These days, there is a lot of talk about how youth ministries can become more family-friendly. If we want to help families’ succeed and thrive, our ministries must think of practical ways that clearly send the message, “we care about you.”
Here are five practical ideas:
1. OVER-COMMUNICATE. Life is busy in the home! Teenagers have a lot going on in their lives and parents have an incredible task attempting to balance all the different demands on their family’s time. Make the commitment to help your families and clearly communicate with your parents. Make it a goal to try to over-communicate. Let them know about upcoming events in advance (not the week the event happens!), content that’ll you’ll teaching on, ministry successes, changes, costs, activities, etc. Your communication doesn’t have to be long, but it should be consistent and clear and speaks to the parents’ world. Learning how to plan well will make this much easier.
2. SPEAK HIGHLY OF PARENTS. We’re on the “same side” with parents, so make sure to take every opportunity to speak highly of them when you’re around teenagers. Resist the urge to join in when a teenager is verbally bashing his/her parents. Rookie youth workers may try to “build a bridge” with a teenager by trashing parents (i.e. “parents just don’t understand”), but it doesn’t work long-term. Keep your integrity and speak highly of parents.
3. SPEAK HIGHLY OF THEIR KIDS. Affirmation is a great gift to a parent! Each time you see a parent, try to pass on some time of verbal encouragement about their son/daughter. Parents love to hear great things about their kids and when it comes from someone who knows them and really cares about them, the affirmation is even more powerful. There are few things more rewarding to parents than hearing good words about their kids. This is a powerful gift that doesn’t cost you anything.
4. END YOUR PROGRAMS ON TIME. If you’re going to have teenagers out on a school night, get them home early. To do this, you’ll have to end your program on time. I already know your resistance: “Yeah right… what if the Spirit is moving?”
That’s a fair question! I’m not sure there’s one right answer but here’s a few thoughts: (1) Keeping parents waiting in the car can lead to all that Spirit leading to be “undone” by an angry parent. It’s not a big deal of you end late once-in-a-while, but I’d make a conscious effort to not make it a regular habit. (2) I think Jesus can continue working in that student’s life once he/she leaves your program.
The big picture principle is that you don’t want parents sitting in the parking lot wasting their time (this applies to all events–not just weekly meetings), and most parents care deeply that their kid gets home with time for homework and a good night’s sleep.
5. COUNT THE COST. It’s expensive to run a family! Being family-friendly means you are sensitive to how youth ministry costs will impact a family—especially families with multiple kids. I realize everything can’t be free and that car washes were created by the devil, but anything you can do to design events/activities that don’t require parents to take out loans will be a gift to the family.