This is post six in a series of reflections on the book Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover And Love Your Church. For an introduction to the series please read part one and continue reading the reflections in part two, three , four and five.
A church that confines the involvement of young people to their youth group won’t be a church that young people or emerging adults hang around too long. The whole church needs to be a place where young people and their families can participate.
This chapter in Growing Young makes the case for churches to focus on young people and their families in everything they do. Whether it be the Sunday service, the children’s ministry, the working bee, the missions team, or the cleaning roster. In every area of church life the question to be asked is: How can young people participate?
This is not just a superficial or patronising question. Well, it’s not meant to be. It’s a question that needs to be asked by churches and ministry leaders not so more young people come to the program or event but so that young people have active involvement in leading and shaping it.
This question becomes a church culture question: How is the church thinking about the participation of young people and families in the life of the church?
“How do churches that grow young make youth and emerging adults a greater priority? When they think about budget, strategy, worship planning, programming, community life, theology, and all other aspects of church life, they think about young people. They intentionally pay attention.”
One of the most significant comments in this chapter is about the role of parents in a young person’s faith. It has been and continues to be found that “…parents still carry the most important weight in their kids’ faith development.”
This begs the question: What are we as Pastors and churches doing to encourage the parents to discuss faith within the home?
Only three days ago I was in a conversation about how churches have a big focus on children’s and youth ministries, as well as a support focus with older people, but those going through the middle season of life, the parents and adults, are basically left to there lonesome.
“Research continues to affirm that the best predictor of a young person’s faith is the faith of their parents. That means the role of ministry leaders who care about kids also must include the care, equipping, and formation of parents and families…According to pastoral leaders, when parents are intentional about faith building outside of church, overall faith maturity and vibrancy within the congregation rises even more.”
It’s a no brainer for those in children’s, youth and family ministry to begin focusing more on the parents than the kids themselves. Continue to work and have programs in these areas but begin the culture shift through encouraging and engaging parents in their role as faith-builders.
So what could this look like in the life of a youth ministry?
- Send an email or message that talks about what aspect of faith the youth ministry is focussing on at the moment.
- Give parents a few questions to help them initiate faith conversations in the home.
- Suggest a reading plan for the family to do together.
- Run an afternoon tea where all the parents are in the room and they get to chat and find support with others in the same situation.
- Start talking about how you are a church or ministry that partners with parents.
In regard to the other parts of this chapter, seeking to prioritise young people and families in the church. It might be a good time to review the ministry structure and evaluate where young people are involved and where they are not and what needs to be changed.
I have to say that this mind-shift is something that can take a bit of time. It is a cultural shift for a church focussed on a programmatic approach to children’s and youth ministry with little engagement of parents.