5 Ways to Incorporate Parents into Youth Ministry
I’ve spent a lot of time, recently, thinking about serving parents.
In my experience serving youth workers in my current denominational role, it is one of the things that youth workers seem to struggle with the most. A lot of parents can seem disinterested in their kids’ faith (and their own faith, for that matter). Even some of the parents who are interested expect us, as youth workers, to take care of all their kids’ spiritual needs. But given the influence that parents have on the lives of their kids, it is vital that they are invited to be a central part of how their kids are learning and growing spiritually.
But here’s the deal . . .
for many parents, if they are going to play a major role in the spiritual development of their kids, we, as youth workers are going to have to help lead them there. We are going to have to help them see the need of their involvement and we are going to have to help provide them with the tools for their involvement. And perhaps one of the greatest tools we have in our arsenal to help parents out is incorporating them into what we’re doing with their kids in our ministries.
5 WAYS IN WHICH INCORPORATING PARENTS CAN HELP THEM
For many parents, the lack of time they put into helping their kids grow spiritually actually has less to do with a lack of desire and more to do with not knowing where to begin. Danny R. Bowen, in the book Practical Family Ministry, cites a survey of parents of children under the age of thirteen, which found that “eighty-one percent [of respondents] said no church leader had ever spoken to them about how they as parents could be involved in their children’s spiritual development.” (Bowen et al., 2015, p. 71)With this being the case, they not only had no idea where to begin, but in many cases, had no idea that they even needed to be engaged in this in the first place. This is where incorporating parents into your ministry can be so helpful. It can help provide awareness and it helps give them a place to get started. And here’s how . . .
- Incorporating parents helps them to experience what their kids are learning.
- Incorporating parents gives them a natural springboard to talk about faith with their kids.
- Incorporating parents provides them with an initial setting where they can experience faith with their kids.
- Incorporating parents can connect them with you, as their child’s youth pastor/leader.
- Incorporating parents can help them to grow, both in their faith, and as a spiritual leader in their kids’ lives.
5 WAYS WE CAN INCORPORATE PARENTS INTO OUR MINISTRIES
Still, incorporating parents into the youth ministry setting can be hard. You run the risk of hurting your ministry dynamic. You run the risk of your students shutting down when their parents are in the room. You run the risk of students feeling left out if their parents aren’t involved while other parents are. Ultimately, there are a lot of reasons why incorporating parents can be hard. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. It means we have to do it well. So here are 5 key ways you can start incorporating parents into your ministry . . .
- Begin having quarterly meetings with students’ parents to walk them through what you’ll be teaching in your ministry in the coming months. This will give parents an opportunity to learn what their kids are learning, which gives them some common ground as they seek out things talk to them about in regards to their spiritual lives.
- Have occasional “parent nights” at youth group where parents have an opportunity to sit-in and experience what their kids are experiencing in youth group. This can give parents and students an opportunity to learn and grow together, and can even give you a forum for instructing parents in what to talk to their kids about at home.
- Use parents as chaperones when you go on a trip. A lot of times, youth group trips can be a great springboard for parents to make an initial connection with their kids’ spiritual lives.
- Look for opportunities to use your youth group parents in guest teaching or sharing roles. This can be big. Many parents have fears about talking with their kids about spiritual things. If they can begin by being used to share their testimony, or teach a lesson in an area they have expertise, they will have broken down the initial wall of talking about faith in front of their kids, while simultaneously allowing their kids to hear about their heart for God.
- Look for places where parents may be able to serve in your ministry. You may or may not want to have parents serving as their kids’ small group leaders. However, there may be several places where parents can serve. Allowing them use their gifts in your youth ministry will also help them engage regularly in one of the key settings their kids are connecting spiritually. Such a connection is bound to lead to greater engagement in their kids’ spiritual lives.
Overall, there are many ways in which you can incorporate parents. No matter how you approach it, the benefits to all parties involved are immense. Incorporating parents not only has benefits for you, but for those parents, and your students. Ultimately though, incorporating parents has a direct connection to the impact of your ministry for the kingdom. It is for that reason and many more that we should work to incorporate parents in ways that are healthy and beneficial to their kids.
MATT LARKIN serves as the Director of the Department of Student & Family Ministries for the Advent Christian General Conference (WWW.ACGC.US).In that role, he serves as a resource and consultant to youth workers and college students around the United States and globally. You can connect with Matt on Twitter via @MATTWLARKIN.
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.