Getting Parents Involved with Youth Ministry & Discipleship

Mike's MomI’m in my late 20s, independent, and haven’t lived with my parents for more than a decade. Yet I still want approval from Mom and Dad. I talk to them before every major life decision: moving, job offers, and yup — marriage proposal. They are the two people who have had the most impact on my life by far. Their love, guidance, and character (even their mistakes) have made me the guy I am today.

( <— That’s Mom on the left.)

Our job is to work with youth and help them grow in their faith. Those who are full-time devote their careers to that goal. But when it comes down to it, how much time do you physically spend teaching, leading, discipling, and building relationships with students?

Think about it, if you lead a “typical” group, that’s a couple hours during your weekly meeting, weekend activities here and there, and a retreat or two each year. Add it up, and that’s 100-140 hours. A week has 168 hours–we’re spending even less time than that directly interacting with the majority of our students.

Who spends the other 51 weeks of the year with teens and, typically, has the most influence on their lives? Parents.

Doug Fields writes about this issue in the excellent and very practical book, Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry:

You’re an influence, not the influence. I’ve come to realize that I can have little long-lasting influence on a student’s life if the parents aren’t connected to the same spiritual transformation process that we’re teaching at church. While students may think you’re nice and feel safe talking to you, parents are the primary influence in students’ lives.
In the book, Doug offers several tips on interacting with parents and getting them involved in what your youth group is doing. His main points center around prayer and communication–talking with God about parents while you’re also talking to the parents. Some of the ideas include:

  • Starting a parent prayer chain so parents can pray for youth and also have their own requests heard (community building)
  • Praying for parents directly, by name (helps you keep them in mind, and also just learn who they are!)
  • Communicating logistics regularly (add them to your email list for regular announcements)
  • Involving them with your lesson plan (giving parents a heads up of what you’ll be teaching that month can help them emphasize those lessons with their kids)

Whatever you do to encourage parental involvement, whether it’s a regular e-newsletter or relying on a core group of parents for advice and leadership, it can only help your overall mission. You can’t be with every kid all the time. But parents can. If you can help parents buy in to what you’re trying to accomplish, your work will be that much more effective.

What’s the role of parents with your youth ministry?

How do you get parents involved?

And while we’re at it, what about parents who aren’t involved in their kids’ lives (i.e. broken homes)?