The joke among the parish staff was that the youth minister’s office has been relocated to the local Starbucks. While I was at the parish more than I was at Starbucks, it was noticeable that I spent time there every week. Not because of some crazed caffeine-addiction, but because it was the place for me to meet with teens, do Confirmation interviews and it was the spot to catch up with parents of the teens in our programs.
Armed with my cup of coffee, laptop and Bible, I’d set myself up in a visible location and work while I watched parent after parent come in on their way to work, after workouts, on their way to volunteer somewhere or to meet up with a friend. A couple of inviting smiles and hellos later, the extra chair at my table became a revolving seat for parents who started a conversation with “Oh since you are here, I was going to call (email, stop by, etc) but now I’ll just ask instead.” Questions would range from the details of an event or project (do they need a sleeping bag? Did I get all the forms filled out?), to the deeper questions about our faith, and then moved into deeper discussions about the challenges of raising teens, especially Catholic teens in today’s world.
Parents are the primary catechists for their children. As a church, we honor that role and respect it. We supplement and encourage their work by offering religious education classes, family activities, sacramental preparation and community activities. In youth ministry, we support parents by communicating topics discussed at Life Nights, inviting them to pray and support the ministry and, if possible, offering parent nights or a parent ministry. Comprehensive youth ministry MUST support parents in their role as primary catechists. It is not an option.
As a youth minister, your role is not just to lead teens closer to Christ, but to support whole families on their faith journey as well. Whether it’s listening to a parent’s concerns about activities or answering their own questions about the faith, you minister to adults as well as teens. Parents need our support and encouragement to be examples of faith for their children. From the parent who wants to attend every event to the parent who hasn’t been to church in years to the parent who tirelessly supports your ministry, all parents need our loving support and encouragement as they raise their teens. Listen to them, answer their questions, communicate what is happening in your programs, provide them information and resources and pray for them and with them.
Our relational ministry with teens should extend to the parents of the young people as well. We need to communicate with parents often, challenging and affirming them in their role.
Last June we introduced Parent Life, a ministry for the parents of middle school youth and high school teens. In a desire to support and encourage parents, we are proud to introduce a brand new book specifically for Catholic parents. Rocking the Cradle Catholic by Mary Moore give real world insights and ideas for raising little saints in a lukewarm culture. This book would serve as a fantastic book study for Parent Life groups or a gift for the parent volunteers in your program.