On Tuesdays blog, I shared a short list of things that are helpful to have ready for parents as you get ready for the start of the new school year. One of the 3 things I wrote about was using parents as volunteers within your student ministry. I wanted to come back today and talk a little bit more about how we can use parents within our ministry programs and why you might want to consider recruiting a few parents of your own!
My Philosophy for Parents in Student Ministry
Youth ministry depends on leaders who are able to connect with and love on students. Leaders who can commit their time and energy, who show up, who follow through, and who respond when needed. It's a tall order. Sometimes those leaders are parents, and sometimes they're not. Being a parent has little to do with one over all qualification for leadership. I know dozens of amazing youth workers who serve faithfully and either have no kids, or are even married. But when the occassions does rise that a parent approaches me with an interest in being a leader, I carefully consider a number of things before beginning their time of ministry.
My philosophy is simple, is God calling them to work with students or not? That's the easy question to answer. The harder questions to consider is, where and how? You see, if the parent in question has a student currently in the ministry, you need to be careful to consider the impact that mom or dad might have on their teens time in your program. Occassionly I come across parents who have incredible relationships with their teen and they (the teen) don't mind when they are around. Then there are the parents and teens that shouldn't be around each other. So here are a few things to think about.
1. Talk with both the Parent and the Student
Before anyone decides anything, have a conversation with both the parent and the student. To the parent express your appreciation that they are considering a leadership role. But take the time to explain to them the purpose and intent of the student ministry. For many of us, we would say that one of our biggest hopes is that our ministries become places of refuge for teenagers. Not so much in the area of escapism, but more as a place that they can call their own; a place that is safe, comfortable, and open for them to share honestly. That doesn't happen when parents are within ear shot. The parent needs to understand that while their desire might be to work with students, if it hinders their own childs potential growth, they might want to reconsider. But having a teen in the ministry isn't a total disquailifier. I'll get to that in a second.
To the student, you want them to give you an opportunity to be completely honest with you about having their parent as a leader. Explain to the student that your first priority is their spiritual growth and maturity and that you want to be sure that they are able to full experience everything the ministry has to offer them. Ask them to talk about their relationship with the parent in question, try to understand if this would be healthy for the home-life as well as their shared ministry time. Listen carefully and be discerning that you hear the students heart and not just the wants.
The can be a sensitive topic so aprroach each one individually. Then before you make the final decision, bring them both together and go over all the expectations together so that everything is very clear.
2. Have a Chat with Your Sr. Pastor
One of the things I have always tried to do is to keep my sr. pastor in the loop with all things youth ministry related. Recruitment of adult leaders is one of those topics that he should be most aware of. Because of the position that the pastor has, he is sometime privy to information that you as a youth worker are not. He also has the opportunity to get to know adults in a slightly different setting then you. His ability to evaluate a persons heart and motives could be very helpful to you. I have always sought the advice and counsel of my sr. pastors when considering new leaders. His insight and knowledge of people and their history has been a tremendous advantage. Without breaking confidentialities, he has been able to help steer me towards some great leaders, while cautioning me to potential problems.
3. Speak with Your Current Leadership
You leadership team can serve as a great sounding board when looking for new recruits. Because they are already invested in the ministry and onboard with your vision and strategy, they have a unique understanding and respect for you and the ministry. They can help you navigate through the recruitment process and serve as a great transitional piece as new recruits filter in. In the past, I have always tried to share our list of potential leaders with my current team. I ask for their thoughts and opinions. I see who knows who and how they feel about the gifts they might bring to the ministry. What I don't allow is for the discussion to turn into a sharing of dirty laundry. The purpose of the discussion is to evaluate their spiritual maturity and the value they might bring to the student ministry. Truth is, we all have dirty laundry, and God still chooses to use us every day.
Beyond Face to Face Ministry
Working with students doesn't just leave you with a single option of face to face ministry. There are plenty of ministry oportunity that allows for hands-on service. If through your discussions with students and parents, pastors and current leaders, you decide that working directly with students is not an option, consider some of the many ways this willing parent can serve behind the scenes.
To help yourself prepare for this moment, draw up a list of things that need to happen every week to make your programs function. Think about upcoming events or trips and make list of all that needs to be accomplish to make those things happen. Dream up the craziest, wildest hopes that you have for your ministry and make a list of what you think needs to happen to get to that point or place. Now go through those list and catergories which of this things can be done by a parent or a team of parents! You never know how some of the things you list out can be accomplished when God brings the right people to you. I have seen incredible things happen, simply because God gave me a dream or idea, I shared it with one parent who knew someone else, who knew someone else that led to the fulfillment of the idea.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! How have parents served within your ministry? Take a few minutes to respond below. Share your experiences, lesson learned, and how God worked through parents to enrich the ministry to students!