What Do Youth Ministries Need From Parents?

We can talk all day about discipling our young kids, get excited for the fun crafts and events to plan, and dream of how our children’s ministry will serve the next generation for years to come.

Then naturally, a conversation about youth ministry comes after a conversation about children’s ministry. But youth ministry feels like a different beast – a more emotional, moodier, stinkier beast, if you will!

It’s not only church leaders that struggle with feeling perplexed about connecting with middle and high schoolers– it’s the parents of the students themselves!

Parents may feel bewildered and confused about how to disciple their kids as they get older. Students will range from extremely open and enthusiastic to spiritual nurturing, all the way to openly hostile and outright rejecting faith. Often, young people fall in the middle category of apathy, which is arguably one of the most challenging places we’re called to enter into.

Here are some ideas and solutions for church leaders to engage their students and their students’ families, to bring about a holistic approach to youth ministry that gives parents something to take hold of, and provides students autonomy and a sense of belonging.


 

Getting parents involved:

Some parents will be either extremely excited about where their child is in their faith, or extremely worried about the lack of progress or care their child is showing about faith.

In each scenario, the result can be the same – parents becoming more involved than their children want them to be in student ministry.

This is a tough shift for some families who might be used to a deep involvement in children’s ministry, and are now shifting to the more hands-off environment of sending their kids to youth group.

The nuance here is making sure parents know that their role as the primary discipler of their children is in no way diminished by letting their kids have the freedom to attend youth group on their own.

 

The beauty of youth ministry is that it serves as an extension of at-home discipleship while also giving these students an introduction to what it means to worship without their parents beside them, to begin learning their unique role in the kingdom of God, and to explore their faith for themselves.

Youth group provides a healthy outlet for students to connect with God within the boundaries of the church, and to build that muscle of pursuing discipleship when they’re the ones responsible for showing up and making it happen.

In other words, we can kindly communicate to parents that their kids may need some space to explore ministry on their own.

Even when parents come to a place of understanding their student’s need for youth group separate from them, they may wonder how they can be involved.

We love this question!
Because of course we still want parents to be involved, it just looks a bit different from how they’ve done it in the past.

 

Students don’t need the curriculum or relational support that children need, but they do need the tangible service of parents to help them in other ways.

For example, you can encourage parents to open up their homes to host weekend retreats, provide food or snacks for events, or provide financial support for students who may need scholarships for trips or outings. Parents can also help their students take on more responsibility by encouraging them to invite friends. Students are often more socially active than adults, and are more likely to invite their unchurched friends to participate in youth group if it’s a welcoming environment – parents can play a significant behind-the-scenes role of transporting and caring for friends who may want to visit.

When parents step in to provide the support and structure that many teenagers wish they could provide themselves (like driving, having enough money to pay for certain things, or hosting events), it helps continue the sense of belonging and community for students in ways that they wouldn’t be able to on their own.

 

These ideas may leave you wondering, how do I actually get parents to be involved in this way? How do we get parents on board and see the immense value that youth ministry has in the broader context of the church’s life and Kingdom work?

It’s crucial for youth ministry staff to know that while they clearly need to be involved in the lives of their students, they also should get involved with parents.

Many parents may not know anything about you or your ministry aside from seeing you preach on stage a couple of times a year. The more distant or removed you are from their regular lives, the less they’ll believe they have a place being helpful or invested in the ministry you’re doing with their students.

The great news is that the more involved you get with these parents, the more you’ll learn about your students, and the better equipped you’ll be to serve everyone involved.

 

Some quick ideas for how to do this are:

  • Invite your student’s parents over for dinner or coffee.
  • Host “parent nights” once or twice a year where parents or guardians can attend youth group with their kids.
  • Provide updates (with photos!) after trips or retreats that give parents an idea of what their students learned, and how they can continue those conversations at home.
  • Show up in their community – at sporting events, parades, and more – so you can build a connection with the parents.
  • Keep them informed about how their students are doing, or what common challenges their age group or grade tends to face.

If you have some questions about that last one, good news! We’re covering the developmental realities of your students in the next article.


Interested in learning more about Mission Hills Association and gaining access to our members-only resources? Contact us today!

Related Resources

Nurturing Seeds of Faith: Teaching the Bible to the Next Generation
Stewardship + Integrity: Understanding the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)
Pros + Cons: Combining Middle + High School Student Programs