Caring For Those Who Care
by Karin Sasser

One thing that COIVD revealed to many churches is the enormous need people have for care. When our student ministry was trying to pivot during the pandemic to figure out how to keep students and leaders engaged, we quickly realized that not only did our students need care, but our leaders did, too. We were scrambling around strategizing how to do ministry via Zoom or while social distancing while our leaders were worried about their livelihoods. We had to reorient ourselves quickly again to make sure we were caring for our small group leaders and students alike. Post-pandemic, we are still seeing the effects of COVID and all its consequences on the mental health of kids, teens, and adults. People need care more than ever.

As youth leaders, we have a lot of people under our care. We have our students, our volunteer leaders, and possibly even paid staff. God’s call to all Christians is to love Him and love others. Our call as youth workers is the same. A huge part of loving those we minister to is caring for them. Care for our youth leaders is of utmost importance so that they are equipped to do the ministry that only they can do. We cannot care for every one of our students, so it is important that our leaders are empowered to do so with the students under their care. While training our leaders is extremely important, so is taking the time to check in with them periodically to see how their walk with God is going, what is going on in their personal lives, and how we can be praying for them.

But if you’re reading this article, you are most likely interested in how you can better care for families and parents. In all probability, you have an understanding that family ministry does not work best by having several different ministries siloed off by children, youth, and adults, but it works better with a comprehensive ministry to everyone in the family. Caring for youth comes naturally in your wheelhouse, but how do you care for parents?

The first step is to simply connect with them. An easy way to connect with parents is over their child. When my daughter was in third grade, her teacher e-mailed me just to share with me some of my daughter’s positive characteristics she had observed over the course of the year so far. I was blown away. I so appreciated her taking time out of her busy schedule to praise my child. It definitely endeared her to me. This is something youth workers can do as well. It is not incredibly time-consuming, but it helps build a relationship with the parents of our students. For parents, we do not know very well, the content of the e-mail could be as simple as saying we are glad your child is a part of our program. However, if there are specific things you can highlight about a student or a particular story you can tell, that would be incredibly helpful as well. I still greatly appreciate it anytime an adult shares a positive story about my teens with me. When reaching out to parents in this way, you can also inquire if there are any particular needs or prayer requests the family may have at this time. It may not be reasonable or feasible for you to reach out to all the families represented in your youth ministry program yourself, but this is something you could ask key volunteers, Sunday school teachers, or small group leaders to do as well. This empowers other adults to do ministry and build relationships so as to multiply the impact of the body of Christ.

Once you have formed a connection with parents, it is easier to build a relationship with them. Many, if not most, may not need care from you, but by reaching out to them first, you have opened a door in which they may follow up. Try to make space in your schedule for an occasional coffee meeting or meal with a parent. Consider reaching out to a parent if you know of a need or concern. Follow up on any prayer requests you know of.

Another way to help care for parents might be to ask them about the issues they are dealing with. If any themes arise, the church could consider hosting a parent night or Sunday morning seminar addressing the topic. Partner with adult ministries to see how you can best help meet these needs.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to take care of yourself. I know you hear this all the time, but most of us need to hear it repeatedly. For most people in ministry, there are no office hours. There is always more ministry that could be done, more hurting people who need someone to care for them, more people who don’t know Jesus, and more programs that could be planned to reach more people. But sometimes, we need to be reminded that we are not anyone’s savior. While God chooses to use us, He doesn’t need us. His will won’t be thwarted if we take time to rest, to spend with our family, to engage in an activity that we enjoy and refreshes and renews us. We have to give time and space to allow God to minister to us. He is our ultimate caretaker.