Parents… they are either a youth minister’s biggest blessing or biggest struggle. I am sure that there are some parents you would clone (if the Catholic Church allowed cloning) and some parents that… well… you wouldn’t. As a youth minister, I spent more than my fair share of time either praising or bemoaning parents. As a movement of the Holy Spirit, Life Teen has been called to rethink our approach towards parents in the past couple of years. They are the “first and best” teachers of the faith. They can be our best supporters and advocates. Our ministry should be geared to helping them lead their teens closer to Christ.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yet we all know that the theory and the reality of working with parents can feel light years apart. So how do we help parents become the primary catechists of their children? How do we involve them in the youth ministry program, while still giving teens the space to claim ownership in their faith? How do we provide opportunities for parents to grow in their own faith, and in turn, strengthen the faith of their families? These are just a few of the questions that we will tackle during our breakout session at the Life Teen Training Convention this June. We hope that you will be able to join us there. But in the meantime, here are a few ideas to involve parents in the wonderful world of youth ministry:
- Host a Parent Retreat. We know that our teens often have major conversions and transformations on retreats; why would we not want our parents to experience the same? The good news is that this is not just another retreat you as youth minister have to plan. A good parent retreat is truly a team effort. One of the new resources that will be released at the Training Convention is a resource called Alive Again: a Parent Life Retreat Resource. This book will give you (and the retreat planning team) the basics of putting on a retreat for parents as well as a full weekend parent retreat outline.
- Send Recap from Life Nights or Edge Nights. In both the Life Teen Curriculum Guides and the Edge Semester Planning Guides we now include a short summary of each night to send to parents. This includes discussion-starting questions for parents to use with their children. Send this email (along with a few Scripture and Catechism references) to the parents via email immediately after the Life Night or Edge Night concludes.
- Quarterly Parent Gatherings. Start each new semester with a parent meeting. This should not just be about filling out paperwork and passing out calendars. This meeting should be filled with prayer, encouragement and fellowship. If possible, have someone give a short presentation on Catholic parenting or on the topic of the upcoming semester. Make these meetings worth your time and theirs.
- Parent Appreciation. How do you thank the parents? Not just the parents who do everything for youth ministry, but how do you thank the parents who simply bring their young people to Edge Night every week? Get creative about affirmation and appreciation. End of the school year is a great time to invite parents to a Life Night or Edge Night to thank them for their service and ministry. Have the teens commit to praying for their own parents as well as the parents of the program. Send parents a DVD with a picture and/or video recap of the year. As you honor the graduate, make sure to honor their parents as well!
I know that these ideas are just the tip of the parental iceberg. As we get closer to the Life Teen Training Convention, we would LOVE to hear your ideas and thoughts about parents. Please post a comment below.