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Engaging Parents in Student Ministry

The greatest ministry for parents in their students’ lives, happens outside of our church programs. Learn more in this family ministry conversation video!
4 min read

Hi, my name’s Michelle Anthony. Welcome to Family Ministry Conversations. Today’s topic is engaging parents in student ministries.

Wow, this is a big topic right now. Because I think that so often, we are lured into believing that students and parents just don’t match. Students don’t want to be with their parents, and parents don’t want to be with their students.

But I’m not so sure that that’s true.

I’m calling for parents to ask for forgiveness when they get it wrong, and to be a role model worth following. We can’t give away something we don’t have.

Family Ministry Happens in the Home

I am standing here in my living room because I believe engaging parents in family ministry means it’s happening right here. Right in the home. And so often as ministry leaders, we’re trying to find places where we can plug parents into our ministries—and that’s good. But parents should be driving. Parents should be opening their homes for small groups. Parents should be bringing food and loving on kids and being that third voice in another student’s life.

But the greatest ministry for parents in their students’ lives happens outside of our programs, outside of the church. It happens right in the context of their own home.

I’m standing in the kitchen with my 16-year-old daughter, and she gets a text message that’s alarming. And she starts to speak about it, and I can relate.

I didn’t have a cell phone when I was 16—I mean the circumstance was different. But I can say, “Gosh I remember what it was like to be at that stage in life.” And I was so upset about such and such friendship or a relationship with the opposite sex. And I can enter into her world instead of telling her what she should do, I can relate what it’s like to be human. A sinful human in a sinful human world, right?

Or my son. I was frustrated with his coach or something of that effect. And I can relate to times when maybe my boss made a decision I didn’t agree with. And then we enter into the emotion of teenagers, and then we allow God’s word to come out of that. That’s an entirely different thing than calling down my teenagers and formally sitting at a dinner table and demanding that we read God’s word together and pray together. There are moments for that, please hear me. And those are important moments.

But there’s something in the natural fiber of life that parents need to learn with teenagers. Because they’re looking for authenticity. They’re looking for honesty. They’re looking for not just the fabricated programmed Christianity—but they’re looking to see how did that really play out in your life when you were my age, and how is it playing out in your life today?

Happy family hugging
Image Credit: Getty Images/iStock/Valerii Apetroaiei

Living Out Authenticity

There were many times when I would tell my kids about the mistakes that I made when I was their age. And the consequences that followed, and maybe they didn’t follow right away, but maybe I look back now, and I understand more fully what I missed out on.

Or maybe there were the times where I sacrificed, and I made the right decision, and I stood up for the right things—and I see the fruit of that. Not only then in my life, but maybe far greater down the road.

This is the mentoring that takes place in the home. And so often we abandon that, and we abdicate that role to the church, because as parents of teenagers, we’re very unsure. We’re taking cues from their disgust or the rolling of their eyes. Or their sloughing off our answers, because we’re lame, right?

When you’re raising teenagers, of course you’re lame, right? But I’m here to tell you I’m on the other side of it. I have a 23-year-old and a 26-year-old now. And my husband and I aren’t so lame anymore. We have wisdom, so they come to us. But it was because we stayed in it with them. And when they needed a little space, of course we gave it to them.

Did we always do it right? Absolutely not. And when we didn’t do it right, my husband and I were intentional about asking for forgiveness, and saying, “We didn’t get that right. But we want to be in relationship with you, and we want to be in relationship with God. And we want to be obedient to His Word. And let’s do that together as a family.”

A Call to Parents

I’m calling for Pastors who work with youth to call out to their parents. To encourage them to be genuine and honest. To show respect to their teenagers. And to ask for forgiveness when they get it wrong, and to be a role model worth following. We can’t give away something we don’t have.

So let’s think about engaging parents in youth ministry in ways that are outside of youth ministry programs. There’s youth ministry happening in my home, and I don’t want to miss it.

7 Ways to Encourage Today's Parents as Spiritual Influencers at Home cover

Ready to help parents create an environment for spiritual growth?

Get ready to help families with their most important task, in our guide from Ministry Spark: 7 Ways to Encourage Today’s Parents as Spiritual Influencers at Home.
Free Guide
7 Ways to Encourage Today's Parents as Spiritual Influencers at Home cover

Ready to help parents create an environment for spiritual growth?

Get ready to help families with their most important task, in our guide from Ministry Spark: 7 Ways to Encourage Today’s Parents as Spiritual Influencers at Home.
Free Guide
7 Ways to Encourage Today's Parents as Spiritual Influencers at Home cover

Ready to help parents create an environment for spiritual growth?

Get ready to help families with their most important task, in our guide from Ministry Spark: 7 Ways to Encourage Today’s Parents as Spiritual Influencers at Home.
Free Guide
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  Updated on July 28, 2022

About the Author

Post Author
  • Dr. Michelle Anthony is the Pastor of Children and Parents at New Life Church. She is the author of Spiritual Parenting, The Big God Story, Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family, and 7 Family Ministry Essentials. Michelle has over 25 years of church ministry and leadership experience in children’s and family ministries and graduate degrees in Christian Education, Bible and Theology from Talbot School of Theology and Southern Seminary. In her free time, Michelle enjoys being with her family, reading a good book, and being at the beach while drinking a strong cup of coffee.

  • Your Ministry Spark Team is made of ministry volunteers, leaders, and experts who work with David C Cook. We’re passionate about helping others know, love, and follow Jesus. And, we have a big heart for those who serve the kingdom—that’s you. Together, we can do this!

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