As a youth, I had a great talent for keeping as much distance as possible between my parents and the concerned youth leaders who felt it important to let my disconnected parents in on some of the events of my life. They never let them in, because I pushed as hard as I could to keep that distance, and make it even wider at any opportunity. As college starts this year we’re talking about parents, and how to get them involved in our youth ministry, more specifically, how to get them involved in the spiritual welfare of their children, and if the parents are not Christian themselves, how to bring them into the church that their child seems to be giving a chance.
Here are my as yet untested, undiscussed thoughts.
Parents have a strong influence over their children. Ideally, it would be a positive influence, but in some cases it is a sorely negative influence. This means that we cannot detach a teenager from their parents and treat them as separate. A parent inputs into a teen, and a teen will often want their parents approval – and if no approval given, they will begin to seek attention. The first thing we must acknowledge is simple – parents matter in ministry.
With this presupposition established, the next step is to look at the practical implications of it. The most common way we try to engage parents is through the parent supper. Coffee, cake and a small talk from the head youth leader about what’s going on in the ministry that particular term. It seems half assed. It seems like there is no attempt made to actually develop and sustain mutual love relationships, between anyone – parents and leaders, parents and youth or even youth and leaders. There’s a lot of things we know don’t work, but what will work?
Here’s what I intend to try, and see if it works. Small groups mid-week, not within my house but instead in the houses of the youths whose parents are supportive. Eat dinner with the family, then spend time in another room going through a study and praying with the teenagers. I also want to get to know them as people, not merely as parents. I fall into the trap of only thinking of them as their role, and not as someone who is called a child of God.
I am not sure how to engage non-believing parents, to be honest. It is close to home, and I am sure many youth are like I was – wanting to keep them away from those who know the problems hurtful parents have caused…
But, I do know that I need to engage youth somehow…