An idea for making parents the spiritual leaders of the home

Parents as spiritual leadersA few weeks ago I sat at a table in a coffee shop with several other local youth workers. I was wrestling through the idea of youth ministry at Red Door Church that’s based on bringing teens and parents together spiritually, so I asked the group for their thoughts.

Shamus Staubach, the youth pastor at Lakeside Christian Church, shared an idea that I think is brilliant.

He said one of the things they’re trying to do is bring all the parents together each Sunday to discuss what the youth group will be teaching a month from then. The idea is that if the youth ministry can first teach it to the parents and talk practically with them about how they teach it to their kids, then by the time the teens come to youth group they’ve already heard it taught at home for the past month.

There’s a couple things I like about this:

  • It gives parents and youth leaders a regularly scheduled time to meet together, link arms, and discuss what’s being taught to the kids, both at home and at church.
  • It gives the church the opportunity to train parents to be spiritual leaders, to encourage them, and put them in a “support network” of sorts without making it feel like an AA meeting.
  • It puts the parents in the position of being the primary spiritual teacher for their kids because now the youth leaders are supporting and teaching what kids have already heard from their parents. This is the exact opposite of giving parents a take-home sheet of discussion questions that supports what you teach their kids instead.

Of course, there are a lot of ways you could tweak this. The main question I asked Shamus was about who sets the agenda for what’s being taught: the parents or the youth ministry? He said at first they wanted the parents to set the topics, issues, and scripture passages so they could play a more supportive role, but they quickly learned that many of the parents are very out of touch with what was actually happening in their kids’ lives. So now it’s more of a collaborative effort between the youth ministry and parents that tends to favor the opinion of the small group youth leaders.

QUESTION: How is your youth ministry working to ensure that parents are the primary spiritual leaders for their teens?

Posted on February 13, 2013

  • This sounds good, but with our group I have to wonder if this, in our group, would work first of all. Whenever I’ve had a parent meeting or seminar I get maybe 2 sets of parents and one of those is the pastor. Also, would this take more away from teens and parents together. With small groups, Sunday school, youth group and segregated activities, not to mention all the school activities teens are in, is another segregated meeting every week going to fly or be a good idea? I’m not downing them doing it. Every church dynamic is different. I’m just thinking through ours.

    • I think the bigger question Layton isn’t “is another segregated meeting every week going to fly or be a good idea” but “is it worth it?”

    • Good questions. I think you have to answer the “why?” question behind this, which you kinda are. To me, having a time where the parents and church can strategically link arms will make both far more effective than they could ever be on their own. So yes, it’s worth it.

      However, you have a different issue in that most of your parents don’t appear to value ________ (you’d have to fill in the blank), which causes them not to come to meetings. Or, your meetings are serving you and the ministry and not the parents. Either way, there’s probably a deeper issue you need to address with the parents or the church or both before something like this would be widely successful.

      However, I’d still argue that doing this with only two sets of parents is still better than doing it with none and that hopefully what you do with those two families will spread into the other families. We don’t need 100% involvement for something to be worth it. We just have to believe in why we’re doing it.

    • what about doing something like this monthly instead of doing it every week, i kind of agree with layton. Our parents already dont come to church. So to see them come for this would be a miracle. I would love to link arms with them once a month and let them in on what we are teaching instead of just sending home parent cue type of sheets to parents who dont come to church

  • KJ

    Good thoughts….I know this is an observation about semantics, but I think it’s warranted:

    – We can’t “make” parents into anything….all we can do is encourage, lay groundwork, point to a better way, etc.

    – Nor can we “ensure” parents are the primary disciplers of their children.

    The whole of scripture certainly doesn’t paint a picture of an isolated, silo-driven approach to ministry ( to youth or any demographic), nor does it seem to paint a picture of a “parent-only” model.

    I keep hoping somebody will lead the way with what scripture does point to: A body of believers/community/village mindset of living, learning, growing.

    What Red Door seems to be doing looks as close to this as I’ve seen….so keep it up, and keep keeping us in the loop!

    • Good thoughts, Kurt. And you’re right about my poor use of “make” and “ensure.” I do think, however, that the church can do a much better job at pursuing those things than we have, though.

      I haven’t written about this yet, but we are trying to go the body of believers/community/village mindset. Just like Startbucks wants to be the “third place,” we think it’s valuable for teens to have adults who are a “third voice.” It’s different than youth group or even a youth leader as we typically think of, though. More about that later.

      And I wish I could sit down and tell you some stories about a body of believers taking a community/village mindset of living, learning, and growing. This just isn’t how the American church is designed, but I do have hope for it.

  • Youth ministry in yorba linda

    As Charity begins at home.In the same way learning should begin should begin at home.Great idea because parents are the role models for their kids.And by the time the kids join youth ministry they would be aware of most of the things.

  • Steve

    At the beginning of each new teaching series, we invite parents to come sit in on the lesson and then go to their own discussion group with other parents where they will learn all the teachings for that month and then have suggested questions to ask to carry on the discussion at home with their teens.

  • Pingback: Part-Time Youth Pastor, Full-Time Hero: The Benefits of Working at a Small Church -

  • I wish I could get this to work but I am in a ministry where out of about 60 kids ages 6-18, only about 15 have parents that attend church anywhere. This is a big challenge and right now I’m in a bit of a crisis as to whether I am actually making a difference. There are many adults that seem mad at the kids and teens for being … kids and teens. They fuss and complain how the kids tear this up or they do that. Love is a word that is seldom uttered by anyone outside our volunteer group. Attendance is down now to about 20 teens and 20 kids, and with a recent failure to see what a mess would be made with a object lesson – I now have adult leadership ratcheting down on the group. While I know discipline and responsibility is needed – but so is love. I wanted to repair the cycle that parents passed on their faith and the youth today become the workers of tomorrow. I’m pretty sure I have failed on all accounts.

    • I hear ya, Neal. It’s a frustrating and very broken system that’s far from what God intended, both for His church and for families. You’re bumping into some of the consequences of that brokenness.

      I wanna push back on your feelings of failure, though. I think you may believe some things about family and the church that’s causing you to take responsibility for things that Scripture never places on you. This isn’t the place to get into all that, but be encouraged that this isn’t your fault nor your responsibility outside the unfounded expectations placed on you by your paid job. Scripture has different expectations.

  • toolatemom

    I can appreciate everyone’s feelings of inadequacy and failure as a post-children’s ministry lay person, however, I would like to present the side of a parent, if you will.

    I made a terrible mistake with my daughter’s who are now 21 and 19. I allowed them to attend EVERY event and activity that the youth minister planned at our church. He and his wife had a literal open door policy at their home so my daughters spent almost all of their free time there. This has created a huge problem in our home because now my 19 year old sees them as her spiritual leader and not her parents. It’s so bad in fact, that when she comes home from college she visits their house first. They even included her in their family Christmas photos this year.

    As a Christian mother who deeply cares about my daughter, I feel terrible that I have failed in such a great way as to have given this important role to someone else. At the time, I didn’t realize what was going on or the negative impact ithat would have on our family. I would give anything if I could go back to their high school years with the knowledge I currently possess of the importance of the establishment of parents as the spiritual leaders.

    Please don’t give up even if you do only have a few patents.

    • Thank you so much for sharing you story. It underlines and emphasizes so much of what I’m trying to figure out how to communicate to youth leaders. Do you mind if I share your story publicly here on this site? You’ll remain anonymous, of course.

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99