Ministry to parents is something that has been rising in importance and attention in student ministry over the last decade. While this is true, the pandemic revealed that there is still work to be done in closing the gap between providing information and partnering with parents in the discipleship of teenagers. As the pandemic winds down over time the temptation will be to sprint back to student ministry as quickly as possible, but the need for effective (beyond information) parent ministry won’t go away as the pandemic does. Our eyes have been clearly opened to the reality that information is not enough.
Here are some steps you can take to move beyond providing information and into partnership with parents.
Put tools in their hands.
We know from the Within Reach research study that only 37% of teenagers who were active in church as high school students had spiritual conversations in their homes. One of the best things you can do as a student pastor is to put simple, usable tools into the hands of parents to equip them to have spiritual conversations with their teenagerds. Often, parents feel uncomfortable or have a lack of confidence in this area and your resource partnership here can make a huge difference. If you are looking for a resource that will help you do this, our team has created Parent Partner.
Create a feedback loop.
To partner with parents, you need to know their world. You need to know their struggles, victories, and what it means for them to raise teenagers. Additionally, you need to know what they believe about the student ministry and what they need from it. The only way to learn these things is to spend time with parents and to create an environment where they are comfortable sharing feedback with you. Make a practice of seeking out parents, including the ones who don’t appear to be super-engaged, to ask them for their thoughts on the ministry and how it could partner with them more effectively. This is going to take an effort to avoid defensiveness, but if you can push through that temptation these conversations give you great insight and an opportunity for you to cast vision for the student ministry and build relationships.
Disciple them, too.
Consider starting a discipleship group with parents with the intention that they will disciple other parents at the end of your time together. As parents are involved in discipleship they will naturally begin to move into discipling relationships with their kids. If we are going to say, “parents are the primary discipler of their kids” then we also need to help them understand how to fulfill that role, and there’s no better way to help them understand than by modeling it in a direct discipleship relationship.
An essential part of student ministry is clear communication, but we shouldn’t stop there and call it “parent ministry.” The good news is that if your ministry has been primarily focused on communicating information, you don’t have to stay there. By implementing the three things above you can begin to take steps into more effective partnership with parents.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Students. Ben is passionate about investing in student ministry leaders like you. You can find weekly encouragement from Ben on his YouTube Channel, Student Ministry That Matters.