One of the most frequent topics of conversation at youth ministry meetings and conferences is how can we better engage parents in youth ministry. I’ve written about this before on the blog, especially in the post Stop Helping Youth and Start Helping Parents. One goal of Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry is not so directly focused on helping the youth, but more about helping those who help youth. I would argue that it’s not the youth minister’s job to minister to the youth but that it’s the entire parish community, primarily the parents.

The biggest mistake I believe we have made in the way youth ministry is done today is that parents treat the youth program like any other sport or extracurricular setting. If they want their kid to learn soccer, they sign them up for soccer. If they want their kid to learn music, they sign them for band. If they want their kid to learn about the faith, they sign them up for youth group. This might explain why youth tend to stop being involved in their faith after high school. I mean, how many adults stay in band or soccer after graduation?

More recently, however, those who organize activities like soccer and band have figured this out. We are beginning to see that in order for youth to sign up, is the parents have to invest their time and involvement as well. They understand that greater commitment from whole families will lead to a more successful team. If there are youth whose families have made it a priority to be involved in soccer, they will be involved and committed long-term, but they will also have greater potential to compete or perform well in the present, too.

If this is the case, why are we so afraid to demand that parents be involved in raising their kids in the practice of the faith as well?

When parents have to pick and choose the things to which they will give their time and we give them the option to not be involved, why would they be? By not requiring them to be involved, we essentially tell them that we’ve got it covered or we don’t necessarily “need” their help.

This is another reason why I advocate for a Discipleship Focused approach to youth ministry. Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry not only requires the involvement of parents and adults in order for youth ministry to happen, but it teaches them and forms them to do it themselves. This is crucial because without their committed involvement, I believe the results will not be statistically different than any other program for youth.

In closing, I should note that I understand that many parents are not and will not be involved in youth ministry in the Church. I am simply stating that I believe that the way we have been doing youth ministry is more of a “medicating the symptoms” approach than it is a solution to the problem because the solution to bring the whole family with us.

In my post next week, I will spend some time explaining how I have seen Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry bring about change and growth in the parents and families involved. Parents are being drawn in, parents are engaging other parents, and families are coming together to raise their children in the faith. Why? Because we are demanding it from them. Because without them our youth stand little chance (statistically speaking) of a lifelong commitment to faith.

Go to Part 2