expert on young people's faith development and began systematically excluding parents and non-parent adults in the first place. Study after study these days is highlighting that the more youth ministry discouraged intergenerational connections, created age-segragated silos it cut away a young person's most important resource - social capital. When a parent's role is just to drop their kid off, pick them up when we are done, the effective communication is "you are irrelevant to your young person's spirituality - so just outsource that to us". The only role they have left, is to make sure their kid is safe and has everything they need ... that is, they become helicopters. The questions asked above are the questions of a disempowered parent. Youth Ministry of course needs clear communication. But more than that, it needs young people caught up in a network of parent and non-parent adult relationships that will last a lifetime (social capital) - or as you said above, "That’s why your ministry partnership with parents is so paramount."


Louise Perlman Graffeo1:05 am

Very well written.


Louise Perlman Graffeo12:05 am

Very well written.


Karen McInally Norval4:39 pm

AMEN!!!! I wish the font would be larger to emphasize how much you nailed what I have been shouting from the rooftops for years!!!! This should be part of a course to train every new YouthWorker!


Karen McInally Norval3:39 pm

AMEN!!!! I wish the font would be larger to emphasize how much you nailed what I have been shouting from the rooftops for years!!!! This should be part of a course to train every new YouthWorker!

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