3 Reasons You Should Fight for the Parents in Your Ministry
There are moments when you realize everyone around you is asking the same question. I believe that has been happening for the last decade within the Youth Ministry Nation. It was as if we collectively woke up and said, “We need to minister to the whole family, not just the teenager.” This immediately spawned a new question: “So how do we do that?”
Answering that question has now become my life’s work. It is the reason I created ParentMinistry.net.
Everything changed for me when a ministry mentor challenged me. He leaned forward and said, “Stop praying to see teenagers become Christians, but ask God to use your ministry to give teenagers a Christian family.” I began to re-think everything about the way I led my student ministry.
HERE ARE 3 GAME CHANGERS THAT HAPPEN IN YOUR MINISTRY WHEN YOU FOCUS ON PARENTS.
1. You follow God’s blueprint.
When you study the Old Testament you see clearly that God’s plan for passing down faith was to pass it down through the family from generation to generation. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the pace was set in a section of Scripture referred to as the Shema. It tells parents to teach their children God’s Word and God’s Ways.
I'm just crazy enough to believe that there's still unexplored territory in the frontier of student ministry. I don’t think the whole book has been written. In fact, I believe God is calling us to focus on the teenager’s family to bring balance to all the years we ignored them.
Since the beginning of student ministry in the 1940’s and 1950’s we've spent over 70 years focusing on teenagers and learning how to connect to them. Let’s spend the next 700 years teaching their parents what we know, and setting them up to connect with their teenager on a spiritual level.
The Shema has said for generations what recent research has affirmed. The parents are the greatest spiritual influence in the life of a teenager, not us.
2. You discover that parents are needy.
When I began shifting the attention in my ministry to parents, I did so with fear and trembling. I'd never parented a teenager. I don't have a Phd in Adolescent Development. Why would they listen to me? I was genuinely shocked by what happened. The parents I served welcomed me as a voice of encouragement in their life.
As I got to know the parents of my students I saw great amounts of discouragement and confusion in their lives. They longed for someone to come along side of them and say, “It’s going to be okay. You can do this. Talk to me about it, let me pray for you, and I want you to know you're not alone.”
Parents of teenagers don’t desire more knowledge from you. They can Google all the parenting tips in the world. What they are hungering for is encouragement. I approached the parents of the teenagers in my ministry with the same love and attention that I gave to the teenagers in my ministry. I instantly began my parent ministry without even realizing it.
3. You identify "spiritual orphans."
The bonus that came from focusing on parent ministry was how it opened a new door to the students whose parents didn't come to church. One of the big critiques I often hear from folks who don't value parent ministry is, “When you focus on the parents of teenagers, you're leaving out the teenagers whose parents don’t go to church. t’s not fair.”
What's not fair is to have a room full of teenagers and never take the time to determine whose parents are involved and who has no spiritual support in their family. Here's a test for you. Do you have a list somewhere of the students in your ministry whose parents don't support them spiritually? I believe you should.
When I encouraged and engaged the parents of teenagers I was easily able to determine which students had spiritual support from their family and which ones didn’t. The ones that didn't get spiritual support from home became a special group. They were the “spiritual orphans”.
We need to focus on parent ministry so we can stand in the gap for the spiritual orphans that are in our church every week. We can’t help the spiritual orphans if we don’t know who they are.
MORE THAN A NEWSLETTER...
It’s that time of year when all around Youth Ministry Nation we're tying a bow on a busy summer and taking a deep breath as we plan for the fall.
My challenge to you is to creatively pursue the parents of the teenagers in your ministry.
Give them more than a newsletter and a seminar. Give them a dream to believe in of what God can do in the life of their teenager if they had parents who engaged them spiritually.
Inspire them; don’t guilt them. Help them; don’t say, “It’s your job, now go do it.” Lead the parents in your ministry by showing them how to be the minister to their teenager.
Give them a strategic way to pass down their faith to their children.
Everything will change in your student ministry when you stop fighting against the parents in your ministry and you start fighting for them.
Jeremy Lee is part of the team at ParentMinistry.net, which helps student ministries partner with the parents in their ministry by giving them a Rite of Passage to lead their teenager through each year from 6th-12th grade. He also encourages parents of teenagers every day at Parentzilla.com.