I listened to a school principal talk about the strong bonds her school seeks to build among students, teachers, and parents, and it struck me a little funny.
The schools I went to didn’t care much about my relationship to my teachers. They didn’t care at all about the relationship between my teachers and my parents. Relationships weren’t disdained by my schools; there were parent-teacher conferences, a PTA, and all of those things. But it was never expressed to me that a purpose of my schooling was to bond me and my family to my teachers.
The epiphany came as the principal spoke that the youth and parents in our churches go to schools that make relational demands of a kind that only churches used to make. And not only schools, but also travel soccer and the youth orchestra and . . . cheer. Families’ schedules are divided up among multiple competing activities, and so are their emotions. It’s not enough to attend school, but you must also appear at community-building events and get vulnerable with teachers. Daughter’s cheer coaches are constantly trying to get parents together for fundraising and socializing. I, too, feel like my work as a Pastor should involve curating authentic relationship-building space among the parents of church youth.
It feels like a competition for peoples’ loyalty and identity. I don’t like it.