As I have seen my youth ministry philosophy change over the past ten years, I must say that my view of parents has changed with time.
When I was first involved in youth ministry out of Bible College, I saw parents as needed – they needed to be communicated with/to, they needed to sign permission slips, they were important in the lives of students – but my primary focus was on the students. For most of my time in ministry I have focused the majority of my time and energy on students. How do we best reach students? How do we best communicate to students the life changing truths of the Gospel? Etc., because at the end of the day my role is Director of Student Ministries or Student Pastor or Youth Pastor.
I think that as leaders we get so focused on our primary audience that we miss the context that we must minister in.
We often do ministry as if parents do not matter. We think that if we can just get the students in our doors, then we will be able to change them (with God’s help of course… maybe) and send home this perfect little angel of our molding. But we know this is not true: we know that this idea grates against the Biblical family models (plus a whole lot of philosophical issues as well).
We need to do youth ministry as if we truly believe the family context that Psalm 78 lays out.
Parents are an important part of the context of a student’s life. This means that we need to remember to broaden our focus and minister to the larger context that our students live in. Then we can truly be effective to ministering to our students, reaching them, and sharing the gospel with them!
When I look at my own recent experiences in youth ministry and see the students who are owning their faith, who are growing in Christ, and are seeking to make an eternal difference, it is because of their parents. These are parents whom I know well, who I see involved in the life of the church, and who are involved and invested in the whole ministry of the church (including the Youth Ministry). I have seen students get involved in our ministry who seem to be growing, but eventually fall away. Typically, these students’ parents are not invested in the ministry of the church; their parents are not connected with the youth ministry and are not personally growing themselves.
Students whose parents are seeking to follow God will more than likely have students who do likewise.
This is why I need to remember the context that I am ministering in. I need to remember that familial biblical model and I need to remember that at the end of the day it is the parents who need to be the primary spiritual influence in a student’s life not just me the youth pastor.
How do you view parents? Has your view on their role and yours ever negatively impacted your youth ministry?Phillip Allen is a Christ Follower, a husband, a father, a youth pastor and a goof. Every once in awhile life gets messy and the order gets messed up-but that is life. He has been involved in Youth Ministry as a volunteer, intern or paid staff since 2001. He blogs on life, leadership, ministry and things on pallen82.blogspot.com and is on Twitter @pallen411