It happened like it’s happened many times before. After Mass a parent comes up to me to say, “I have been trying to reach you.” It’s a moment of desperation, panic or emergency in a parent’s life. They need you to assist them. The question is HOW?
As a youth minister families will come to you in time of need. Even if you are not a parent they’ll want to know how to:
- Talk to their teen about sex?
- Get them to focus on their schoolwork?
- Get them more involved in the church?
- Discipline them when they are in trouble?
The list goes on and on. It can be overwhelming to assist a family or parent in need. To get through the messiness and be there for a family make sure you:
LISTEN THROUGH THE EMOTION
A family who is coming to you in the midst of crisis can be overwhelming because of the emotion. They can seem:
- Angry at you.
- Crazy and irrational.
Your job is to listen for the issue behind the emotion. Take your time to hear out the whole story. Do not be afraid to ask them to expand on what they are saying. When you listen through the emotion you’ll begin to discover the real problem at hand. Then it will be clearer for you to assist them.
AFFIRM WHAT YOU HEAR
Many times parents will come to you just to be heard. Affirming that you have heard them in their time of need is one of the most crucial steps.
- Thank them for their vulnerability.
- Repeat what it is they just said.
- Ask them if you can pray for them.
Just giving them those little affirmations will build trust. This is another way of winding down the array of emotion that can come in crisis.
RESCHEDULE TIME TO TALK
If the situation cannot be addressed right away (Meaning with a short answer) then reschedule a time to sit down and talk. This is especially important if the problem is addressed in an email, voicemail or at an inopportune time. Do not rush the situation, but find a time where you can remove emotion and increase margin.
REFER TO THE EXPERTS
There are a lot of problems that you can address on your own. However, it’s wise to seek out expertise advice from others. This is especially true when dealing with hurting teens and families. Unless you have a degree or certification in a specific area you should be outsourcing these certain times.
Build up a team of people who can assist you in certain areas. Look for counselors, psychologists, police officers, and medical professionals. Anyone who can give you advice outside your realm of expertise.
As a youth minister you are there to assist families in times of need. However, that does not necessarily fix the problem. It’s assisting them on where they need to go and what they need to do. It’s walking with them to the next step. It’s reminding them they are not alone.
How else do you assist a family in need?