Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Importance of Family Ministry

Family ministry, if you follow youth ministry trends, is trending now. I think that this is well warranted too! I had an interaction that forever changed my views on this subject.

I had a young woman in my youth ministry that was graduating high school and was about to make the big transition to college. We had a time honored tradition of honoring the graduates at the church with a special service and since I had been youth pastor there we had a funny and moving slideshow of pictures of the graduating youth throughout their life. Like years past I assembled a great slide show, this teen was particularly close to my wife (a volunteer in the youth ministry) and we purchased her some special gifts to present her with. It appeared like this event was going to be our best ever, I even imagined the older folks of the church that knew her needing tissues for their tears. Was I ever wrong!

The problem started with the timing.  The church had always done the slideshow and presentation first, before the main worship service started. The teen’s mother called her and stated she was on her way but running late. The church was pressing me to get started. I asked the young woman what she wanted to do and due to the fact that she was mad at her mother for being late she told me to start. Unfortunately I did. I told myself, “Well she knew what time we were starting. She knew to be here.”

The mother showed up half way into the sermon and left as fast as she got there. A member of the church told me she was sitting in the lobby and wondered if I would speak to her. I went out and was ill prepared for the emotions I faced in the ensuing conversation with her. Past hurts and scars caused by other churches and our own church rose up and I attempted to unpack them and counsel her.

That day I learned that if I had been as diligent about caring for my youth’s parents I would have already dealt with this situation before it ever happened. I just assumed that was the lead pastor’s job not mine. My job description included hours of Halo, countless Hacky sack games, and meaningful moments with teens, not parents.

We forget sometimes as youth pastors, God does not call us to be the primary discipler of teens. He calls their parents to raise them in the faith. I want to HIGHLY recommend a book to you. “Reinventing Youth Ministry: Again” by Wayne Rice is a TREMENDOUS book on how to do family ministry and why to do family ministry in youth ministry. I won’t unpack or quote the book here to keep this as short as possible but this is a must read.

My first priority after establishing myself with the teens in my new church is getting a parents ministry up and running. I want to know whose parents go to our church, whose parents are divorced, whose parents are not Christian and have ill feelings toward the church, and whose parents need to be encouraged and strengthened in their role as discipler. I want to take the parents on this youth ministry journey with their teens, I want them to know what rofl and lol and smh mean. Why it’s important to know what Lady Gaga is doing now and how it will affect their child.

If you currently do not have a form of family ministry as part of your youth ministry I want to encourage you. It’s not too late to start! I will also plead with you, start one now, before you have an experience like mine and are left with the devastation of a parent’s broken heart to deal with. Until next time peeps, just keep swimming!

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