I remember hearing a parent stress about her calendar and all the events her kids had to go to. It ranged from sports, the arts, to birthday sleep overs. I asked her, “Who is doing this to you, we must find them.” She paused and said, “I guess that would be me.” As a youth minister and parent of teens, I empathize with parents that are constantly running around. I was the youth minister that said I would not be that parent that’s always busy. As much as I can say “No” to my kids, some things are inevitable.
So, how do we get these already over-committed parents engaged in ministry?
1. Love them
2. Teach them
3. Walk with them.
Love them. First, love them for being good parents. A parent always feels unappreciated for all the work they do for their kids. I constantly hear younger youth ministers say the parents are not allowed in the youth room. Parents should never be your enemy. They should be your allies. Love them for who they are and where they are in life and they will make sure their youth attends your events.
Teach them. Many adults at church have a Confirmation education. After Confirmation in high school many adults stopped learning about their faith. This is why they freak out when you ask them to be a confirmation teacher. Each year I offer two parent and youth nights as part of our Confirmation program. They are required to attend at least one a year. These are beautiful moments to teach and give them a time and space to share their faith journey with their youth. There is no need for expensive speakers or music, although not completely a bad thing, and just keep it simple.
Walk with them. Continuing with the parent and youth night, hold a time and place for parents to relearn the basics of their faith. Remind them how beautiful their faith is and how important it was in their life. Let them have some time to share with their youth. In one of our sessions, it was a blessing to see parents pour our their heart to their youth and the youth feeling they too were being heard. It’s as simple as asking them to share their faith journey with their youth. Again, keep it simple, less than an hour with some time for mingling, and always respectful. Parents should walk away feeling you are an ally or partner in their life. If you gain the parents trust and support, you will have that same support when you ask for help with an event or financial support for a retreat.
I remember one day after Mass, I was conversing with a dad. It was his turn to watch his special needs teen son outside of Mass. I praised him for just being a good parent. He looked at me and started to cry. He said it is good to hear that once in a while. As much as it is our job to minister to youth, don’t forget to minister to their parents. They too feel alone in a parish of over 3000 plus families. You may be their only personal connection to their church.