3 Ways to Support the Parents Graduating Out of Your Youth Group

Sarah Rice
June 24th, 2021

It’s the time of year where we’re all thinking about how we’re going to celebrate the seniors who’ll be graduating out of our youth ministry. Depending on where you live, maybe your students have already graduated! It’s an awesome stage of life to throw a party and get streamers and say all of the hopeful words that students hear as they move on from high school. They get journals and devotionals and gift cards from people hoping to help boost them in a good direction. They get bedding for dorm rooms and all sorts of advice from people who’ve passed this phase of life. They get care packages, full of encouraging words to remind them that they’re loved and missed. They sit through orientations about how to do the “next things”… how to launch. 

I think that it’s worth considering adding the parents of graduating seniors to your youth ministry radar. There are LOADS of programs and books and advice on how to parent babies and preschoolers. There are all sorts of resources for how to parent tweens and teenagers. There aren’t nearly as many resources helping parents let go of this kid that they’ve tried to point to Jesus, raise to be responsible, and make wise choices, and now launching into adulthood. Even if they’ve had a community of parents with a common sport or band or dance, etc… that community ends as your emerging adult exits the program. Our communities of faith shouldn’t be like that. The support for the next season, even if those parents are no longer dropping kids off at youth groups, sending kids to camp, or dropping off 2 liter bottles of soda for an event, is vital. Just like those graduating seniors who now have a new role in your church body; so do you, as the former youth minister, to the parents of your former students. 

We hold ceremonies and get togethers to honor the accomplishments of the seniors who’ve worked hard to graduate. It’s worth considering ways you can honor the parents who kept those kids alive for 18 years and are now launching them into adulthood. YOU might not be a parent yourself. If that’s the case, steer away from giving advice on how to let go. Parenting advice about preschoolers isn’t helpful from people who aren’t parents and neither is parenting advice about college students from people who aren’t parents. That doesn’t mean you don’t have encouraging things to say and do! Your posture matters.  And emotions run high in that season, even for parents who are THRILLED at the coming freedom! 

Here are 3 ways to gather useful resources for the parents of graduating seniors: 

Throw a Launch Party and Invite The Parents! 

(Think “Cheers & Tears” for kindergarteners, but for graduating senior parents) Whether your church is small or large, it doesn’t matter, parents need each other. Plan it AFTER the crazy season of graduation parties and college drop offs. As parents of young adults, we have fewer opportunities than ever to be IN PERSON with parents of other college students. When we are together, it’s usually some sort of orientation with strangers and not very conducive to making friendships. Intentionally build some time to celebrate. Make it special. Make it fun! Give them time to visit. Let them know that you care and their is a community going through this difficult transition time with them.

Gift Them a Book! 

Prayer books and devotionals are great but, a book that parents can read together that has action steps, will even rope dads in! Need a good option? Doing Life With Your Adult Children by Jim Burns is a GREAT book for parents who want to transition into healthy adult relationships with their kids. It’s got options for small group resources but it also has ways for parents to engage with the material as a couple. Even people who don’t like to read will find this book engaging and useful from the start. 

Make a Plan to Host Get Togethers With This Group of Parents Each Year. 

Maybe shortly after their kids go back to college after Christmas Break or before their kids come home for summer break, give parents the opportunity to talk with each other. Invite a seasoned parent (who’s a bit further down the parenting road) to come and encourage them. Pray together. Pray for their kids. Pray for each other. Continue to be a community that supports healthy family relationships as those families change and grow out of your ministry. 

We’re all part of the same body. Our roles may change and stretch and grow but, we can still have a deep impact on the families that God has entrusted to us even as we make the hand-off to adult ministries. Continue to support parents, model a healthy community, gather helpful resources, and be a good friend! You have no idea the depth of relationships that can form when you get people in similar transitional moments the opportunity to celebrate, be vulnerable, and care for one another.

Sarah Rice

Sarah Rice has been married for 21 years to her railroading, Navy veteran sweetheart, Dave. They have 4 kids (2 college aged and 2 high schoolers), an English Springer Spaniel that does no tricks, and an actual Hens Deep fortress of chickens in Lower Alabama. Youth Ministry is in her blood, as a Work Crew/ Summer Staff alumni of Oakbridge and Woodleaf in the mid 90s and the kid of 2 former Young Life staff members. It’s all over her house, as a parent of 4 emerging adults. And it actually gets to be a part of her job, as the NextGen Admin of her church. She used the better part of her brain as a SAHM of young kids for many years, sometimes while Dave was on deployment, and started a blog about trying to live out an authentic, faith-filled life when you don’t have all the answers. She also spent a bunch of years working in labs in the pharmaceutical industry and at the University of Arkansas’ Poultry Science and Plant Pathology Departments. She also started an Elementary Game Theory business to teach logic to elementary school aged kids at after school programs in rural Alabama because there’s beauty in the logical way God ordered the world. She’s been a part of all kinds of family ministries over the last 3 decades from Young Life to Awana and wrote a couple of Bible studies for young women. She thinks cheese is the best snack when you’re cranky and that correcting typos & movie trivia should each be an Olympic sport. She also thinks helping parents win with their kids in matters of faith is a vital hill to fight on for the youth ministers of today. Connect with Sarah on Instagram @mamaricecake.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.