Most of us working in youth ministry know the importance of engaging parents in the spiritual life of their students. While we realize that the spiritual care of their children is should be their responsibility, they are often just as spiritually immature as their kids, if they are new. This task of ministry to parents is often shuffled to the bottom of the deck due to the more “pressing” issues of day-to-day ministry. So we asked parents what they thought we could do to draw them in more. Parents were quickly able to identify several things that could be done to increase their involvement. These included:
- Providing groups within the ministry programs that are specifically for parents of students in our ministries. It was identified that most parents of teens do not always feel comfortable visiting their kids groups for fear of encroaching on their space. Providing support/prayer/parenting groups specifically for parents would assist with facilitating social support networking among parents.
- More consistent, frequent, phone calls, emails, or faxed reports of the student’s spiritual progress. Parents report that the consistency of phone contact with the staff/volunteer is a function of the staff/volunteer and not the ministry. If the staff/volunteer is a “good staff/volunteer”, parents receive frequent updates. Parents report that the variability among staff/volunteer should be eliminated by mandating that parents receive consistent and frequent feedback.
- Parents report that upon initial visit, they and their child were asked about what their needs are but parents couldn’t get a sense if there was a well-thought out plan of discipleship. They recommended that ministry staff/volunteers should ask parents what their expectations of the ministry are and what discipleship/spiritual growth looks like to them. It was suggested that programs develop family growth plans to synch the family focus. This would reduce parental anxiety and insure that the program understands the needs and expectations of parents.
- Within youth ministry, parents should be asked to volunteer to chaperone field trips or recreational activities. This would allow parents to begin to have positive experiences with their children.
- Parents with grown students (college or young adult) would like to be able to volunteer as role models and mentors for other parents and for youth entering adolescence.
- Parents report that programs have a lot of jargon that the parents do not understand and this compromises the level of involvement parents feel with the program. The terminology and culture of the ministry and youth culture needs to be explained to parents.
- Parents of teens in the youth ministry would like to be able to celebrate with their child on his or her spiritual accomplishments while in the ministry. Parents report learning, after the fact, that their child has grown in faith, shared the gospel with a friend and led them to Christ, feels called to a mission field, or desires to be baptized. Often, youth ministries have ritual celebrations when such performance benchmarks in the ministry are passed by a youth and parents would like to be part of that celebration.