Parent PPE for Youth Workers in a Pandemic Culture.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like N95 masks, face shields, and gloves have been in limited supply, especially for frontline medical personnel fighting the onslaught of COVID-19. Amazingly, we’ve seen everything from designer clothing and comfy pillow companies retrofitting their factories to manufacture face masks to distilleries churning out hand sanitizer. After all, nothing is as smooth as Tennessee Purell! As youth workers, I believe God can use us to supply parents, the primary spiritual caregivers of their homes (Deut. 6:1-9; Prov. 22:6), with much needed PPE as they help their teenagers mitigate the emotional and spiritual impact of this pandemic.
P – Prayer
Some years ago (probably when I became a parent), I realized the importance of praying for and with parents. Parenting young people through adolescent angst can be unsettling and even scary. Now add to that the frustrations of having a thirteen-year old hygiene-averse son stuck on lockdown or a graduating senior who has just missed her prom, her senior skip-day, and soon, her commencement ceremony.
You’ve got a whole new level of stress. Parents – Christian or not – want prayer. Just like nurses and doctors need a constant re-supply of gloves and masks, parents need our continual intercessory prayer. Sending daily text messages soliciting and informing parents you’re praying for them will build trust and open hearts for further and deeper ministry. Another way to prioritize prayer is to facilitate a “prayer chain” just for parents.
Consider creating a closed group on Facebook (or another platform) for parents to pray for each other. Then host a weekly prayer meeting on Zoom just for parents of teens. The Apostle Paul, in his first pastoral epistle to young Timothy, underscored the importance of prayer when he wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people” (1 Tim. 2:1). A pandemic hasn’t changed this priority, nor should we. Let’s prioritize prayer for parents.
P – Provide Hope
Don’t hoard hope! Hoard toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, even Doritos; but don’t hoard hope. It’s not just teenagers who feel like their entire life has just been put on hold; parents feel this way too. In a moment, a giant globe-sized pause button was pushed and vacations, careers, and any other plans moms and dads had on their calendar came to a screeching halt too. The uncertainty of tomorrow has caused increased levels of anxiety and stress in every home and, for some, has led to increased arguments and even domestic violence.
People need hope. As youth ministers, we bring hope by sharing three stories – God’s story, our own stories, and stories of youth encountering Christ. Consider using your communication channels to regularly send Scriptures to parents reminding them God is still in control and working all things for good (Rom. 8:28). Share your own struggles and faith-stretching moments as well as how you are celebrating God’s presence in the midst of this pandemic.
Be genuine. Champion what God is doing by regularly highlighting praise reports from the lives of your students. Make your own good news network and blitz ‘em with hope. In 1 Peter 3:15 we read, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (NLT). While that’s true, we can also be proactive and tell them before they ask!
E – Encouragement
When you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders and you’re facing unforeseen obstacles, sometimes all you need is a cheerleader in your corner. Parents need an earthly “cloud of witnesses” helping them fix their eyes on Jesus as they parent amidst a pandemic (Heb. 12:1-3). The more we listen to the Lord (and to parents) and learn how God wants to use us as conduits of grace, the more we’ll know how best to love and lead them toward Christ. Discerning how the Holy Spirit wants us to encourage parents will lead to creative ways of delivering hope; whether it be a kind word, a handwritten notecard, perhaps sending a parent-care-package or some comical relief in the form of an appropriate meme.
When we prioritize PPE for parents – prayer, providing hope, and encouragement – we’ll soon realize that our ministry will be infectious. After all, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Guess who benefits the most when we care for parents?
Parent ministry is youth ministry.