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5 Ways Parents Approach Youth Ministry

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Let’s face it, a lot of youth workers sometimes view parents as almost one of the necessary evils of youth ministry. A friend of mine took a survey a few years ago in his network of approximately 400 youth workers. He asked them to name the biggest concerns they faced in local church youth ministry. The most listed answer was “parents of teenagers.”

Here are 5 basic ways that parents of teenagers approach youth ministry. It has been my experience that somewhere along the line all youth workers will face parents in each of the following categories:

  1. Protective – Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the phrase “Helicopter Parents” – those parents who “hover over their kids” and are overly-protective of them. A recent survey reported that freshmen in college sometimes send and receive 11 text messages a day from their parents – and those were college students! We noticed during our summer youth missions trips that many of the participating teens used their cell phones to call their parents almost every hour. It’s true; we are ministering to a generation of hovering parents. My advice is to use this as an advantage and take every opportunity you can to communicate clearly and carefully to the parents of the teens involved in your ministry.
  2. Afraid – Some parents are afraid, and they worry about the negative influences facing their kids. These parents look at their kids’ peers as potentially harmful and manipulative. They also tend to see even the church youth ministry as a problem. The roots to this particular approach are often deeper than just surface negativity. There are some parents who seem to be pessimistic and critical about almost everything. Probably the best thing you can do to help these parents is to keep communicating to them the positive virtues and characteristics of the church and youth ministry.
  3. Proud – Akin to the last approach is something I’ve seen growing over the past few years of my ministry. There are some parents who are so proud and arrogant that they feel as if they are the only ones who can have a positive influence in the lives of their kids. I’ve met some parents of teenagers who will not allow their kids to attend youth group or other youth ministry functions because they see those ministries as a problem. This group of parents looks at other Christian youth and even church youth workers as part of the problem, so they do everything they can to keep their kids with them in everything – including school and church activities. Again, I believe that communication is the key to ministering to this group of parents. Show them Biblical examples of the church in action and help them see the advantages of building other Godly people into the lives of their children.
  4. Idealistic – Some other parents are quite idealistic. They think that everything will turn out okay in the end, so why worry about anything. These parents are often somewhat permissive and lenient with their kids. Plus, this group will often prove to be materialistic in getting their kids anything they want. I suspect that in most cases, their motives are good. They want their kids to grow up to be positive and constructive citizens; it’s just that they try to smooth out all the feathers for their kids along the way. I have found that this group of parents may respond well if they see the positive aspects of youth ministry that includes actively serving the Lord and motivating students to enthusiastically share their faith.
  5. Engaged – Praise the Lord for active, engaged parents. These are the parents who stay involved in the lives of their kids as they mature through adolescence and they are the ones who value the church’s youth ministry and realize how important it is for the family and the church to work together to help kids grow in Christ and go on for Him as adults. This is the group of parents you should try to recruit to be a part of your team of youth workers. They will have a positive influence on their own kids and will often help minister to other teens as well. Praise God for engaged parents of teenagers!


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Youth ministry is really a ministry to parents. As veteran youth worker Dewey Bertolini says, “Our ultimate effectiveness with teenagers may depend upon our concerted effort to gain an influence in the homes of our youth.” Sure, youth workers can have a real impact on the lives of impressionable youth, but our most effective long-term ministry may indeed be our entrance into the lives and hearts of parents.

We understand that God’s Word gives the ultimate responsibility for raising children to parents, and especially fathers (see Ephesians 6:4 for example.) That’s why a main focus of local church youth ministry should be upon equipping parents to be effective in how they raise their kids for the glory of God. However, most youth workers spend the majority of their time ministering to teenagers. The problem is that we sometimes fail to implement even the basic ingredients of an equipping ministry to the people most responsible for the spiritual maturity of our students: their parents.

The Lord has given my wife and me the opportunity to lead several seminars and workshops over the past few years for parents of teenagers and preteens. (This only means that “we’re old”; our kids are grown up and are now adults.) This experience has convinced us that many parents are looking for the following five things from the church: communication, training, fellowship, encouragement & support, and resources. We have talked to hundreds of parents of teenagers and preteens in churches of various sizes all across the country. These interviews give ample credence to our belief that every church should include these five priorities in its ministry to parents.


Parents want to know what’s going on in the youth ministry. What are you teaching their kids, and what are you doing with their kids? These are the imperative questions for any youth worker. Make sure that the parents know what you are doing. Well-known youth ministry author Doug Fields quotes one parent, “I would rather have over-communication than none at all. It shows leadership and it gives me confidence I know what is going on.”

I encourage all youth workers to regularly communicate in every way possible to parents. Don’t assume that the teens will get the information to their parents. This is your responsibility. Utilize your youth group website, e-mail, texting, newsletters, the church bulletin, announcements, phone calls, mailings, and all other means of communication at your disposal to get the necessary information to parents. I know several youth workers who schedule regular informational meetings with parents so that they do not have any excuse for not knowing what the youth ministry is doing.


Parenting is a difficult task even for the best of parents. It seems ridiculous to me that churches don’t make training and equipping for parents more of a priority. This responsibility is one of the most important tasks we face, and yet we often go into parenting so unprepared. It has also been reported that church growth guru George Barna has stated that parenting classes might be the most effective means of community outreach in contemporary culture. It is no wonder, then, that so many parents of teenagers have told us that they wish their churches would provide specific means of training.

There is a very real tension here, though, because many church youth workers are younger than the parents of teenagers. I personally faced this apprehension as a young youth pastor, right out of college and trying to relate to the parent of teens and preteens in my church. I discovered that I could talk to them about the big picture of youth ministry without trying to state that I was some kind of expert on being a parent of teenagers. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue how to be a parent back then, but I did come in contact with several teenagers in church each week, and I also made weekly visits to multiple high schools in our area. I couldn’t tell them about how to raise their own kids, but I could share my own observations and conclusions about teenagers in general and the overall picture of youth culture.

I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t provide specific training in how to be a parent of teenagers, but I could make other “experts” available to them. So, I utilized our senior pastor (he and his wife had grown kids) and other adults with parenting credibility in our church to lead parenting classes and workshops for younger parents. We also brought in outside parenting specialists for training and provided other training tools for our parents of teens and pre-teens to utilize on their own.


The third thing that parents need from church is fellowship. I believe that parents of teenagers desperately need fellowship and interaction with other parents of teenagers to show them that they’re not in this all alone. They also need fellowship with people from other age groups as well, especially with parents who have already raised their own children. Wise youth workers will help parents make these kinds of connections through various church programs and ministries.

I want to share another idea with you. Why not try planning some activities each year for parents and teenagers to attend together? Mark DeVries, the author of Family-Based Youth Ministry, touts this idea is his book. He writes, “I began with this rule of thumb: if it works with teenagers, try it with youth and parents together.” Maybe he is on to something.

Encouragement and Support

Parents need regular sources of encouragement and support. Ideas abound. The key here is to do everything you can within the youth ministry to show parents of teenagers that you appreciate the work they are doing in raising their kids for the Lord.


Finally, youth workers should do all they can to provide parents with some helpful resources and materials for parenting. These resources are plentiful today – check the Internet and your local Christian bookstore. Perhaps you could create a library of sorts within your ministry for parents to check out books, websites, or other practical resources to help them with their kids. You’ll need to be discerning about what kind of materials you provide for them. You should read or watch everything first and only then make those resources available that you would personally endorse or recommend. You may also want to involve the senior pastor in that process. Ask him to list some resources that he finds helpful for parents of teens and preteens.

As you gather resources for parents, don’t forget the “people resources” that are a part of your church or community. What about doctors, police officers, child advocacy experts, lawyers, and counselors? Sometimes parents need these kinds of resources as well. Proverbs talks much about the “multitude of counselors.” It is my experience that a church can make some crucial contacts for parents when they are going through difficult times with their kids.


It is very important for all youth workers to remember that they are not the parents of teenagers. Ultimately, parents are responsible for the spiritual maturity and well-being of their own teenagers. I am afraid that some youth workers inadvertently take on too much pressure by almost trying to be a parent to the majority of students in the youth group. This isn’t the best solution. Wise youth workers will work to add the above listed ingredients into the fiber of their youth ministries. This strategy will encourage parents and will help to get them on your side. We must not forget that the most effective youth ministry is undoubtedly a ministry that includes parents as a major focus.

May God bless you as you seek to minister to parents of teenagers.

5 Ways Parents Can Help Their Children to Go On for God

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The books are flying off the presses in seemingly endless numbers; and frankly, I’m sick of hearing the statistics about the young adults who are dropping out of church. (I know, I know – I’ve listed some of these very statistics in my books and seminars!) But, please keep reading.

I want to start hearing about the kids who stayed in church. I want to hear the stories of Christian kids who grow up and go on for God. I want to hear about the successes of Godly, Christian parents who are proactively working with the church’s youth leaders to develop strong, stable, and mature Christ-followers who as young adults decide to stay engaged in the church.

I know many of these young adults who are absolutely committed to Christ and His claims on their lives. Some of them are currently in college, others are in the military or work force, and many of them are currently living productive live as God-honoring adults.

So, what can Christian parents do to help their children to grow up and go on for God? I’m convinced that we must look to the Scriptures for the answers! In the pages of the New Testament we are told the stories of some young people who grew up before our eyes (so to speak) in the Biblical narrative and who continued to live for God long into their adult lives. One of those young men was Timothy. We meet him in Acts 16 as a young man growing up in church and we read his story throughout the Epistles, including Paul’s last letter to him in 2 Timothy. There are many things in the Bible that we can learn about Timothy, but for the sake of this quick post lets talk a look at some of the things his parents (especially his mother, Eunice – see 2 Timothy 1:5) did right.

It’s important to note that parenting is never a formula or a recipe. It doesn’t work to frivolously think that a few quick ideas lead to spiritual success with our kids. However, if we look at the sweeping principles that seemed to guide this family, we can take away some very practical advice for raising our own kids for God today.

A Consistent Lifestyle – 2 Timothy 1:5

Probably the most obvious thing that this family did right was Eunice’s and Lois’ consistent or genuine walk with God. The Bible calls theirs an “unfeigned” (KJV) or un-faked faith! Timothy’s mom and grandmother demonstrated a genuine relationship with God – and it impacted Timothy. Notice in verse 5 that Timothy also demonstrated a genuine faith. He grew up and went on for God – and that’s what we want from our kids, too.

Communication of God’s Word – 2 Timothy 3:15

The second thing this family did right was that they made it a priority to communicate Biblical truth. Notice that from his earliest days, Timothy learned the Scriptures. The next two verses (2 Timothy 3:16 & 17) reveal that this strategy was much more than a rote memorization of the Text. He also learned that Biblical principles are “profitable” for life and that these principles lead to true spiritual maturity.

Collaboration with the Church

There’s another key element to their strategy that is worth identifying and that is their cooperation with the church to help develop Timothy’s faith. Acts 16 identifies him as a “disciple”, who as a young man already had a good testimony with the other believers. He also was personally selected by the Apostle Paul to go along on this missionary journey. The text expounds on the purpose of their ministry, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. (NIV)” Obviously, the church was a priority to young Timothy. He grew up in church and committed himself to a church-based ministry.

Concern for People and Culture

The Acts 16 passage also presents an interesting scenario of Timothy’s circumcision even though his was a Greek (see verse 1). He perhaps was willing to submit to this cultural ritual due to the cross-cultural background in his own family. This somewhat dysfunctional family environment undoubtedly produced a heart-felt concern for other people and a genuine sensitivity for others.

Commitment to Ministry

The final positive thing I’d like to identify from this family was their dedication to God’s work. They were willing to allow their son to follow Paul along on this journey. Without any visible hesitation on anyone’s part Timothy joined the missionary team and set off on what was the beginning of his call to vocational ministry.

Timothy was a young man who grew up and went on for God. The narrative of Scripture points out some identifiable things that helped in this process. Perhaps there is practical wisdom here for today’s Christian families to implement into the fabric of raising their own kids.

May God bless you as you seek to impact the next generation for eternity.



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