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How to Serve Parents in Youth Ministry


There is a correlation between the faith importance of parents and the faith importance of young adults, according to Christian Smith and Melina Lundquist Denton in their book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. The research has been at the forefront of my mind since the day it was published.

Circled around a conference table, Christian, myself and a handful of incredible junior high youth ministry leaders across the United States gathered to wrestle with data that overwhelmingly suggests that the strongest variable in a teenagers spirituality was a parent or parents who had a high faith importance throughout their adolescence.

Our conversations shifted back and forth.
Should we be focusing more on parent ministry?
Is what we’re currently doing enough?
In those moments when we have shifted to parent focused youth ministry, did it make a difference?
Do parents want to be ministered to?

We’d follow the rich rabbit trail of discussion with Christian interjecting his thoughts.
It ranks for me one of the top five most stimulating and practical conversations on youth ministry I’ve experienced.
At the same time, I walked away wondering how this sorts itself out in my ministry.
I think we all did.
I think we’re all still sorting it out.

In an ideal situation, we’d be the “vitamin” and the parents would be the “meal” in spiritual and life formation/ development.

But this isn’t always the case. We stand in the gap in many cases where this isn’t possible.
What I’m learning is that prayer is the infrastructure of that bridge.

Not every teenager we journey with has a home, a parent, a functional living environment. And even some of those that are present, participatory and prepared for raising teenagers may still lack spiritual depth and leadership that a child needs during his or her most formative years. Parents need help.
I know, because I need help.

There are many levels of ministering to parents.
Both spontaneous and planned.

I used to think that the more I planned to minister to parents, the more parents would be ministered to. Now I know that God does the ministering and I’m the catalyst for ministry.

On being a catalyst…well, one has to be open and ready to be used in all sorts of ways. We find ourselves yielding to God’s leading because God knows what each parent needs in each of their unique situations. We don’t know what they need in the intimate ways God does.

That’s why we pray.
In prayer, we wait.
In the stillness, we receive.
Maybe a thought that lingers longer than most.
An impression.
A nudge…
An ability to understand or to put pieces together.
A next step…
A peace.

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Brooklyn recently founded The Justice Movement, a church youth movement that helps teenagers help others. Her priority is to inspire and resource youth to break cycles of poverty through faith in action. An ordained pastor, Brooklyn has served in full time youth ministry for the last 16 years, authored numerous books, contributes and communicates for Orange Leaders, and speaks at camps and conferences. She, her husband Coy, and daughters Kirra and Mya live in Lakeland, FL where they like being outside, playing with their dog Marley. www.brooklynlindsey.com @brooklynlindsey/ www.justicemovement.com @thejustmove