Ministry to families

Today, students may be parented by biological parents, single parents, parent/stepparent, a parent and adult who cohabitate, grandparents, or guardians. Some parents find themselves in the "sandwich generation" - those parenting in both directions: children and youth are still in the home and aging parents who need care may be in the house or in close proximity. Some youth come from Christian homes and others come from homes in which the students are the only family members who have a relationship with Christ. In order to reach and minister to students, you must reach the total family.

Churches today need to recognize that we no longer minister to a society dominated by traditional families. Many of your students come from non-traditional families. They may be burdened with the personal baggage of rejection and/or misguided love. These emotions can manifest themselves in how individuals interact with others or with you as you minister.

Yet, the church must realize that the inner circle of the teen's life continues to be the family. Youth ministries cannot replace the family but they can impact young lives by providing a caring environment in which teens are loved, feel secure and safe, are encouraged to reach their full potential, develop relationships, and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Here are some ways to connect with families

  • When you call the home of a student, know the first and last names of the adults who reside in the home.
  • Parents enjoy positive words concerning their children. Tell parents why you are glad their teenagers are a part of your church's ministry.
  • Parents who are divorced but still live the same town need to be placed on your mailing/contact sheets. Learn the schedule of the youth who spends alternating weekends with the other parent.
  • Recognize the stresses (financial, transportation, care for younger children) that are heightened in some non-traditional homes.
  • Recognize that you bring to families an awareness of youth culture.
  • Realize that non-churched parents may be reluctant to attend family activities. A park, restaurant, or sporting event may be more inviting.

These simple touches will strengthen the relationships you develop with your students and their families. As you minister to your students' families, you strengthen the support and foundation of your young people. You literally say through both your words and actions that you care and want to partner with parents through your student ministry.

Pamela Culbertson is a student minister with a passion for meeting the needs of the parents of the students represented in her student ministry.

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