In his book reThink, Steve Wright asks the big question, Are current ideas and methods in student ministry working? As he was doing his research, working in his own ministry, and sharing with other youth leaders, he came to realize that parents are an integral part of youth ministry.
This is something that we’ve minimally addressed here during the past few weeks. How do we get parents involved with the youth program? Better yet, how do we equip parents to be the primary disciplers of their children?
Steve Wright completes some initial thoughts on this:
For many parents the thought of discipling their teenager seems daunting. Not only does society encourage parents to leave education to the professionals, but the church unknowingly does the same by neglecting to teach spiritual mentoring principles to parents.
The biggest conviction that Mr. Wright has with his youth ministry is with the parents, not the teens. The teens are still the focus, but now the parents are the feature. After all, parents being the primary spiritual educator is Biblical (Deut. 6:6–9), and it is practical. A youth leader at most may have three hours of “class time” with a child, but a parent lives with him or her.
There may be some initial hurdles in getting parents to even see that they should be the primary Christian educators in their children’s lives. The sad thing is that with our current culture and lifestyle, many parents may not have a good amount of face-time with their children. With so many things taking up a student’s time—whether socially, athletically, or musically—their own house becomes a drop-off service. It’s a place for the child to sleep. Gone are the days when a family could sit around a table for a meal and have a discussion.
The sad irony is that most parents think that involving their teens in so many things is what’s best for them—even in the long run. That’s not to say that extracurricular things outside the church are bad. It’s the emphasis that is placed on the activities above all else that is wrong.
Steve goes on to list in the book some excuses he’s heard from parents as to why they are not convinced about working with a church’s youth ministry. I’ll list some of his as well as some that I have heard in my experiences:
“I can’t disciple because I’ve never been discipled myself.” (reThink)
This is actually a scary statement, because it’s one of the main focuses of the church. The parent may have been discipled all along, but the church has not specifically worked with the parents as to how to raise their children in light of God’s Word. Most of what parents pass on to their children about life is from what they gathered from their own parents. Maybe that’s why the Bible was so insistent on parents teaching with God’s Word. It gets passed on from generation to generation (Josh. 22:27). The church must have a definite, conscientious plan in place to equip parents and encourage them to have the confidence to lead their homes under the light of God’s Word.
“We pay the youth pastor to do that?” (reThink) or “Isn’t that what we hired you for?” (mine)
I’m sure we all may have heard something similar. Once again, parents must be shown or taught that it is their responsibility. What can the church and youth leaders do to help? The most important thing is to be as open as possible with the church about the role of youth pastors and youth leaders—a supplemental support, not a primary purpose.
“It’s too late; I would start this if I’d known about this before my kid became a teenager.” (reThink)
It’s a shame that many people lose the impact of God’s Word and its life-changing power. The parents have lowered the expectations of their children and in turn have possibly lowered the expectations of themselves. Parents and teenagers alike must be convinced of the power of God’s Word to direct and lead people in lives that are glorifying to God.
“My child gets more about life from the activity [sports, musical, or social] they play instead of academics [spiritual or educational].” (mine)
This type of statement almost goes hand-in-hand with a pervasive mentality in churches today: “What’s in it for me?” Instead it should be, “What can I offer God?” Our society has done an excellent job of getting us to look at everything with personal value in mind. This is not to be the case when it comes to the church—and more importantly God. Values of parents—and most other churchgoers—have got to change. Stop church-shopping and start church-serving. I’ll be honest and state I don’t know what the surefire answer is other than people need to see the benefit of God’s Word in their lives and the value that comes in living a life that glorifies Him.
Parents also need to see value in a youth ministry that humbly comes along and equips them to train their children. We’re still looking for ideas as to what some churches are doing with parents in their youth ministry. You can leave a comment here or on the previous article. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll still be looking at how to build a strong spiritual foundation in the home that is maintained by the church.