Your teen may feel more comfortable confiding in a youth leader than a parent or teacher..

How a Youth Pastor Influences Your Teen

by Lori Lapierre

When teens get involved in a church or youth group of some type, they can take away far more from the experience than from just social time with friends. A youth pastor has an opportunity to do more than teach a lesson or play games -- he can influence the teens' lives in positive ways. It's beneficial for teens to have adults in their lives, in addition to their parents, who exemplify and support your family's values.

1. Friend

A youth pastor is in a unique position to not only have authority over your teen, but to be a good friend as well. As your teen attends church meetings and events, works on projects or goes on trips with the pastor, he is building a relationship with an adult who isn't a parent or a school teacher, but is still a responsible grownup offering guidance and direction both by his words and actions. The age gap diminishes in your teen's eyes because youth pastors strive to be relevant and keep up with popular culture. The youth pastor can model what a proper friendship should entail.

2. Confidant

Once the youth pastor and your teen establish a relationship, your teen has another adult in whom she can confide. Many youth leaders have a pastoral degree that includes some formal counseling training. Teens may need counseling on issues such as dating, sex, divorcing parents, bullying or the loss of a loved one. Or, your teen may just want to have another adult listen to her without judgment, criticism or suggestions. The youth pastor is an excellent position to do just that.

3. Teacher

Your teen's youth pastor will also likely speak to the teens about spiritual values and even life skills. He will discuss incorporating lessons from the Bible into their daily lives. While Bible class and discussions might be a part of weekly teen meetings, youth pastors can also teach through everyday happenings. For example, by organizing a fundraiser car wash, the youth pastor can teach your teen about teamwork, while by taking the teens to visit the elderly in a nursing home, he teaches them compassion, as well as respect for their elders. Having teens host a babysitting event so frazzled parents have a night off teaches them about responsibility -- and hard work.

4. Role Model

A youth pastor knows that the teens in his church will scrutinize his words and actions, as teens typically want to ensure that the adults in their lives are sincere. Your teen is likely to observe how the youth pastor functions in his day-to-day life. In this sense, the youth pastor is a role model for your teen, modeling leadership, faith, accountability, responsibility and perhaps, marriage and family.

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