4 Reasons Why Our Ministries to Parents & Households Must Change

Mel Walker
July 22nd, 2021

There are occasions in life when we know that it’s time for a change. If my pants are too small, it is either time to get a larger size or go on a diet. If our car is in the shop almost every week, it may be time to trade that older one in on a newer model. 

There are times in our ministry lives when we know that it is time to change things too. If we have more than 15 kids going on the retreat, it may be time to take two vans. If kids keep choking during game time, it may be time to quit playing “chubby bunny.” If everyone falls asleep while I’m teaching, it may be time to switch methods or take some lessons in communication.

Some changes are warranted because of things that happen around us, too. I served in a church several years ago where the roof of our building collapsed due to the weight from a large snowstorm. A friend of mine ministered in a church that lost their building to a huge fire. Both churches were forced to change their meeting facilities to accommodate the essential functions of the church.

Cultural trends also provide a key impetus for change. One of the most powerful incentives for churches to modify the way they operate is when generational trends change the traits and behaviors of people the church is trying to reach. 

Of course, the teaching and ministry emphases of Scripture must never change. God always expects His church to make mature disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) and equip believers to serve Him (Ephesians 4:11-16).

The history of contemporary youth ministry however, chronicles the importance of church and ministry leaders understanding the generational characteristics and differences of particular age groups so that they can effectively reach each succeeding generation for Christ. That has been true since the Baby Boomers of the 1940’s, through Gen X’ers, Millennials, Generation Z, and now America’s latest cohort, Generation Alpha (those born between 2010-2025).

Culture clearly teaches us that each succeeding generation is quite distinct from the last. Each generation tends to look at life differently and has their own unique set of values and perceptions. Likewise, today’s 11-year-olds and younger (members of Generation Alpha) will look at life much differently than their generational predecessors.

It will be imperative for youth workers and other ministry leaders to understand and appreciate these four reasons why our ministries to parents and households must change to effectively connect with our newest generation. 

Their parents are probably Millennials.

We have all read the statistics about members of the Millennial generation leaving the church and walking away from their relationship with God following active years in church youth groups. Some have reported that most Millennials fit in the “nones” category with no religious affiliation whatsoever. It will be increasingly important for youth workers to remember that members of Generation Alpha are likely to be the offspring of Millennials – the generation that got married later in life, if at all, and had fewer children than previous generations. 

Their household structure is changing.

Current demographic trends reveal an ever-increasing number of non-traditional, hurting, and dysfunctional households. Youth workers and other church leaders should do their homework to look at the census information and other cultural demographics in their communities. There is no doubt that the number of kids today from those non-traditional households is growing exponentially. Youth workers must realize that the days when most parents are active supporters and advocates of the church youth ministry are probably gone. 

They will have a post-Christian mindset.

Another reality that today’s youth workers must face is the dominating presence of a post-Christian and post-church mindset in contemporary culture. Even in America, there is a rapidly advancing mentality that questions and even denies the importance of religion, maybe even especially that of genuine Christianity. Too many of today’s parents, guardians, and adult caregivers, it seems, would rather have their kids get a high-paying job, win a scholarship to college, or progress toward a highly respected career than have their children faithfully involved in the church’s youth ministry. Of course, this attitude is not universal, but the trends indicate that it is becoming fairly ubiquitous in today’s world.

They are not loyal to the local church. 

Church attendance and participation is not the scheduling priority it once was in American households. Work, school activities, and involvement in various sports often take precedence in the lives of today’s households. It seems as if most youth workers struggle with significant numbers of “church kids” who do not show up regularly for church and youth group functions due to their over-scheduled personal calendars and commitments.

Considering the current trends, what should youth workers do?

These four cultural trends should compel us to seriously reconsider changing the structure of our ministries. Now is the time for a change. We can continue our program that was designed to reach Generation Z or even Millennials, or we can plan now to change our approach. 

As President John F. Kennedy reportedly once said, “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future.”

It is essential for youth workers and other ministry leaders to be aware of the cultural trends that will require us to change the way we do ministry in the future to make effective connections with a new generation.

Mel Walker

Mel Walker has invested his life in the next generation. He is uniquely positioned by God to have a leading voice in today’s youth ministry. He has over 45 years of practical experience in ministering to students and their parents. He has been a youth pastor, pastor, professor, administrator, ministry leader, editor, writer, and speaker. Mel has visited approximately 30 churches each year for over 30 years – and he is the author of over 13 books on various topics relating to youth ministry. Mel, and his wife, Peggy, speak to hundreds of young people, young adults, church leaders, and youth workers each year in a wide variety of events and venues. They are also the parents of three adult children – all of whom are in vocational, career ministry – and they currently have 10 grandchildren.

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