Raising teens is confusing. Run, don’t walk, away from any parent that denies this! Probably even your teens would admit it. With this in mind, if “it takes a village” to raise a child, imagine how easy it is for the village to be thrown into confusion. It’s parallel to the catchphrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen.” How is your teen “doing?” Ask their parents. Ask a teen worker or big brother/big sister. Ask the ministry staff. Ask your teen. Don’t be surprised if you find the recipe a bit garbled, because each cook brings a different snapshot to the table (to blend metaphors just to see if you’re paying attention).
The Green family has been so blessed with good cooks–Ron and Linda, the Whits, Ben Richey, Haily Rose, Megan, Landon, the Kellys, Mack and Mike–and many others too hard to list and thank. We are proud of our kids–their own journeys, their struggles and triumphs, their character & courage–and proud of the village.
But here’s a note to villagers: don’t second-guess each other. Share your snapshots, pray, and keep serving. But don’t use your snapshots to sketch portraits of one another–it’s a losing recipe. Teen workers will be tempted to make deductions about the parents themselves instead of about the teen. Parents will be tempted to make deductions about the teen workers instead of about the teen. Satan wants the villagers to “find the root” of teens’ problems not in the teen’s heart, but in one another (quite a ruse!): “If only the teen workers would_____ my teen would love God more,” etc., etc. “If only that parent would ____ it would change the heart of this teen,” etc., etc.
Of course, parents, if you’re an actual witness to something between a teen worker and your teen that doesn’t sit right, go talk about it. Similarly, teen workers, if you’re an actual witness to something between a parent and the teen, go ask about it. That’s our role as disciples.
What about defensiveness? My view is this–if you’re a parent, you should defend the teen workers and their efforts when talking to your teen (if that teen is nonplussed or critical). This is something we have vigorously striven to do. Similarly, if you’re a teen worker, defend the parents when talking to the teen. This teaches the teenagers that someone else is NOT the reason for their problems.
In the end, young mentors and parents have some good and godly influence on the teens, but it is overwhelmingly up to the teen him or herself to make their choice for God. With love, gentleness, and encouragement, let’s keep putting that responsibility where it belongs.