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We’re developing a parent-centered youth ministry

Last month I told you about a new church plant here in Cincinnati called, Red Door Church. My wife and I have settled in this local body of believers and are excited to be serving in several capacities.

One of the ways we’re serving is by being a part of a team that’s developing the youth ministry. This won’t be a normal, typical youth ministry, though. As I’ve discussed in the past, we take very seriously God’s plan for the parents to be the spiritual leaders in their house. In fact, we integrate it into everything we do, especially the Sunday morning worship experience. That means whatever our youth ministry looks like, it has to revolve around bringing parents and teens together instead of naturally separating them.

We’re still in the process of brainstorming what that will look like, but I think we’re on the right track.

A few weeks ago our team of youth leaders “to be,” parents, teens, and our pastor got together to start hashing some of this out. We asked the question, “What important aspects should be a part of this youth ministry?” and the results were actually very surprising and unexpected to everyone in the room.

In the video below, I share what we discussed in that meeting and some of the unexpected conclusions that will influence our parent-centered youth ministry.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Thanks for lending your voice to invest into the future youth ministry at Red Door Church!


Posted on February 11, 2013

  • Ben

    I have been running what would be characterized as a “traditional” youth ministry model at a church and in the last 6 months or so have been slowly trying to transition into a more parent friendly/parent involved/parent equipping ministry. I watched the video and have several questions. 1. In the discussion was the responsibility of evangelism discussed?(students sharing with students) 2. How will this model of youth ministry and church work with those families and students who have never met Christ? 3. I don’t want to assume something you are not saying so my third question is, While I completely agree that parents most definitely need to be the primary spiritual leaders for their children, does this rule out the need or benefit of students meeting together for spiritual growth? Does it have to be one or the other, can it be both and?

    • Good questions, Ben. We’ve somewhat discussed some of these questions already and will be doing so more as we start to develop exactly what this ministry looks like.

      1) It wasn’t discussed exactly, but I don’t know how this changes whether kids share Christ with others. In fact, I would think it strengthens it because now the parents are a part of that process, as well.

      2) We briefly discussed that. It will most likely be some sort of “adoption” where a Christian family spiritually “takes in” a student with unbelievers as parents, but the goal is for that teen to work together with their “spiritual parents” to help bring the teen’s real parents to faith so they can play the role for their teen that God intended. We haven’t really fleshed that out yet, but that’s the idea so far.

      3) Not necessarily. There will most likely be student-to-student time. However, the teens in our group said they already have a lot of time with their peers, so what they need probably isn’t more time to sit around and talk with them. What they need more of is time with their parents IF, and only if, the youth ministry can somehow help make that an effective and desirable time for all parties involved.

      • Anecdotally, I have seen some instances where a teen who is not a believer hangs out quite a bit with his/her friend’s family, who are all Christians. The result is often a “platform” for the believing parent to speak into that teen’s life in a way that a peer never could. To me, that’s a huge witness, and Tim, I hope that it’s a consequence of your church’s plan. Yes, it’s great for a teenager to hear about Jesus from their friend, but an additional step is for that teenager to also be welcomed into the home of their friend’s family. They can “see” how faith works, not in the sense that they see a happy family, but they see how conflict is worked out in a Jesus-centered way, how forgiveness is asked for and given freely, and how teenagers are (hopefully) treated as a blessing, not as a nuisance. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch, Tim, to say that the “YM World” will be watching to see how it goes…thanks for processing all this in a way we can all see how it’s going!

  • I would love to hear about the same brainstorming session within a traditional church model and see if there is any difference in perspective. I think the people who have deliberately chosen to be part of something like Red Door are coming in to it not only knowing what it’s about, but embracing and choosing the difference in how they participate in church and it’s ministry opportunities. Red Door parents have students who are in on this change in how church functions, vs. other churches with multiple models of ministry or deeply rooted traditions and values (confirmation, Sunday School, etc.) and some of those churches really LIKE the freedom of students to meet with one another without necessary relinquishing their roles as spiritual leaders when their students come home. In fact, taking parents seriously (extreme communication, opportunities to volunteer, curriculum guides to help them stay connected to what students are talking about) hopefully happens in even the most traditional of youth ministries today. I love not only what you all are doing there, but hearing about it, so keep the posts coming. But I also would enjoy hearing from other churches who by tradition have to find other ways to do similar ministry. An inexperienced youth worker who reads this and says,” yes, let’s do it!” and is employed by a traditional church could quite easily lose her job!

    Another point to add to your future discussions in light of conversations with colleges and workplace employers about the inability of students to be independent from their parents-as students grow up perhaps more highly connected to their parents in the church setting, how are they developing independent thought process as they move towards future life away from home?

    Thanks for sharing this GREAT stuff!

    • Good questions, Karen! This kind of discussion could be much better served as a conversation instead of blog comments, but I agree with you in that what you’re describing are questions that come from trying to modify a system that’s not intended to do what we’re trying to do at Red Door. And I don’t think the old system can accomplish what we’re doing. You’re right — it could cause someone to lose their job. So the question is this: if the means are not getting us to the ends that we say we value, is it worth changing the means to get there? Or is it better to stick with the means and continue with the same ends that we currently see happening in youth ministry? I don’t think you can have both.

  • Ben

    Karen and Tim I think there are opportunities in more traditional style churches or youth ministries to make these type of changes, if they are done with intentionality, purpose, and with good communication. It will also be a slower going process, than if you could start from scratch and create your own ministry dynamic. I feel like that is the direction our ministry is heading, and it is going to take us awhile to get there, but I am happy to be moving that direction, because it is obvious the model most churches have been using isn’t working to create students who are committed to following Christ.

    Tim I have a question regarding your answer to my second question. In your answer you discuss a Christian family taking in a student who does not know Christ and helping them in their journey, but ultimately seeing those parents come to Christ. My question is, do you know of any churches doing that well right now, that would be willing to talk through how that works?

    Tim thank you for interacting with our questions.

    • No, I don’t, but we’re willing to be the first ones to give it a try if no one else is. Like I said, though, that was just the initial thought that came up in one of our meetings. We haven’t decided that we’re actually going to pursue that or figure out how it works practically. I’m sure I’ll write more about whatever gets solidified as we move forward.

  • Tom

    If you had students that had great relationships with their parents help guide students that did not then you would also encouraging student to student contact in such a way that builds the first priority ie relationship with the parents.

  • Danita

    I’m in a more traditional church setting, but have been wanting to bring parents in on the action for quite a while. I’ve raised kids; when I look around, many parents simply are not confident in talking about faith with their kids. I’ve recently added 2 seemingly small components, but I like the results. 1. In confirmation, I’m giving the kids questions to ask their parents such as “Why do you want me to go through confirmation?” and “Why do you follow Christ?” 2. We normally have sr high and jr high together on Wed nights. They’re separated for about 6 weeks right now. So, I sent letters into homes and invited parents to come to Wed night “youth group” with their middle schoolers. Parents are paired with their kids, and I have other adults for those whose parents aren’t there. In both cases, I’m simply giving them ideas of things to talk about in a safe way to get conversations started.

    I’ll keep looking for more ways to bring parents in. Tim, I love these posts. They’re giving me encouragement to move forward. I now have a note that says “How do we bring teens and parents together spiritually?” taped to my monitor. Great question as I plan.

    • It’s a great question to wrestle, though. Glad you’re making some progress with developing parents, too. I feel like too often the church is like, “Oh, well, our parents don’t know how to be spiritual leaders,” and uses it as an excuse to assume the responsibility for them while passively trying to teach and train parents. Instead, I feel like it should be a driving motivation for us to clearly do everything we’re doing differently and pray that we can get God’s plan for spiritual development back on track.

  • eddie vega

    Hey there, I LOVE that concept. It is out of the box and yet so natural and needed. That proves to show just how much we have strayed from the biblical model of church community, as we engineer peoples walks by separating ages, and stages for the sake of a more culturally congruent appeal only to often times create a “birds of a feather” mindset. All the while forsaking the chance for parental intergenerational discipleship. Then we wonder why we often have an “us” and “them” dynamic in our church ministries. As I watched your video a few things came to mind that I wanted to share about what we are developing for our Student Ministry in 2014. We are calling it “PERSPECTIVE: Gathering of the Tribes” This (social experiment, as i like to call it) is basically designed to do exactly what your talking about in smaller doses. It will be a bimonthly or monthly gathering to create a blend of a teaching/family fun night/bible study/mass counseling session. All in hopes of forming strong parent to teen bonding and intergenerational understanding and openness. We hope this can set up a platform for the parents to take the lead in their kid’s discipleship. We know some parents are already doing an awesome job at this so to take it a step further we would also create “tribe” teams. In the session this would connect parents who are heavily involved and are already discipling their kids with parents/teens who are perhaps new or struggling a bit and still trying to figure it all out. We know kids need and LONG for parental pouring in, no matter how cool the youth pastor or mentor is nothing will ever compare to a parent telling their kid “wow, I didn’t know that about you!” or “that’s really great, how did you come up with that?” etc. etc. So we are starting by creating an environment where the leadership ship serves them all dinner while they hang at thier table in their respective tribe team comprised of of three families. Each family sits at their own table forming a three circle triangle. Now each three circle/table triangle has its own color or patterned table cloth, ie red or blue tribe or snow camo, or dessert camo, etc.etc. you get the idea (its youth ministry, gotta be creative) We then do some fun ice breaker team building stuff. Then The Word is taught within the context of facilitating parental discovery of a students inner thoughts and feelings regarding God, life, and relevant issues, etc. We will be providing short questionnaires for the students and parents to fill out, some will be exchanged among them and some will be collected anonymously by our student leaders and shared collectively. This will bring a fresh connection and perspective from the students and parent’s point of views. We too are still fleshing it out and praying it thru. Anyways, you definitely got your work cut out for you for sure. I hope this helped. I would love to see what you guys come up with!! Take care.

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