the crisis in youth ministry: part 1

for awhile now some of the best thinkers in youth ministry have been saying youth ministry is in crisis. what we in youth ministry have been doing is not working as is evidenced by the number of kids who graduate from high school and youth group, leaving their faith behind as they move on to college and careers.

i’ve been pondering all of this for a while wondering what i can do as a volunteer and a small group leader. how can i make a difference for the girls i see every week? i’ve come up with 5 things that i’ll share in this space over the next few days. it’ll be a 4 part series as two of the items link together. and i’m going to write from my perspective as a volunteer small group leader. i do think that each of these items translate up to a youth group as a whole.

to lead off, we must as youth workers do better at supporting, encouraging, and engaging parents. we need to make an effort to meet & get to know the parents of the kids in our small groups.

as a volunteer, it is easy to skip engaging parents and leave that up to the paid staff person. but over the years i’ve learned that getting to know the parents and family situations of the girls in my group makes a difference in understanding the girls and their needs. i also realize that ideally parents are meant to be the primary disciplers of their kids. and if we get to know the parents, we can encourage and support them in that role. i’m fortunate to serve at church that believes part of youth ministry involves engaging and equipping parents. each year our youth ministry hosts a training seminar for parents, something i think all youth ministries should be doing.

here are a few ideas to connect with and serve parents:

  • greet parents when they drop off and/or pick up their child for small group.
  • email or send home a letter introducing yourself (and your co-leaders) to the parents of kids in your group.
  • gather parent emails and email them the schedule for your group.
  • create a blog or newsletter with info for parents (great resource is the center for parent/youth understanding)
  • host a small group family night (yes your students will roll their eyes, but they’ll get over it)
  • host a parent seminar (homeword ministries and center for parent/youth understanding both offer package deals to make it easy to host a parenting event)

reaching out to parents is key to helping students build a lifelong faith. as youth workers, we only have students for a few hours a week. anything we can do to help parents can only benefit the kids we serve.

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2 Responses to “the crisis in youth ministry: part 1”


  1. 1 Phlipside 12 January, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I think this is a great point. The difficulty may be in getting the parents to “play along”. They’re accustomed to just dropping off the kids at sports or class or whatever. The idea that we want to talk with them may sound like a “trap” to get them involved in things. While most youth ministries I know could certainly use at least a few more involved adults we need to be able to just find a space where we can share the journey together as friends and companions to them as well as their kids.

    • 2 miniloo 12 January, 2010 at 11:55 am

      true, we do need to find a non-threatening way to connect. in most activities kids are involved in, there are 2 components-the practice/rehearsal and the game/performance. while parents are often not involved in the practice/rehearsal, most show up to support their child during the game/performance. in youth ministry, there really isn’t a game/performance equivalent for which a parent can show up. it’s part of what underscores the need for the youth worker to make the first steps in building the relationship with parents and demonstrating our support for them.


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