This post is part of a series celebrating the release of the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family. We’re interviewing parents who serve, think, and write about faith, family, and ministry.
Our three-question interview this week is with Jeremy Zach. Jeremy is a Fuller grad who has been a great dialogue partner with FYI over the years, first as a youth pastor and blogger, and now as an Orange Specialist. Jeremy and his wife became first-time parents earlier this year.
Jeremy, as an Orange Specialist, you spend time with youth leaders nationwide. Based on your conversations with leaders, what advice would you give leaders who want to support families that perhaps they haven’t heard before?
Supporting families is hard – very hard. And student pastors have a very hard time embracing this reality. Believe it or not, supporting and engaging 25% of the parents on your student ministry roster is a huge win.
The student ministries who support parents effectively take many intentional small steps over time. Parent support is about trust. Trust takes time. Over time (3 to 5 years) of small strategic steps, your youth ministry will begin to have a higher engagement level of parents.
They key is to believe as though every family wants your support. So what are practical ways to support families?
Last April we asked 25 of the student ministries who have most successfully partnered with parents to share their tips. Our team compiled their best practices and created a blog post highlighting the top 20 ways these ministries partner with parents. Here’s the link.
Hopefully one of these 20 ways can help you take a next step to support families.
What have you learned from your wife about parenting?
My wife has this insane ability to be fully present with our daughter. She can unplug from work and life’s stress and give our daughter the attention she needs. I, on the other hand, cannot. I am always distracted. It’s hard for me to turn off my brain off at home.
My wife has graciously taught me how to be an attentive parent by modeling what it looks like to be fully present when I am with our daughter. I know being attentive to my daughter is huge! So now my goal every day is to make my daughter laugh hysterically. Right now she loves playing peekaboo and watching me dance, so I can count on doing one of these two things to get her to start laughing. My wife not only taught me to be attentive, but also to have fun while doing it. I never thought being a dad could be so much fun while learning so much in the process.
Having been a youth worker for a while but a parent for only a year or so, what do you wish you knew about parents when you were starting out as a youth pastor?
Parents are always exhausted. Every parent told me that being a parent is tiresome. But I never knew how tiring it would really be. I wish I would have prepared more. I only have one kid and two cats at home, and I am tired all the time.
So for youth pastors who are starting out and not parents, my advice is to do five all-night events for your youth group in a row, and you will just begin to get a glimpse of what it is like being a tired parent. And being a parent of a teenager is even more emotionally exhausting. I think if I had known that parents are often so tired either physically or emotionally, I would have had an easier time understanding why most of them had bags under their eyes as they dropped their son or daughter at youth group.
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