As promised in my post last week, I want to share with you how Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry is impacting the way in which parents are engaged in youth ministry. By getting parents and other adults involved in a way that requires them to act as the youth ministers (actually planning and leading the formation opportunities for the youth), it brings about a deeper understanding of what youth ministry is and what is needed to connect with and build up young disciples in our church today.
As we begin to move towards a more discipleship focused youth ministry, I am observing several developments in regard to parents and how they are being engaged. Here are seven of them:
Parents are typically better at inviting other parents
When a youth minister tries to get parents involved, it can come across very much like “making a pitch” or “selling.” When another parent or adult volunteer solicits help it is more like a personal favor. Adults in the parish are much more likely to respond to an invitation to help if it comes from a friend, especially if that friend offers a testimony of the impact discipleship has had in their own life and the lives of individual youth.
Encouragement means more coming from a parent than a youth minister
When you have another mom or dad investing in your child as a volunteer and they speak highly of your child or your parenting, it means more than coming from someone who just “gets paid to say things like that.” Positive encouragement coming from a brother or sister in Christ builds a culture of love and affirmation that is difficult to find in a typical youth ministry program.
Parents are challenged and encouraged when being in community with other parents
Simply seeing other parents engaged in the formation of their children is challenging parents to get more involved. I’ll admit it, even with young children I look around to see what other parents are doing. If they are more engaged and active, then I will be, too. And to be honest, it’s more fun to be a part of your child’s activities if other parents and families are involved as well.
Parents are more likely to help when they more fully understand their responsibility
Because Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry offers a mentorship approach from the top down, adults are stepping into a more active role of learning to form the youth in the parish. Instead of the parish offering a program that may be received as the prescription that takes care of the necessary work of ministry, it promotes a culture of “we are all in this together” and everyone is learning, growing, and figuring things out together.
Parents are required to be more involved in choosing the right formation program for their child
When there are several opportunities in the parish for a youth to participate in, it requires a parent to be more involved in the process of deciding what to do. This provides a great opportunity to minister to the parents, discuss the child’s particular needs, and invite the parent to become a part of it.
Parents are more free to lead
The reality is that the right parents are typically more grounded and able to give of themselves more freely than a youth minister can. When parents and adult volunteers are doing things it takes much less effort and can happen more naturally because they are not bound by many of the rules or affected by some of the politics that a staff person may be. When brought into a program in the Church a simple relationship between family members can quickly be bogged down with new rules and requirements.
Parents are up for the challenge
One benefit of living in a time when many parents’ primary focus is taking their children from one thing to the next is that parents are used to serving and loving their children. One of the greatest benefits a parent has over any youth minister is the amount of time they get to spend with their child. Unlike a high school sports program, the faith is something that parents can participate and grow in with their children instead of just being a spectator.
It truly is a gift to partner with parents and give them the opportunity to be the youth minister to their children. Instead of trying to find someone who can do it for them, parents and other adults in the parish can come together as a parish family and raise their children together.