An Open Thank You Letter to Our Youth Ministry Staff from the Mom of a High School Graduate 

Dear John, Sara, Rachel, Daniel, Sean, and Madeline,

It feels hard to believe that my oldest son has graduated from high school. We anticipate the grief of our home life looking different, and yet we are ready to push him out of the proverbial nest. In your role working with youth, you’ve watched countless families go through this same dance of wanting to hold on but knowing it is time to let go. 

Because of that, you often have seen the long-game when it comes to discipling students from middle school through high school, giving you perspective that my son needed, and that I needed.

Your job requires odd working hours, incredible patience, and perhaps the most tangible example of steadfastness and long-suffering in the church. You have intentionally partnered with families from the first whiff of puberty to the donning of cap and gown at high school graduation.

Thank You For Welcoming

Thank you for welcoming our son as an awkward (they all are!), energetic, highly-distracted middle schooler. You endured small group Bible studies and Sunday School that you prayed would involve just two minutes to talk about Jesus without asking a student to stop running circles around the room. You survived his antics on a youth retreat that resulted in his (rightly) riding the bus home in the front seat away from his peers and only being allowed to get off the bus after everyone else. And you bore with his teenage insecurities, keeping your eyes on Jesus for strength and patience.

Thank you for sharing meals with him. You have eaten countless bagels at our local bagel shop, seeking to develop your relationship and build trust. When the small group of growing boys wanted to go to Baumhowers Wings, you said yes. When they asked for Five Guys, you said yes. And when they asked for Taco Bell, you said yes. I do pray for your cholesterol, while also giving thanks that you knew the way to a teenage boy’s heart often involves wings, burgers, or tacos. 

Thank You For Your Faithful Partnership

Thank you for your steadiness and faithfulness. Our son’s attendance at youth events or retreats was average to below-average, yet you didn’t write him off as unworthy of your time, nor assume that we did not value the youth group. You walked alongside him steadily over seven years. 

Thank you for partnering with us. The beautiful thing about the Body of Christ—the Church—is that it is made up of so many different members with gifts that are unique. As 1 Corinthians 12:18 says, “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

Your gift and your call to minister to students vocationally is not everyone’s gift. Because you were faithful to your gift, you influenced our family. Not only did he know that you were on his team, but I knew that you were on our team. You encouraged our involvement in the youth group, provided resources, and answered our texts and calls. It was never a passing off of responsibilities to either youth staff or to parents, but instead a shared responsibility of pointing him to Christ. 

Thank You For Sharing Burdens With Us

Thank you for carrying his and our burdens. While you often spend more one-on-one time with our son, you really ministered to our family. When I did not know what to say, or whether I should be concerned about a situation, I called you. You never responded with panic, shame, or judgment, but with empathy, understanding, and genuine care. Even when the problem remained unresolved, you shared my burden. Neither my son nor I were alone in our darkest doubts and fears. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” is true of how Christ has worked in and through you as we carry burdens together (John 1:5). 

Thank You For Preaching The Gospel

Thank you above all for preaching the gospel—Jesus’ death for our sins and resurrection and the subsequent rest in the finished work of Jesus on our behalf—to our child. I can think of no better evidence that he heard the gospel than that our child would trust you with the hard things in his life. Why else would any teenager share his struggles with you, except he knew that you wouldn’t meet him with judgment and accusation, but instead with the grace that flows from knowing the gospel? The gospel invites, and in fact welcomes, vulnerability and acknowledgement of brokenness in a culture that does just the opposite. 

I know your work won’t be finished with our son. If I know you like I think I do, there will still be texts to him at college and lunches when he gets home. The relationship isn’t over, it just will look different. Thank you for being a conduit of the grace of the Lord Jesus. Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Thank you for suffering alongside our son, and for rejoicing alongside him, too. 

To God be the glory for the work that you, empowered by the Holy Spirit, have done, are doing, and will continue to do through your relationships with students like my child as you point them to Jesus.


Dawson Cooper 

To learn more about partnering with parents, plus other gospel-centered youth ministry essentials, consider joining one of our Youth Ministry Mentorship cohorts, starting August 2024.

Dawson Cooper lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, Wil, and three boys (ages 7,10, and 15). She graduated from Wake Forest University. While at Wake Forest, she began freelance writing for a local magazine. She has been writing for Rooted Ministry since 2017. She also works as a lead floral designer with Marigold Designs. Dawson and her family attend Covenant Presbyterian Church where she is involved with leading a youth small group. When she isn’t at or driving to her boys’ various games, school events, or activities, she enjoys reading, playing tennis, and enjoying a good meal with friends. 

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