When I was in college, I was enrolled in a course called Philosophical Foundations for Youth Ministry. In this class, students were required to formulate their philosophy for youth ministry into words. I remember at the top of my list of priorities was “relationships.” In fact, for most in ministry today, it is understood that relationships are a necessity for youth ministry. Building substantial relationships with teenagers is a basic requirement for anyone who desires to “minister to youth.” However, many serving in youth ministry today focus primarily on these relationships with teenagers and neglect ever forming substantial relationships with the parents of these teenagers.
These relationships can be built in an infinite number of ways. However, it requires one to be willing to be among parents, without a personal agenda, for as long as it takes for those parents to believe that he or she desires genuine relationship, and that he is not just looking for another volunteer for next week’s lock-in. Building these relationships with parents takes time and effort, but these relationships are equally as important as building relationships with teenagers.
More than enough research exists saying that parents play a major role in the formation of the faith of their children, whether that role is positive or negative. If this fact is truly understood by the youth minister, it should change something about his priorities. No matter what his primary strategies and priorities may be, it is most likely a fact that building and nurturing relationships with parents should be higher up.
What are some ways to build and nurture these relationships? One could take a parent to lunch, or he could make a personal visit at their home (preferably not a “surprise” visit with no warning for the parent). Personal phone calls, letters, e-mails, and texts can help with this process as well, but being physically present with parents is probably the most effective way to build and nurture genuine, substantial relationships.
Whatever the method, it is vitally important that we who serve in youth ministry clearly understand and take hold of the fact that relationships with parents deserve just as much time and effort as the relationships we build with our students. We have to evaluate our priorities and focal points and honestly discern if changes need to be made. Healthy, genuine relationships with parents will not happen overnight or by hosting the latest events and programs. However, with some time, effort, patience, and dedication, these relationships will begin to form and our youth ministries could dramatically change for the better.