When I was younger in Youth Ministry I was actaully resistent to the idea of a Family Centered Youth Ministry. In my immaturity I believed Youth Ministry was all about the teenagers and that the Senior Pastor was supposed to “babysit” the parents. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that this was a poor view of doing ministry and even divisive to the family unit. Here are a few things I began to do in an attempt to be more family focused and involve parents as I ran my Youth Ministry.
- Monthly meetings with parents. It was simple enough and outside of a little prep time it wasn’t much more than an hour on a Sunday night. It was a great opportunity for me to cast the vision of the Youth Ministry but primarily served the purpose of communicating to parents what was going on.
- Equipping parents with some available Youth Ministy resources. The website that the parents seemed to utilize and discuss with me the most was Walt Mueller’s The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding.
- Inviting parents to be involved. I began to intentionally recruit 2 parents of teenagers who weren’t regularly involved in the Youth Ministry to participate in our extra events: a monthly outing, night at the movies, DiscipleNow weekend, Ski Retreat, etc.
- Family activities as a Youth Group. This was super simple but highly effective. Having a dessert fellowship at the church, a family cookout at the sand volleyball pit…I took activities that were already being planned and planned for more people by inviting parents and siblings to make it family friendly.
As much improvement as I saw in the health of my Youth Ministry from implementing these relatively simple ideas, I have continued to put thought into a greater emphasis on the family if I’m ever called back into Full Time Youth Ministry. I keep hearing many in ministry reference Deuteronomy 6 as a basis for a more holistic, family approach to ministry. The more I consider it and the more I read about it the more it makes sense that this is critical and must be central to a healthy and biblical approach to Youth Ministry. Here are some of the additional things I would incorporate into my Youth Ministry as a Youth Leader dedicated to a Family Centered Youth Ministry:
- Invite parents into a prayer relationship with me. I would bathe them and their families in prayer, ask them to join me in covering the Youth Ministry in prayer, and connect them with each other so they could pray for each other as parents as well as their families.
- As I layout my lesson plans or series that to teach through I would provide parents with the content in advance. I would encourage them to start discussing the Biblical truths I would be teaching on at least the week prior to Youth Group. This way what I was doing as a Youth Leader would be complimenting what they are learning and doing as a family, not the other way around.
- In that same spirit, I would provide parents with key verses of scripture to memorize and discuss as a family so as I unveiled them through a series, teens would already know them.
- Implement a Parental Advisory Board. This one would probably require the most preparation, prayer and intentionality behind it. While I would certainly be an advocate for the vision of ministry that God has given me, I would want parents speaking into what we’re doing and informing me of issues their teens are deailing with or issues they are dealing with as a family so that I could continue to support and encourage them through the Youth Ministry.
- Next to prayer, the most important thing I would do is cast vision with and to the parents that our Youth Ministry was going to be about making disciples who make disciples. There are actually two things I would emphasize here:
- That the whole point of the Youth Ministry was to partner with them to disciple their teens to that they could in turn reach their lost friends (and families) and make disciples out of them. Adam McLane recently wrote an amazing blog to this end that I would encourage you to read as well.
- That as parents, they needed to live this out as well. Our effectiveness in getting their teens to live THE Cause would be directly dependant on their willing to live THE Cause as parents! Dare 2 Share provides multiple resources for both teens and adults in support of them living out this vision for THE Cause.
My paradigm of Youth Ministry has shifted quite a bit over the last decade but I’m thankful that God has continued to refine me and grow me as I work through it. I am much more satisfied with my view of Youth Ministry now and very excited to see how God continues to grow and stretch that vision in the future.