Parents should absolutely be a part of a youth ministry, and not just a part of it, but a large part of it. When we say "youth ministry" we are not referring merely to the event on Wednesday nights, but the gospel-centered community that’s present in and out of the church building. With that kind of definition of a youth ministry you may find it strange that parents (the “old geezers” in your children’s minds) should be involved in youth ministry. If we survey youth though, good parents don’t usually equal "cool." However, parents are meant to be heavily involved in the spiritual life of their youth and that’s not because of their level of coolness, but of their calling. For some parents this may include helping with the many structured activities that are part of our youth ministry, but what can we see is the role for all parents?
Disciple Your Youth
One thing we can safely say about the role of all parents, no matter their amount of knowledge or teaching skill-level, is to be the primary discipler of their children. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says,
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
It is clear that God has given to parents the primary role of teaching their children about who God is, who we are, and how to live in light of those things. While this may certainly happen at church-held events, the majority of this type of ministry seems, from the verses above, to happen outside of church functions. It seems to be a part of normal, every day life. Parents discipling their children in the truths of the gospel is not meant to be confined to any place, time, or activity. This requires time, effort, and attention. However, it is worth disciplining your busy schedule by allotting times to make it happen. It is worth quitting secondary activities if necessary. And it is worth the exhausting effort put towards becoming better equipped to do it.
Place the Youth Pastor In the Right Spot
Putting bread on the table and making sure your youth don’t die from week to week can certainly be challenging. On top of the physical duties of a parent, there are the spiritual ones as well. Many times we see parents shying away from this for one reason or another. Whether this is caused from the overwhelming demand of meeting the physical needs or if it is from the insecurities of not feeling equipped depend on the parent(s). However, you need to know that the church is here for you!
This brings up a needed question. If the primary role of discipling youth is given to parents, and not the church, then what is the place of the youth pastor? Well, even though the youth pastor doesn’t have the primary role in discipling youth, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have any role. There are many roles for the youth pastor, but we can see one large role in Ephesians 4:12-13. It says, “And he [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Pastors have a large role in equipping. They are to equip parents to be the primary disciplers of their youth. And they are to equip youth to live on God’s mission in their individual lives and as a collective youth ministry. Therefore, the youth pastor has a role in equipping both the youth and their parents. His role with the parent is indirectly reaching their youth. However, his direct role with the youth has much more to do with mobilizing them for action. His preaching, sub-ministries that he starts, initiatives that are set, discipleship that he performs, and anything else started by the youth pastor are ultimately done to mobilize youth to reach other youth and the rest of the world for Jesus.
You aren’t called to do this parenting thing alone. We want to partner with you. Now that all that has been said, consider how you can partner with your church to minister to your youth and how your youth can reach others as well. Here are a few ways for parents to take this initiative.
1. An initial talk. If you have not been very active as the primary discipler of your youth consistently, this conversation may include confession and repentance on your part for not doing this. Express your heart in wanting to be obedient as your role of a parent. Confess where you haven’t lived up to this standard. Ask for forgiveness (from God and your child). Then, rely on the Holy Spirit’s power and grace to help you daily live in this role.
2. Your schedule. Our daily needs and extra activities can sometimes be the biggest hindrances for parents to disciple their children. We find ourselves just too busy. Taking an honest assessment of our family’s schedule may result in getting rid of things that stand in the parent’s way (i.e. memberships, clubs, hobbies etc…) for the sake of living out their calling. It also may involve removing or limiting things their children are involved in (i.e. sports, extra curricular activities, relationships) to free them up.
3. Family worship. Think about having a set time to worship Jesus as a family and think about what this may look like for your family. It should certainly include a time of bible study and prayer, but may also include things like scripture memorization, singing, and gospel-centered conversations.
Please ask for help and suggestions from your youth pastor. However this looks for your family, do it, and do it consistently! Know that it is your calling, and that it is a worthy calling at that!