It’s tournament time. “March Madness” is upon us. My travel and ministry schedule this month is quite busy, but I certainly plan to carve out some time to camp in front of my television to watch as many of the comebacks, last minute rallies, and buzzer-beaters as I possibly can. I’m not sure where the cliché actually came from, but at this time of year it makes sense. There undoubtedly will be some “game-changers” – some key plays that totally change the momentum of a game. It may be a long 3-pointer or a vicious slam dunk off of an alley-op, but a game’s outcome can often depend, or at least be traced back to, “one shining moment” (basketball fans will get that one), or one particular play. There are, and there will be, game-changers!
Game-Changers in Student Ministry
Little league baseball, community soccer teams, day schools, elementary schools, and even major secular universities have all learned the value of including parents in the fabric of their programming for students.
My question is this, why hasn’t the church done that?
It has been my observation that our churches tend to separate the generations. We struggle to find nursery workers and Awana leaders, and we are inclined to recruit young adults to serve as our church’s youth workers. Where are the parents?
Perhaps it’s time to change this paradigm. Maybe the church is lagging behind in a cultural trend that is totally changing our society’s basic structure right before our eyes. Let’s face it – we’re dealing with a generation of kids whose parents are totally involved in their lives; except maybe in church! Ouch.
This past summer on our Vision For Youth missions trip to New York City, we noticed students calling or texting their parents almost every hour. A friend recently told me about a Verizon survey that revealed that this year’s college freshmen receive 11 text messages each day from their parents. Yes, today’s parents are certainly hands-on.
Friends, the church ought to be leading the way on this – not culture. Christians are the ones with the Biblical mandates to make families and parenting a top priority. (See Ephesians 6, Colossians 3, Deuteronomy 6, and Psalm 78 for examples.) So, why do we separate parents from their kids so often in the church?
Please understand that I am a fan of peer ministry. I have been an active proponent and advocate of church youth ministry for over 35 years. I am NOT campaigning for churches to do away with children’s or youth ministry! I believe whole-heartedly in the importance of those disciplines. However, to effectively and ultimately make a life-changing impact on many of today’s students, we may need to include their parents more in our thinking and planning.
On the other side of this issue, I must admit that I’ve been in youth ministry long enough to understand the issues and pressures of involving parents in our ministries. I am also a parent and I understand parental fears, biases, opinions, and their tendency to overly protect their kids. I get it; I really do. But, this issue can be a game changer – and we need to figure it out in a balanced and Biblical manner.
Your thoughts? How are you involving parents in your church’s ministry to students?