As a youth pastor, there are many roles you juggle with on a weekly/daily basis. You essentially manage a mini-church that offers everything to students that your church offers to adults, if not more. There are a lot of people in your church who don’t understand the scope of your job and think all you do as a pastor to middle school and high school students is play video games, drool over Apple products, hang out at Starbucks and wear jeans that double as leggings. Often times I have found myself overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done. That feeling only intensified when I thought about the real reason I do what I do, to see students begin their faith in Jesus, grow in their faith in Jesus, and help others with their faith in Jesus. There were nights I would wake up and not be able to go back to sleep thinking about how to do a better job of helping students grow.
There is a giant at every single church that is around every single youth ministry. This giant needs to be nudged, slapped out unconsciousness and mobilized to help in the vision of seeing students at your church grow in their faith. These giants go by other titles, some not so pretty if you ask your students, but as a youth pastor, you call them parents.
Parents: Your Students’ Primary Disciple
Let’s just think logically about the idea of parents being the primary disciple in their child’s life. Depending on what your programming looks like in the youth ministry at your church, you will see students 2-4 hours a week. If you take the total time they are awake during a week (105 total hours/rough estimate) you see them 3% of their week. Parents are going to have the majority of their time after school and they are already committed to their child being a positive member of society.
What if we as youth pastors invited them into the bat cave of youth ministry and shared a greater vision of what their child’s faith could be?
Here are three things that I have found to get parents off the bench and in the game. I mean what’s a good blog post without 3 main things to work on? Am I right?
1. Think Differently
No, not them, YOU. You need to start thinking differently about them. Parents are not the speed bumps, they are not always the obstacle keeping you from youth ministry domination. Parents care and they are unsure of what they don’t know. Your ministry extends to parents almost as much as it does to middle school and high school students. Start thinking of what parents need to be on board with what happens in the youth ministry at your church. There are so many things that you can do to engage parents (newsletters, texts, vision dinners, leadership teams, small group leaders, event help, etc.) but you have to be intentional with inviting them to the party. Change your thinking to include them and see what happens to their engagement with your ministry.
2. Program Differently
Most programs are geared around you and your leaders sharing the win with students. Whether it’s having the conversation with a student about putting their faith in Jesus, you being available to help them with the struggles in their lives, or getting a chance to tell them where to find their true identity; we as youth pastors have put ourselves in position to have those winning conversations with the students we shepherd. Now, don’t get me wrong, those conversations are great and should be had. What if we put the ball into the court of someone who is going to see them a lot more and be more influential in their lives as a whole? When you program differently to incorporate parents you start setting mom and dad up to have the winning conversation with their child. This allows for better follow-up (let’s be honest, youth pastors aren’t great at follow-up) and hopefully more conversations around the dinner table. Create events for critical conversations to take place between parents and their middle school or high school student.
3. Plan Differently
As you plan out your year, look at it from parent’s eyes. When are pivotal times of the year for a dad and son or a mom and daughter to have a meaningful experience together? Build these moments into your ministry. Be intentional about giving them opportunities, invite them to be a part of your ministry, cast the vision for the students at your church to grow in their faith and don’t make them an afterthought.
Here’s the deal, it’s not always convenient but it’s necessary to get parents mobilized in your ministry and in your student’s lives. There are parents that aren’t even aware of how necessary it is. If it’s scary to you then start small with some parents you trust and start dreaming together and see what happens. I know for a fact that a youth ministry with parents in mind will be a ministry that parents will want their families to be a part of. Wake up that giant and get them in the game!
Kent Bjurstrom is the pastor of student ministries at Northview Church in Carmel, IN. His desire is to see middle school and high school students enter into a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ and help them put their faith in motion. Connect with Kent Twitter & Instragram at @PASTORKENTB.