XP3 Students: The Invisibles Parent Cue
The Invisibles: Parent Cue
1. Be a Student of What They are Learning
We are surrounded by the invisibles. These are people who simply want to know someone cares, someone notices—people who want to know God cares. Some of us would even say we feel that way—invisible to an entire world, daily passing us by. Whether that feeling is a familiar one or not, the reality is that each one of us has felt invisible at one point or another. But we didn’t stay that way. God saw us. He sees the invisibles. And because God took notice of us, we are able to open our eyes to see those around us.
2. Be a Student of Your Student
Spiritual leader—two words people use a lot at church, and ones that they often direct right at you as a parent. Those words can be pretty intimidating. Leading our kids spiritually is one of those things we know we should do, maybe even want to do, but we’re just not sure how.
But when it comes to the influence you have on your kids spiritually, it is something we rarely learn how to do until we simply make the decision to do it. We can read books. We can listen to guidance. We can observe the pros. But we can’t really make any strides until we simply take the plunge and make the first move.
For a lot of us, there is nothing more scary than endeavoring to navigate our own spirituality, let alone talk with our kids about their spirituality. But we can’t be non-participants in this. We can’t watch from the sidelines and allow the youth pastor, the small group leader or the church as a whole take over a role designed and purposed for you as parents—as tempting, appealing and easy as that might be.
Your kids need you—more than they need a coolly dressed youth pastor. Your kids need you—more than they need a culturally relevant small group leader. Your kids need you—more than they need a spiritually impressive church. All of those can play an important role, but they don’t lessen your role. Your kids need you, because your kids are watching you, observing you, taking note of you and the value you place on what is going on with them spiritually. So fading into the background isn’t really an option.
Make yourself available. Don’t allow yourself to become invisible in your own teenager’s life. Kids notice your willingness to simply be there—whether they acknowledge it now or years later. Your presence alone is communicating a valuable message: “I care about you. You matter to me. So, I am going to make sure you have my attention. You have my time. You have me.” This could mean you make the effort to drop off or pick up your student from the student program or it could mean you are simply tuned into what is happening in the student ministry. Doing this communicates to both the youth pastor and to your student that what they are doing has validity, is important and matters enough to you for you to know what is going on.
3. Action Point
So how do you even begin to engage your kids when it comes to their spiritual well being? For one, you start by asking questions. I remember hearing years ago that people can easily determine what I value and what matters to me by the questions I ask them. When I first got married, my dad would ask me if my new husband and I were “doing okay financially.” He asked this one question often enough that I knew, to him, it mattered that we were managing our money wisely. In the same way, the questions we ask our kids reveal what means the most to us. Are we only concerned with their grades, their whereabouts and their messy rooms? Or do we take the time to ask about their time at church? What did they most enjoy about their time there? Was there something that stuck out that they heard or talked about? Was there anything that challenged them or confused them? Begin a conversation, a dialogue, an ongoing connection that happens because you made the effort to care about what is happening at church.
And to help you do this, we have created some conversation starters to get past “what” your student is doing at church and get to “how” your student is being affected by their time at church. But to make it a bit more fun (and to avoid forcing a conversation) you are going to play a game of “pass the note” with your student. This week, choose the conversation starter below that corresponds to each day of the week and write your student a quick note, being sure to include the given question. You can tuck this note in your student’s lunch or backpack or tape it to the bathroom mirror, but be sure to include this line at the bottom of your note: “Tag, you’re it! Answer this question and pass the note back to me before you leave for school tomorrow.”
Here are five conversation starters for the week to get you engaged in your student’s spiritual life:
Sunday: What was your favorite thing about church today? The message? The worship? The small group time?
Monday: What did you hear/learn in church yesterday that stuck out or inspired you?
Tuesday: Did anything from Sunday’s time at church leave you feeling confused? If so, what was it?
Wednesday: Was there anything that you heard or did in church on Sunday that helped you today? What was it?
Thursday: Are you looking forward to going to church this weekend? Why or why not?
As you and your student pass notes back and forth throughout the week, take time to use these notes as further conversation starters while driving in the car or during those unexpected conversations before bedtime or during family meal times. We know that as parents we have to check on the mundane things—is their homework done and did they clean their room—but let’s not forgot to notice “how” they are doing, hopefully more often than “what” they are doing.
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