Middle School

Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.


If I were to give our parent ministry at Saddleback a grade, it would have to be a “C”. I’m sure we go about it better than we could, but not nearly as well as we should, or as well as we are capable of given our manpower and resources.

For years I’ve said about larger churches that at a certain point, they have the resources to do whatever they choose to do…a particular ministry focus (or lack of) isn’t a resource issue, it’s a priority issue. So, I have to hold myself to that same standard: Simply put, the reason our parent ministry is average is because we have put an average amount of effort into it. But that’s about to change. In both our high school and junior high ministries, we are cranking up our efforts to minister to the parents of teenagers in our church and, hopefully, our community.

I’m noodling on all sorts of ideas….here are some of them in no particular order:

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– A “mantra” that declares: “We partner with parents and try to provide them with hope and help as they raise their teenagers.”

– A “Parent Hub” website that consists of: book recommendations, articles, follow-up questions they can ask about the weekend lessons, basic “how to” tips and tricks, links to other parent ministries, blogs etc.

– A “Been There, Done That” ministry: This ministry would be made up of parents who have already navigated troubled waters with their teenagers and are willing to encourage another set of parents going through the same thing: We can match up parents who had a child get caught up in the party scene meet for coffee with a set of parents whose child is doing the same thing. A parent who had a child run away meets with a couple with a child threatening to do the same thing. A set of parents who had a teenager go through a serious illness meets with a similar couple….etc.

– Parent Newsletter: This would be short, sweet and simple….but sent out every week. Mostly pointing them to the website for current information.

– A (very) occasional parent workshop….twice a year.

– The usual social media stuff like twitter, instagram, text message subscription etc. that some of the younger parents will utilize

– A person from each team who has parents as a primary part of their job description…not just an “add on” to everybody’s that nobody really pays attention to. To ensure at least SOME of the above ideas become a reality!

How would you grade your ministry to parents? Do you have something that is working really well for you? Would you be willing to share it with the rest of us?

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  • Love the ideas. We’re already trying to do some of this. We have a page on our website just for parents – forms, resources (although I am slow to find and get many up), etc.; a weekly update that goes over what small groups discussed on Sunday mornings and includes several questions they can use to follow-up and use as a catalyst for further discussion and also includes some resources, articles, what’s going on that week, etc.; a monthly newsletter (Group’s ParentLink); an annual Parent Meeting in September; and we’ve done Dinners-4-10 where every other week we invited 4 sets of parents to have dinner with my wife and me (haven’t done those in a few years, probably bring them back next year).

  • Mike Liebler says:

    For the “Parent Hub” I would recommend The Youth culture Report Daily News Site.
    ( http://theyouthculturereport.com/ ) It is a very helpful resource for parents and youth workers.


  • markeades says:

    We are spending a ton of “thought process” time on this. We have a lot that Rich talked about and other things as well. One of the big questions that I’m processing is: how much of the information we send to parents do they actually read it or gets lost in all the other stuff that is sent to them? I want to give resources to the parents that would be useful for them and not just more stuff for them to deal with.

  • KJ says:

    Thanks for the tip!

    I worry that most of the stuff gets overlooked and lost in shuffle. The question is, is it better to have lots of hooks in the water…hoping something catches their eye, or only do one or two things but do them well?

    Not sure where I land…

  • I am horrible at this as well. I would give our ministry a “C-” at best. Sometimes when I work in youth ministry I feel like I am fighting Medusa or something. I like those ideas and the simplicity that goes with them. I especially loved the “been there, done that” group.

  • Nate Sallee says:

    Great Stuff Kurt!! A couple of them have crossed my team’s mind as well and it’s encouraging we aren’t the only ones looking at that. The “Been there, Done That” has big potential!

  • Nate Sallee says:

    Overall we’re decent at it, definitely on the right track moving forward. I sometimes over recruit for adults to come to conferences such as CIY Believe to have them experience a special time with their kid.

  • markeades says:

    Nate’s CIY Believe thought made me think about the idea of inviting parents to come with their kids to an event like Believe but then the whole “I don’t want my parents with me” issue comes into play – how do we encourage that kind of interaction while being senstive to the kids wanting to do things without their parents?

  • John Nichols says:

    Our church is in a transition season as we are moving into our first building next month. We do a variety of “Bits and pieces” parent ministry currently, but come fall of this year we will be rolling out church wide a new “family ministry” strategy. This strategy is some philosophical & culture changes we want to begin to focus our parents on and some programatic changes.

    Here is some very brief info:

    – Begun communicating D6 mindset and that as the church we are here to “partner” with you as parents and the home in the spiritual formation of children/students. *This has been huge in setting the framework for refocusing the culture of our people.

    – Communicating to parents what we will be teaching children/students before we teach it. This is to give them the opportunity to introduce topics to their children in a personal way and to shepherd them. Then as “partners” we do the follow-up teaching to reinforce what’s happening in the home. *Old way is to briefly inform parents, then teach kids, then send the follow up home afterwards. These two styles say something very different.

    – Consistent monthly communication that casts vision and provides information along with intentional things to help parents connect Christ to the daily rhythm of students lives.

    – Parent Advisory Boards: This is not my favorite name, but essentially these are hand picked parents (about 5-10) that I invite to come meet with me and give me insight into their teens, culture, struggles as a parent, etc.
    * This is huge for them to feel heard and for me to build relational credit with them. It is clearly stated that this is not about what specific events, programs, or messages we will do, but more of communicating about how we can guide our students towards being in a fully engaged relationship with Jesus.

    Those are thoughts and I’ll share more as we get through the next month. Of course I’m always excited to talk about this subject so if you want to chat let me know. Take care, John

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