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Fill Their Cups: 5 Easy Ways to Empower Parents

After more than two decades in youth ministry, I’m honestly still trying to figure out my job on a daily basis. That isn’t insecurity speaking; it’s a youth pastor admitting I’ll never be perfect at my job-slash-ministry. Pair that with today’s ever-changing culture, and just when I start getting good at something, it changes or becomes obsolete.

The toughest part of youth ministry might be empowering parents to win at being parents—partly because so much else is on our plates. After spending time absorbed in meetings, office hours, and administrative tasks, naturally we want to offer whatever’s left to our teenagers and staff. Yet parents need our support, too.

During certain seasons, I’ve thought, “I have a youth ministry degree, not a parenting degree. I’ve focused so much on being a youth expert that I’m completely unqualified to help parents with their role. Plus, I’m not sure that’s even part of my job description!” You might be in a season like that right now.

When I just don’t know what to offer or what I have to offer, I remember this quote from Andy Stanley: “I don’t have the ability to fill anyone’s cup; I do have the ability to empty my cup for someone else.” It’s a great reminder of this important truth: I don’t need to know everything. Instead, Jesus empowers me to do something in areas where I’d been doing little to nothing.

These five ideas will help you get started:

  1. Share information about culture and trends. What are you learning about slang, social media, and teenage cultural trends? Do some research and pass it on to parents. Share the information via email, or post some web links on a parent Facebook page.
  2. Provide plenty of parenting resources. List some helpful blogs, books, and websites in an easy-to-find spot on your ministry’s website. You won’t need to update that information very often.
  3. Offer workshops or video training that provides digital interaction. Use the camera on your phone, make sure you have decent audio, shoot in good light, and add the (short) video on all your social media accounts. This makes the content more accessible to more parents.
  4. Have an open-door policy and post your office hours. Invite parents to stop by at certain regular dates and times. Encourage them to schedule a meeting with you to talk about anything. Tell parents you’ll be at a coffee shop for two hours on a specific day. Make yourself available for face-to-face interaction with the people who can make your job a joy.
  5. Offer plenty of encouragement. Regardless of what parents may think, they’re the main influence on their teenagers’ lives. Love them and help them win at parenting. As a parent, I’d love to hear my preteen’s youth pastor tell me, “Brandon, your son is really (fill in the blank with good news), and I can tell he learned that from you.” Let parents know specific areas where they’re succeeding, not just stuff you think they need to fix.

These ideas aren’t exhaustive; they’re just all I know right now. Lead parents like this blog post is leading you. I’m emptying my cup. Now go empty yours.

Pro Tip: Don’t attempt this on your own! Which leaders or volunteers on your team can offer valuable insights to parents? Let them empty their cups, too, so others can benefit.

2 thoughts on “Fill Their Cups: 5 Easy Ways to Empower Parents

  1. in your experience, what is the best way to sort of “start from scratch” with a group of parents that are historically very disconnected from the youth ministry and the church as a whole? The majority of the parents in my ministry attend church, and then drop their students off and wait for them in the car when were done…i feel like its worse than pulling teeth to get them to even cone in the door to let us have a conversation with them. i love some of these suggestions, but i dont even know where to begin.

    • BJ,
      This seems like a bit of an upward battle but your teens are worth it!

      You said, “historically very disconnected from the youth ministry and the church as a whole”
      I say, “Work hard to give them something worth coming to.” Look back at the list in the above post. You could start with #5, people love to be loved. Win them over.

      Do you do Sunday school or have a youth Sunday service? One idea to get parents in the door might be to host a family Sunday school once a quarter. We did that today and had 5x the attendance (we call it Parent Connect). Parents enjoy seeing what we are offering their students and they get to experience that moment with their teen(s) and other families. It is not a time to preach at parents (so students feel like you are on their side), it is not a time to preach at students to show parents you are on their side. Just teach a message that everyone in the room will benefit from. That experience bonds families together and earns our ministry points with parents.

      Hope that helps.

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Fill Their Cups: 5 Easy Ways to Empow...

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