Serving Parents Who Don’t Go to Church
Joseph’s post below is a great reminder of all we can learn from each other when we gather together. Join us at the National Youth Workers Convention this fall in Cincinnati, OH to connect with and learn from the full family of youth workers.
As youth ministry workers, our goal should always be to reach students who are far from God. Sometimes, the students who are furthest from a relationship with Jesus are the ones who were basically born on the front row of church. Other times, however, the students that we reach come from largely unchurched homes. It is easy to minister to an entire family when you see them at church all the time, but it is far more difficult to minister to students and their families when they might be the only ones that know Christ, or even go to church. So what about these parents that simply don’t go, don’t care or don’t believe?
Allow me to help shed some light on a couple of truths in relation to unchurched parents, and then recommend some steps to take in serving them.
Two Important Truths
First, remember that not every situation is the same.
Adults have lots of reasons [read excuses] for not going to church. Some of these reasons are more valid than others. For example, some parents may not believe in Jesus, or anything that Christianity has to say. Some parents might be angry at the church for something that has happened in the past, or they might be embarrassed about a past or current lifestyle. There could be, real or perceived, socio-economic reasons at play. Some parents are just plain lazy. In your process of serving these families, you will first have to assess each situation separately, and find the foundational reason why this family is not plugged into a church family. You will only be able to serve the family effectively if you know the root of the issue.
Secondly, there are no guarantees when serving unchurched parents.
They might not receive you with open arms. They may not show any interest in what their child is doing in your ministry. They may never darken the door of your church. None of that is on you. The thing that God requires of us, as youth ministry leaders, is the simple act of obedience. The only thing asked of you is that you extend your hands to these parents, and offer them the love of the Gospel, and to serve them wholeheartedly as a work for the Lord. By now you should know that youth leaders have no authority on lives changed, we just become God’s vessels to bring about life change by the work of the Holy Spirit.
So, when that student gets plugged in to your church and their parents are nowhere to be found?
Love their kids with unbiased, unconditional and unobtrusive love.
You were going to do this anyway, because you are an awesome youth leader, but these parents need to see that. The fact that you love their kids based solely on Christ goes a long way. If it is a family that is used to being overlooked, loving their student as much as the popular kid speaks volumes. However, some of us tend to go overboard simply because they have no real home support. Don’t overstay your welcome, and don’t poke your head in where it isn’t welcome. As you build rapport with their family, they will invite you in. Nothing makes people angrier than when personal space is invaded.
Equip the student to be able to minister to their parents.
Never underestimate the power of God in a fired up student! (1 Timothy 4:12 anybody?) Equip your students with physical resources to take home with them. Many times, especially those who are brand new to church, this stuff is better than gold, and it gets shown off at home. Give them practical truths that they can apply and share easily at home. Much of what they learn at church will take time to sink in and will have to marinate in their hearts and minds, but you can help in the meantime by giving snapshot truths that they can latch onto, retell and utilize as soon as they leave the church. Many times, they will find a way to share it with a parent or family member.
Make it easy for them.
The last thing you want is for those parents to have another excuse to avoid church, and you definitely don’t want to be a part of those excuses. Make every effort to communicate with those parents and to have them feel as involved as possible, even without them actually having any involvement. Social media is your friend here. Let’s face it, you are a big part of their kids’ lives, so of course they’re going to Facebook stalk you. Use it to your advantage, and go out of your way to make sure they know that they are wanted and invited, and make sure they know everything that their student is involved in when it comes to youth ministry stuff.
Listen more than you speak.
When these unchurched parents finally do let you in for real conversation and relationship, do not bombard them with the Bible, church promo or your opinions. Listen to them…really listen. You will learn their physical, emotional and, ultimately, their spiritual needs. When you learn about these parents, then you will be able to more accurately discern how to most effectively minister to them, and their students.
Find creative ways to serve them.
Sometimes these parents are extremely hard to serve. It is often the case that we just aren’t sure how to best minister to them. We don’t want to just walk in and preach to them, nor do we want to be so passive that they barely know we’re there. This is where actions can often speak louder than words. Get creative in your service to these families. They might not even like the church, but chances are they’ve not seen love like that anywhere else.
Joseph Fowler has a passion for leading the next generation of the Church, and reaching those who are far from God. He’s a sports fanatic, outdoorsman, pop culture connoisseur, and gamer. Find Joseph on Twitter @TheJosephFowler, Facebook, and Instagram.
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.