Youth ministry: looking after families
Part 3 of 'How to start a youth ministry from scratch'.
So far in this series on Starting a youth ministry from scratch, we have chosen a Bible Focus youth ministry model (part 1), and recruited the right leaders with systems in place to look after them (part 2). If you've come with us this far, then here is step 3: look after your families!
If you’re wondering why this is the next step, it’s because this type of ministry (in fact, all youth ministry) is based on these 3 foundations:
1. Young people are people
You don’t do youth ministry because you have a passion ('a heart for') young people, but because you have a passion for all people. Youth is a temporary phase of life and we must love people regardless of age: children, adolescents and adults. Youth ministry begins much earlier than adolescence and endures far beyond the teenage years.
2. Young people come with families
Your focus is too narrow if you think that youth ministry is just about teaching and engaging with young people. Ministry to young people must include ministry to their parents and the family unit as a whole in whatever form it comes (eg. single-parent family, foster family, adopted family, etc.).
3. Parents are more important than youth leaders
The youth minister/leader does not replace the parents' role of raising children in the Christian faith - as if the teaching and instruction of children is sub-contracted to the youth minister/leader. The role of the youth minister/leader is to partner with parents and aid them in their responsibilities by modelling godly living, teaching the Bible and training young people to act right. This even applies to young people with non-christian parents who - even though they’re obviously not raising their children in the Christian faith - are still responsible for it, something that by the grace of God they will come to an understanding of as they hear the gospel (ironically, probably through their children).
This is why looking after the families of your young people is the next step before anything else.
5 ways to care for the families of young people
- Each term, give the parents a version of your term program that outlines the basics: what you’re teaching, what you’re doing, where you’re doing it and when. They should know what they’re sending their kids to.
- Each term, if the group is small enough and you’ve got the time, hand deliver the programs to the parents and have a chat.
- Communicate directly with the parents. A tip I learnt early on is to address anything sent by mail to the parents and not the young person. Young people sometimes forget to pass on things to their parents (ever seen a teenager leave a note from school in their bag? Ah ha). Send it to the parents and they can pass on the info to the kids. If you’re doing a Facebook group for your youth ministry then add the parents into that group as well.
- Don’t overload your program with events - 2 extra social activities a term is plenty on top of your weekly youth group gathering.
- Work out a system to keep track of your young people. Make a database and implement a system e.g. if they miss 2 weeks send them a “we missed you” postcard.
Next week we'll take a look at some good ideas for structuring an enjoyable, Bible-focused youth group meeting.