When I first started youth ministry, unfortunately, I saw parents as obstacles rather than allies in ministry. I was young and honestly intimidated by the youth parents. I knew that I had no experience in parenting a teenager, yet I wanted to minister effectively to the students in my group. I felt like the parents looked down on me because of my lack of experience both in youth ministry and in parenting teenagers.
Now, I wish I had approached the parents back then as partners in ministry rather than as opponents. I should have acknowledged the pivotal role parents play in discipling their students and sought to come alongside them to support them in shepherding their students. There were some simple steps I could have taken to establish a healthy partnership with those parents and to communicate to them my support in their role as the primary disciplers of their students. Perhaps the following steps will help you as you seek to honor and support the parents of your students.
1. Acknowledge the pivotal role the parents play in the lives of your students.
Parents have your students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If we are fortunate, we might see our students around 200 hours a year. We need to communicate to these parents our understanding that they have the most potential to influence the lives or their students.
2. Communicate your support of parents as they seek to raise their students.
Tell the parents that you want to partner with them and support them as they lead their students. Communicate with them regarding the role they play in your church’s youth ministry strategy. Offer support through resources and equipping summits related to parenting and discipling youth. Be sure the parents are in the loop regarding your youth ministry calendar.
3. Ask parents how you can pray for them, then pray for their requests.
Parents will appreciate the fact that you cared enough to ask. Immediately after you ask them, pray with them. It will mean a lot to them to hear you pray for them. Pray for them on a regular basis after you leave that time of prayer with them.
4. Be sensitive to the time commitments of your students’ families.
Do not crowd your student ministry calendars to the point that you deprive your students of spending time with their families and sharing the gospel with their friends. Plan your calendars with the goal of helping parents have time to disciple their students.
5. Be sensitive to the financial constraints of your students’ families.
Families face financial stresses and pressures. Parents want their students to participate in your youth ministry, so they may feel pressured to involve their students even when they might not be able to afford to pay for their involvement in your ministry. Help your students’ families by keeping the cost to parents for your activities as low as possible and/or granting students the opportunity to raise money to cover the cost.
While this list is not exhaustive, it includes some basic steps that will help you support the parents of your students. In addition, it can help you gain their respect and appreciation as you exert the effort to reach out to them in these ways. Perhaps these steps will help you grow closer to parents and begin developing a partnership with them as you seek to assist them in discipling their students.