When Parents Ask the Wrong Questions
By Marc Cortez
“I can’t believe she disappointed us like this. She’s only fifteen! What was she thinking? What are we going to do now?”
I may not be the most intuitive person around, but even I could tell that he was angry—body tense, jaw clenched, voice shaking. But, it was a special kind of anger, the kind driven by love and fear, lashing out from a frustrated desire to protect. The anger of a parent.
Barely pausing for breath, he continued to vent, “How am I supposed to explain this to her mother? This is going to be my fault. I just know it!”
I was at a loss. Four years at a Bible college hadn’t prepared me to face the wrath of a frustrated father. But I still should have seen the next one coming.
“Where have you been through all this? Why didn’t you see this coming? What do we pay you for?”
Why do they always blame the youth pastor?
Parents have a lot to worry about: drugs, sex, crime, grades, attitudes, bad influences, music, movies…on and on the list goes. Is there a harder job on the planet? So, I understand the fear that nestles in the back of every parent’s mind. And, when fears are realized, they quickly turn into anger. I get that. I don’t like it when the anger turns in my direction, but I still understand.
After many years in youth ministry, I think I’ve talked with parents about every one of these issues. We’ve spent hours agonizing and strategizing over how to help their kids navigate these hazards and sail successfully into a hard-earned adulthood.
In all these years, I’ve heard a lot of questions. But, even more important than the questions I have heard are the ones that I haven’t. In all my time in youth ministry, I never once had a parent say, “I’m concerned that my child doesn’t really understand the Gospel. Can you help make sure she really understands the power of God’s love and grace?” And, I’ve never had a concerned mother or father come up to me wanting to know “Do you think my son/daughter is really growing in his love for God?”
I faced countless questions about who they were dating, what they were doing with their bodies, and how they were performing in school, but no questions about the Gospel or their heart for God.
If you’re a parent, that should scare you.
The enraged father I mentioned above was upset because his daughter had gotten a tattoo. A tattoo. He’d never approached me to talk about his daughter’s spiritual well-being. Apparently that wasn’t worth an office visit. But a tattoo? That’s something else entirely.
The Gospel should change the way that we approach our families, our children. We don’t need to ignore the important issues that I mentioned above, but they shouldn’t be our only, or even our primary, concern. Instead, we should be ultimately concerned about whether we are doing everything that we can to make sure that our children understand the Gospel.
What gets your attention? Do you spend as much time talking about the story of God’s faithfulness as you do on math? Are you as concerned about your child’s heart for God as their newly discovered love for the opposite sex?
Does the Gospel matter at home?
Marc Cortez teaches theology and church history at Western Seminary (Portland, OR), where he is also the academic dean and director of the Th.M. program.