An Open Letter to Parents

Dear parent of a teenager,

Hey there. It’s me, the Youth Minister at your local church. I just wanted to take a few minutes and share some thoughts with you about your student. I know that no two people will ever see things entirely the same way, but as one who works with students on a regular basis, I just wanted to say a few words that might encourage you and help you with your teenager.

Before you get the idea that this is an “us versus them” sort of letter, let me first say I want to encourage you to keep up the good work. I know that at the very core, we all want the very best for your student. I know that you are working hard, trying to balance family obligations and work commitments, and doing your best to mentor and love your student. Keep that up! The amount of influence you have in the life of your student is remarkable, so leverage that wisely.

If you’d allow me, I would love to share some thoughts with you as we partner together to encourage your student in their walk with Christ.

First, let me encourage you to stay involved in every aspect of your student’s life. I often hear parents say that they don’t want to convey to their student that they don’t trust them. May I say lovingly that your job as a parent is not to trust your student, but to raise them.  As a parent of three boys, I know how easy it is to let them do their own thing, to not worry about what they are watching, what friends they are spending time with, and the way they are behaving around others.  It takes hard work to stay involved, vigilant, and watchful.  But time is short, so invest the time, put in the hard work, and guide and mentor them.  Trusting them comes later.

Secondly, let me encourage you to be a student of your student.  Your teen is navigating a gauntlet of trials, temptations, social networks, interactions, pressures, and more.  Be aware of your student’s struggles, their strengths, and the areas where they need more encouragement.  Study them, stay informed, and know what they are facing.  It does not make you more “righteous” that you have no clue what Snapchat or Kik is, or that you don’t know what your student is posting on Instagram or Facebook.  And furthermore, let me just say that if you don’t have some sort of filters or accountability software on your student’s phone, tablet, and computer, you are playing with fire.  Stay informed, and know your student better than the social networks do.

Probably the most important thing I would challenge you with is to avoid being “friends” with your student.  I see a lot of parents who want to be “best buddies” with their teen, and I implore you not to fall into that trap.  Should you have a loving, playful, deep relationship with your student?  Of course.  But your student needs you to set boundaries, to clearly delineate right and wrong, to set an example, and to train and equip them.  The LAST thing they need is more friends.  Check their social networks, they already have 1,000.  Be their parent – that’s most important.

Finally, let me encourage you to use whatever resources you have available to guide your student spiritually.  There are hundreds of great books, blogs, devotionals for families, video series, local churches, family small groups, and even youth ministries out there than can help you as you seek to help your student grow spiritually.  Tap into anything and everything you can so that your student sees how important their spiritual well-being is to you.  Among those resources is me, your local Youth Minister.  In me you will find your biggest fan, a person that knows students, and a prayer warrior who can encourage you all the way.

Most of all, know that I’m with you, I’m rooting for you, and I’m praying for you, your student, and your family.  I want nothing more in life than for your student to know the joy, the hope, and the peace that comes from knowing Christ.  If I can partner with you in making that happen, or reinforcing the truth of God’s Word that you are already instilling, then let’s go for it!  We’re in this together.  I’m excited about what God is doing in the life of your student, and I know you are going to play a huge role in how God shapes them.  Thanks for trusting me as we partner together!

In Christ,
Your Youth Minister

An Open Letter to Students on Identity

Dear Student,

I see what is going on.  You might think it’s invisible to the people around you, but I see it.  I see how you are working so hard for approval from those around you.  I see the clothes you wear, the things you buy, the music you listen to, and the way you act around others.  Sometimes, I wonder if these things really add up to equal YOU or just some version of you that is “presentable” to the masses.  You have so much of your identity wrapped up in what others think of you, and I want you to know that what they think really doesn’t matter.

You might wonder how I know these things.  Well, it’s because not that long ago, I was like you.  I know you probably think I’m way too old to understand, but I remember going through Middle School and High School.  I remember entering the school every day, hoping that I didn’t do anything stupid that would draw the ridicule of the “popular kids.”  I remember the uncertainty of the lunchroom, a virtual gauntlet, the caste system with tater tots.  Where do I sit?  Who are my friends?  Who can I trust?  I know it’s sometimes overwhelming, and I know you want so badly to fit in, but I think I’ve found a better way.

Instead of wrapping your identity around clothes, music, popularity, and how many “likes” you get on your Instagram, why not try putting your trust in Jesus?  You might think that sounds hokey or ridiculous, but here are some truths that I have come to find pretty powerful from God’s Word.

1.  God created us in His image.  We are His.


Genesis tells the story of Creation.  God crafted the world in six days.  Everything we see around us was crafted by Him.  Yet only one thing He created was confirmed as being “very good.”  It was us – humanity!  So, the solar system, the beautiful sky, the most incredible animal you can think of…all of it pales in comparison to you!  God created you, and you are His!

2.  God’s love for you is unconditional.


1 John tells us that God is love.  John 3:16 reminds us that God loves us so much that He sent His Son for us.  But I think Romans 5:8 says it best.  “God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The world is all about what you bring to the table, what you provide.  God loves you unconditionally.  God’s love isn’t dependent on what you do, He loves you for who You are.  You can’t earn more of God’s love, and you can’t escape it.  God loves you…period.  Read Romans 8:38-39 if you don’t believe me.

3.  Trusting in God gives you purpose and direction.


One of the best truths that God gives us is that of purpose.  When we trust in God, we believe not only in His unconditional love, but also His divine plan for each of us.  God has something in mind that only you can accomplish, that only you can do.  He created you, He crafted you to be the person you are, and gave you your gifts, abilities, and personality to accomplish His purposes.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God has a plan, so you have a purpose.

I have found great joy and solace in knowing that I have a God who loves me unconditionally, who created me in His image, and who has a plan for me.  With these truths firmly in place, I am free to follow Christ, to focus on what He has in store for me, and to rest my identity in the One who will never let me down.  And that, dear student, is a beautiful place to be.

In Christ, Your Youth Minister

An Open Letter to Students on Identity

Dear Student,

I see what is going on.  You might think it’s invisible to the people around you, but I see it.  I see how you are working so hard for approval from those around you.  I see the clothes you wear, the things you buy, the music you listen to, and the way you act around others.  Sometimes, I wonder if these things really add up to equal YOU or just some version of you that is “presentable” to the masses.  You have so much of your identity wrapped up in what others think of you, and I want you to know that what they think really doesn’t matter.

You might wonder how I know these things.  Well, it’s because not that long ago, I was like you.  I know you probably think I’m way too old to understand, but I remember going through Middle School and High School.  I remember entering the school every day, hoping that I didn’t do anything stupid that would draw the ridicule of the “popular kids.”  I remember the uncertainty of the lunchroom, a virtual gauntlet, the caste system with tater tots.  Where do I sit?  Who are my friends?  Who can I trust?  I know it’s sometimes overwhelming, and I know you want so badly to fit in, but I think I’ve found a better way.

Instead of wrapping your identity around clothes, music, popularity, and how many “likes” you get on your Instagram, why not try putting your trust in Jesus?  You might think that sounds hokey or ridiculous, but here are some truths that I have come to find pretty powerful from God’s Word.

1.  God created us in His image.  We are His.


Genesis tells the story of Creation.  God crafted the world in six days.  Everything we see around us was crafted by Him.  Yet only one thing He created was confirmed as being “very good.”  It was us – humanity!  So, the solar system, the beautiful sky, the most incredible animal you can think of…all of it pales in comparison to you!  God created you, and you are His!

2.  God’s love for you is unconditional.


1 John tells us that God is love.  John 3:16 reminds us that God loves us so much that He sent His Son for us.  But I think Romans 5:8 says it best.  “God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The world is all about what you bring to the table, what you provide.  God loves you unconditionally.  God’s love isn’t dependent on what you do, He loves you for who You are.  You can’t earn more of God’s love, and you can’t escape it.  God loves you…period.  Read Romans 8:38-39 if you don’t believe me.

3.  Trusting in God gives you purpose and direction.


One of the best truths that God gives us is that of purpose.  When we trust in God, we believe not only in His unconditional love, but also His divine plan for each of us.  God has something in mind that only you can accomplish, that only you can do.  He created you, He crafted you to be the person you are, and gave you your gifts, abilities, and personality to accomplish His purposes.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God has a plan, so you have a purpose.

I have found great joy and solace in knowing that I have a God who loves me unconditionally, who created me in His image, and who has a plan for me.  With these truths firmly in place, I am free to follow Christ, to focus on what He has in store for me, and to rest my identity in the One who will never let me down.  And that, dear student, is a beautiful place to be.

In Christ, Your Youth Minister

Guest Post: We are not Jesus's Pimp

Let’s be honest. If we have something and we really like it, we want others to have it. This works with everything from salvation to Mac. Now, speaking as a youth minister, I want to share a struggle that all YMs should admit to dealing with and those who wouldn’t admit it should be fired because they are lying. It’s wrapped in an innocent blanket called “We want others to know Jesus” but is actually “We want OUR ministries to look good.”

See, unfortunately as soon as we let our guard down, one issue that seems to always sneak up first is the desire for the ministry to be big and for us to know everyone. The problem is this: Those things are actually “good.” Yeah, giving all your money to the church and others is good, but not when you have a wife at home starving. That actually means you suck as a husband. So, we want our ministries to thrive and influence our culture but if in the back of our head it’s for anything other than Jesus we got a problem.

Lets just lay it out there. If you use Jesus as a means to grow a ministry so you can feel better about you, then you have just made Him your prostitute and you are pimping Him out for your benefit. Seriously, a more secular career such as a singer all depends on how you “market” yourself. The more appealing you make “you” the more successful you are. The minister accomplishes this on an even dirtier filthier level…using Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to scratch His ego itch.

Oh, it gets worse. There is even another level of pimping that smashes our Lord’s hands into that cross even further. If you avoid the realities about Jesus and Christianity in your ministry in attempts to become more “user friendly” you have just put up a big sign saying, “We mention Jesus because your parents will let you come but really it’s about how big we can get.” Motives are EVERYTHING.

Don’t get me wrong. A ton of students are AWESOME! However, It’s not AWESOME at the expense of the gospel. We must make Jesus the center of our motives, even if it is throwing Cheetos at someone’s face covered with whipped cream.

Fortunately there is hope: practical suggestions and questions to keep you grounded
- I know you can make a sermon out of each one of these points so I won’t.

  • Submit yourself to accountability on your ministry: through a close friend or accountability group
  • Allow yourself to be mentored
  • Stay in God’s word
  • Stay in prayer
  • Openly share your struggles
  • Check your motives at the door
  • Make sure your theology aligns with Biblical teaching found in the Scripture, not in your head.
  • Constantly ask yourself “why?” when it comes to your actions.
  • How often are you willing to confront others will the gospel? Or are your more concerned with not upsetting them with the gospel?
  • Could your ministry still thrive if you weren’t there?… Or are you the magic glue that holds it all together?
  • Do you avoid hard to teach scriptures because a.) you don’t want to confuse students. b.) you actually don’t think God really meant what the Bible says.

a.) the reality is you are avoiding having to struggle with the scriptures yourself and/or do not feel confident in your ability to communicate truth BECAUSE b.) you yourself are still struggling with accepting God’s word as truth. (these are deeper issues and we’ll tackle that mountain some other time)

Don’t use Jesus. Let Jesus use you.

Delmar Peet is the Youth Minister at Bethel Baptist Church in Prosperity, SC. He frequently blogs at delmarpeet.org, where this post was originally published.

The first step is always the hardest

What is God stirring in your heart?

The first few verses of the book of Ezra open with the king of Persia essentially granting freedom to the exiles of God that are within his reign the freedom to go home and to rebuild the temple of God. As Christians, we know the God we serve is great and able to do anything; for example, having the king of the nation who is holding captives, who just 70 years prior was responsible for the destruction of the temple and city, issue a decree setting those captives free to go rebuild.

But from a purely human perspective, how terrifying would this have been to live through? What if it was all just a trap? What would possess the king to issue this decree?

It’s one thing to have faith that God can do; it’s a completely different issue to have to actually take action on that faith, to take the first step into the unknown.

What I love about the first verses in Ezra is in verse 5, where it says

 [quote align="center" color="#999999"]Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose heart God had moved, to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. [/quote]

I love that part: everyone whose heart God had moved; because I know how God has moved my heart and the passions he has put on me that are unique to me, and I also know there are passions he has stirred within you that are unique to you. When I read this verse, it’s the implication of the ones whose hearts hadn’t been stirred and who saw this decree go out and were content to sit on the sidelines, that leaves me with a greater sense of purpose.

Has your heart been stirred up by God to do something? Do you see a problem that needs attention, and are you willing to take a step of Faith to act on it?

There are students in our youth groups who need to develop the faith to take that first step of action, to stand up for what is right and what God has stirred in their hearts. As we shared last week, many of these students are probably the ones who are the hardest to talk to, but are the ones who will be the first to move.

Others of us have had our hearts stirred up to do something wild in our ministries, build a new tradition, or destroy an old one. Sometimes God moves in us and shows us where we need to go, but we get paralyzed with fear in that first step: what if this wasn’t God showing me this, what if the church hates it, what if I lose budget money, if this goes wrong could I lose my job?

I can’t tell you what God is stirring you to do, but I can tell you that you shouldn’t let his voice stop at moving your heart. Take action.

The first step is always the hardest. But the hard steps that are certain to be on His path are far greater than a million easy ones not on His path.