Can Youth Ministers Actually Work with Parents?

For years I always told the pastor, parent, or anyone else who asked that of course I am partnering with parents. We never want to be that youth ministry that does not work alongside parents, sense they are the primary disciple makers. However, a few years ago I realized that when it comes to working out this priority I was just giving lip service. Talking to other youth ministers I realized I was not the only one. How do the youth minister and parent practically work together to see that discipleship is actually happening in our teenagers’ lives, as opposed to working in isolation and only pretending that we are working together?

55018ce7-83c3-48ef-a922-8a40ef187ca0The following elements must be in place for the relationship between youth ministers and parents to work in reality and not just on paper.

Communicate Regularly

Yes, you already know that communication is a key to every relationship. However in my experience the youth minister normally only talks to the parent when something is wrong or when he needs a house for the youth ministry’s high-energy weekend. The youth minister and parent have to be talking on a normal basis. If nothing else it is always a good idea to clue in your parents on what you are preaching every Wednesday night or Sunday morning. When you have your sermon or lesson prepared, email, text, or Facebook message the parents to let them know what you’re teaching and give them some helpful questions so they can be prepared to discuss what they learned when they come home. Also, the youth minister needs to have regular meetings with parents to talk vision, upcoming events, and to hear from parents their questions and concerns.

Pray Together

You can either say it or actually plan it. Telling parents you are praying for them and their children is one thing, or you can actually set up a time to pray with them and for them. In our student ministry we meet with dads every other Monday morning before work to pray for them and with them. In this time we hear their concerns and join with them to lift up their children to the Father. One more summer camp alone probably won’t get your student to finally “get it.” That work comes from the Lord and especially through the parent in his or her life. Praying for your students’ parents is how you truly pray for your students’ growth.

Spend Time with Parents

As much as youth ministers want to hang out with students at high school football games or get breakfast before school, they need to initiate relationships with the parents. Ask a dad to lunch, sit by parents at a game, and invite parents over for dinner and coffee. Get to know them and have a relationship with them. This context will make things a lot easier on yourself as you communicate your vision. If this relationship does not develop it is unlikely that parents will know the youth minister’s mind and heart, and they will likely always wonder about the direction of the youth ministry.

Create Pro-Family Calendars

If you want to go beyond lip service in partnering with parents, make sure you are not overloading your ministry calendar with events. A few years ago a group of parents asked me to free up spring break from ministry events so they could actually see their children. After listening to the group I found out their schedules were so busy that they were not spending adequate time together as families. Instead of going into a speech on their schedules, meet parents halfway and help them. Lectures to parents on what they are doing wrong is not going to be productive in the end. Coming alongside them to offer solutions is the loving and proactive thing to do.

What Could Be 

What would it look like if most, even all parents supported you and prayed for you because they actually knew what you were trying to do? Your resources would have no limit. You need parents! In all your events and preaching, you will rarely get to the heart of students without knowing and spending time with their parents. They are the main disciple makers, and they can help you understand their children better than you could ever on your own. If this is not happening it is only because you have not taken the time to share your heart with the parents about the vision God gave you. You may be able to point out their weaknesses, just as quick as they point out yours. But they could use your prayer and resources more than your quick-tempered resentment.

Parents, what would it look like to know that what you teach at home is being echoed by the youth minister at church? Parents, you need the youth minister! The youth minister has real influence with your children, and he can be used to help shape and grow their minds and hearts. The youth minister will never replace you but has potential to be an important voice if you will give him your support, prayer, and time.

The youth minister and parent are each other’s best allies when they work together. If we want our students to persevere with faith after high school, having joy in Christ and not in sin, parents and youth ministers have to support and encourage each other. Discipleship starts to go deep in the teenage years, and the whole church must cooperate. What’s at stake? Only the future family of the church.

  • Luke Andrews

    As someone that served as a youth pastor for 4 years I know all about the challenges of trying to work well with parents so that the youth can grow. It is worth while, but also challenging. I really liked the points brought up here especially about praying together, and spending time together. You never want to appear as undermining the parent.

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  • John S

    One of the interesting aspects of the ‘youth group’ paradigm in the modern West is that a young man is their pastor. I understand the relatability factor, however it is a model based on relating to the youth not the parents.

    These suggestions are great, and I am among those who agree that youth ‘ministry’ should be primarily coming along side parents to help them with their responsibility, not taking it over for them. but is it an undermining factor from the start when a 25 year old single, or 30 year old with a 5 and 2 year old, is sitting down to counsel 40 or 50 something parents concerning their 3 teens? It’s not that they can’t have wisdom or can’t help, but there is something about experience that can’t be taught or bought.

    So perhaps I’m advocating for youth pastors to be older men who have been through or are in the battle of the teen years. If the primary thrust of the ministry is to help parents it makes the most sense to me. As there is no youth group in the Bible it’s a matter of preference to some degree. Having a ‘parent group’ ministry is at least as viable a way to serve the youth as having a ‘youth group’. Probably better.

    • Chet Andrews

      I am 46 years old and have been a youth pastor for 21 years and you are spot on John. When I first received my call into youth ministry, my arrogance and pride caused me to view parents as a problem and not as the primary discipler in the home (Deut 6:4-9; Eph.6:1-4). However, one bride later and 4 kids (one is a teenager) my philosophy of ministry has shifted dramatically. My desire is focused now on how to better equip parents so they can disciple their children at home. The problem is that youth pastors can’t do everything and the church must recognize that. I have to give up some temporary things in order to pursue Kingdom things.

    • Melody

      If older adults are pouring into the youth pastor then it shouldn’t be an issue. Everyone treats their roles in the church as “jobs” instead of ongoing mission that requires support and prayer from each other then it will be a problem. A guy in his twenties is close enough to his teens to still remember what it felt like. One that is living his life in a godly transparent way especially while courting a young lady he hopes to marry is great example for teens surrounded by a live for the moment culture.
      A youth minister that is teachable will listen to parents if there is something experience hasn’t taught them yet. Don’t hire someone that can’t follow to lead your children. A statement in general not to you particularly

  • HD

    This might work for the Cleaver family, but the teens in my churches have mostly alternated between unchurched parents. These kinds of parents are not “the main disciple makers”. Teens with parents in church with them (or in church anywhere)are a small minority these days.

    • Robert

      Exactly. I’m the Youth Teacher on Sunday morning at my church and out of the 20-30 we typically have each week, only about 5-8 actually have parents in the church. Several of these teens have seen the worst the world has to offer before they turned 18. Several have been involved with drugs (using and selling) another tried to kill herself as recently as 2 months ago. As HD said, these suggestions may be great in an ideal world (Or in the case of those few families where parents attend) but what about those parents who are openly antagonistic to the gospel?

      I’m very new to this and feel like Solomon; “But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” (1 Kings 3:7) So I am in desperate need of advice and prayer.

      • Lee

        Of course there is never a perfect world, but what needs to happen is the older men/couples in the church should come alongside these kids who don’t have parents who are Christians. They need to know they matter and they need to be included in other families’ activities so that they witness a broader world than what happens inside their home, which oftentimes is very dismal. Get some grandparents to ‘adopt’ these kids, get some families who do bring their teens to church to involve them in weekends, etc. Let them see functioning Christian families.

  • David Plant

    The praying section is important, even profound. “Praying for your students’ parents is how you truly pray for your students’ growth.” This applies to every student (no matter what the context). The manifold ways in which we might pray could be another article. Thanks Paul.

  • Freddy

    Thank you for this article! How timely it is for me as I sit and read this at the end of my first day in the office as a student pastor. I’ve been putting up books & assembling office furniture all day so this article was a good encouragement to me. Thankful for books & furniture but that’s not why I was hired! Amen? I will be coming back to this for sure and probably sharing with our family pastor & parents as we move forward. Thanks again!

  • Andrew Faris

    I think I agree. The trouble I have is, what the heck are other pastors on our staffs doing?

    I ran into this as I started to think about how to partner with parents with one of the pastors of adults at my church. And as I mentioned ideas about setting up more regular parent meetings, or else other forms of connection to parents (and we certainly do some!), he said something to me about how basically that was his and other pastors’ jobs.

    That sounds crass at first, perhaps, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me. If a major way that parents live as disciples of Jesus is by raising their kids in a godly way, then what are adult pastors doing with those adults if not helping them to raise kids in that way?

    Obviously it’s not an either/or: we should schedule appropriately and pray together. And in my own rather large church, part of the issue here is that we have a lot of staff members, which means a lot of particularization, where perhaps we need more collaboration between youth pastors and adult pastors on things like this.

    But the question still stands to me, and it’s relatively simple: what is a pastor adults doing if not fulfilling this role with parents?

    Andrew Faris
    God-Centered Youth Ministry

  • John Pond


    I do think the pastors as a whole share in the work of discipleship. This means growth in the person himself or herself, growth in them with their marriage, as parents, as missionaries in their respected neighborhoods and jobs. I think it is true that all pastors in the church should be working with and praying with the parents. This article is responding to the youth ministers that shy away from that, and I dont think you have to be 50 with kids to qualify in the conversation. Young Timothy was definitely young and out of place maybe with his church, but Paul pressed into him to not shy away from the responsibilities.

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  • Tait Sougstad

    Maybe someone can help me think this through: Does this not suggest that labeling a staff member “Youth Pastor” arbitrarily limit their ability to, you know, pastor? Why not simply have some kind of broader associate pastor who /shares/ the job of shepherding the individuals AND families in the church. Doesn’t having a Youth Pastor inevitably communicate to the church that discipleship normally happens outside of the family?