Parents: Friends or Foes?
It seems “youth pastor” is self-explanatory. Someone called to pastor youth. But what about those surrounding the youth? To be specific, the parents and family of youth. Parents can be your biggest advocate or your worst adversary and believe me, I have experienced both. I don’t mean to generalize, but I wonder if youth pastors have developed tunnel vision, pouring into students but forgetting those around them. Tunnel vision creates parents who at best, have no idea what’s going on and at worst, turn into an enemy.
Even if a student attends your ministry every time the doors are open, chances are, you only get 2-4 hours/week with them. Parents have the largest impact on their kid and are the primary discipler of their child’s faith. So as the body of Christ, we are called to join them in that discipleship process! Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your path to better communicating with and joining parents in ministry.
Attend extracurricular activities
Many of your students probably participate in an array of extracurriculars after school sports, musicals, choir, band, academic club, etc. Attending those events are a great way to support students outside of normal church life. Here’s the challenge: Don’t go off by yourself; sit with parents! This creates fantastic opportunities to chat with them, learn about their lives, and share in supporting their child. What a great way to build relationships and bridges with parents!
Keep parents in-the-know
Chances are you have a ministry schedule filled with regular programming and special events. The students know what’s going on, but parents may not! Don’t keep them in the dark. Explore the ways parents in your ministry communicate. Do they use snail mail, email, Facebook, Instagram, texting, etc.? Take advantage of those forms of communication! Send a weekly or monthly email. Create a text group. Post on Facebook. It’s important to keep parents informed.
There are many great books, articles, and devotional curriculums for parents of teenagers. It’s likely many of them are not actively seeking those types of resources. Spend some time finding solid resources for parents and then gift those to them! Encourage them with helpful material. When parents reach out, take intentional time to listen and engage in conversation. Schedule quarterly or once-per-semester meetings with no other agenda than for parents to interact with you and each other. I have realized parents often feel they are alone in raising teenagers. Help them realize there are lots of people like them! Create opportunities for them to rub shoulders.
Invite parents into prayer
You can never have too many people praying for you and your ministry. I believe it’s essential to find a way to include parents in the prayer ministry of your youth group. I do this through a weekly prayer email. I gather the praises and requests from students throughout the week and send them to my parent prayer team each Friday. For many of the requests I withhold names for confidentiality, but I provide enough information to guide their prayers for the next week. Your method may look different, but I’d encourage you to bring parents into your prayer circle.
Meet, listen, and pray
Often parents are afraid. Afraid they are not raising their kids well. Afraid you know more about their student than they do. Afraid you’ve heard something about their parenting and now judge them. Something I’ve begun doing lately, that has been such a blessing, is simply taking parents out for lunch or coffee. I tell them I have no agenda; I just want to hear how parenting is going and how I can pray for them. It’s been an awesome experience and opens up doors that may not have been there before.
To quote Finding Nemo: “Parents are friends, not food.” Our role might be to pastor youth, but our calling is much more than that. We are just one of many people participating in ministry to those students. Parents are not a hindrance, they are a help. We must do away with tunnel vision and open the lines of communication with the families of the students we serve. I believe you will find, when you have parents in your corner, ministry is much more fun!
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.