If you and I expect that our students will move into the next steps of discipleship, holiness and life, then we need to invite their parents into the same. Odds are you are already doing something to try and connect with your students families through weekly communication, volunteer activities, or parent informational nights. These are important pieces of your student ministry, but do not generally invite parents into faith or engage the home to be a place of God’s kingdom. Here are three simple ways to begin engaging the family that you can do right now.
1. The Note.
Every week, maybe even twice a week, you connect in powerful and intentional ways with students. You pray, read, write, and plan. You and I know that students don’t jump in their parents car and exclaim with joy the gospel you proclaimed. A simple way to share the gospel message with those parents, and maybe create some ongoing conversation is with The Note.
After you have prepared your teaching or small group discussion for the night, it takes 3 steps to write the note: write a summary of the teaching, 3-5 sentences; write 2-4 questions about the scripture and summary for a parent to ask (themselves and their student), write a simple prayer for their home.
Now, send it as an email to all the parents! I usually use a format that is very similar to the Seedbed Daily Text. Scripture, Summary, Questions, Prayer. In the 20 minutes to write a summary and questions and 5 minutes to schedule the email ahead of time you are engaging the family in discipleship conversations.
2. The Dinner.
You have the perfect opportunity to have dinner with parents of your students each time you have an overnight event (retreat, mission trip, lock-in, etc). Parents bring their students to the church, usually right around dinner time. This is your opportunity! While you are registering students for the event, register parents for a dinner that begins immediately after the students drive-off. You can incorporate the cost of the dinner in your event, or charge $5 at the door. Make sure to make it a children friendly dinner or coordinate to have child/nursery care.
The goal of the dinner is not only to meet the parents, but to share with them the summary and key take-away’s that the students will receive on the event SO THAT the parents can be prepared to support and follow up effectively. If your retreat is about the Holy Spirit, give a 5-7 minute overview during dinner, then distribute a card with 3-5 questions that parents can ask their students. Provide examples of how parents can prepare this weekend to invite the Holy Spirit into their home.
Right now you are thinking, wait, how do I do this if I am with my students! Didn’t I drive off with them?! There are several ways to staff this: you can go with students and leave a trusted adult leader to facilitate the dinner; you can go with students and schedule with your pastor to facilitate the dinner; or, my favorite, you can stay with the parents and have trained leaders with your students until you catch up with them after the dinner.
Lastly, on the day after the retreat, send an email to the parents with the key take-away’s and example questions encouraging them to make their home a place of the Holy Spirit.
The dinner takes 20 minutes of writing a summary with questions, 5 minutes to order food, and 30 minutes of preparing leaders how to lead without you for travel and arrival. In less than an hour of preparation, you are going to begin impacting the home of your student.
3. The Whole Enchilada.
So this one may not be super simple to do, but the idea is simple. Take any long-running study or activity (think a Bible study like Resemble or Confirmation), and make it a whole family ministry. I love Confirmation for this.
In your invitation to students for confirmation, edit it to make it an invite to the student and their parents. As part of the expectations for confirmation (schedule of classes, homework, etc) include the expectation that at least one parent is present for each class and that each week the family with work through a time of scripture and prayer that you will provide.
In the confirmation class times, seat students with students, and parents with parents. Prepare your teaching with both groups in mind. After the teaching, give the student group and parent group (you may need multiple groups of each depending on how large your confirmation class is) a time of discussion. This discussion time should cover the basics of your teaching and also train them how to read scripture and pray together in preparation for what they will do at home. End each class by giving scripture and a few questions for the family to do at home. I use Creed for this part of our confirmation class. In class the groups go through one day and are assigned a different day to do at home.
While this sounds like it may be a big shift, the most challenging part is at the beginning, inviting and expecting parents to participate. This is a great place of cooperation and shared ministry with your pastor, so that you can do this as a team, and not as some crazy youth worker.
As far as time goes, it should take about 30 minutes to edit your letter to clearly state the expectation of family involvement, an additional 20 minutes of time to make your teaching and discussions relevant to both students and parents, starting with a 10 minute conversation to gain your pastor’s support. In about an hour of initial work, you will have a whole enchilada, or season, of family ministry.
These are just three ideas. They do not constitute a comprehensive family ministry. But it is a start, and for many youth ministries, doing even one of these will be an increase in how they are inviting students, parents, and homes into the Kingdom.
Image attribution: Ingram Publishing / Thinkstock