What’s the classic youth group model? 1-3 cool 20-something adults and 15-30 teens. That model has had some success. We now ask ourselves, is that the model for the future? Increasingly, I think not. Frank Mercadante describes this as Youth Ministry 1.0 and he puts the best groups today as 3.0.
One issue with this model is parental involvement. This blog will focus on this aspect or it would be a book rather than a blog post. This model has no parental involvement. I’ve worked extensively with Conquest and Challenge clubs which were often run exclusively by volunteer parents. So what role should parents have?
The youth group emerged in the anti-authority 60s when you couldn’t trust anyone over 35. Now most teens list their parents as their role models they look up to; way above athletes, musicians, politicians, or actors. If teens are looking up to parents, why is youth ministry a parent-free zone? How can we be giving them THE role model, Jesus, yet ignoring the role models they already accept who are close?
We want teens to be welcomed, yet in Sticky Faith they discovered, “By far, the number one way churches made the teens in our survey feel welcomed and valued was when adults in the congregation showed an interest in them.” The more adults around showing interest in teens, the more likely they will feel someone is showing an interest in them.
In fact Sticky Faith goes further by stating forcefully: “teens who had five or more adults from the church invested in them during the ages of 15 to 18 were less likely to leave the church after high school.” Unless you have humongous young adult ministry with a high percent interesting in running youth group, most parishes won’t muster 5 non-parental adults for the whole group let alone 5 who can connect with each teen.
Service and volunteering is a huge part of turning teens from passive consumers to active apostles. The data shows you need a wide swath of adults involved to make this happen consistently. 93% of teens who were asked to volunteer by someone close, did so while only 24% without a personal invitation did so. Your own or your friend’s parents definitely qualify as someone close.
So what can parents do? I think just about anything. The more we can give to parents, the more we can focus on other things like inviting new kids, visiting schools or preparing retreats. The only rule I’d have is that you even out the “in-front-of-the-group” time between dads and moms. Teens need to see both take leadership roles. Often you’ll have more moms but they can take care of calling, car pooling, shopping, etc.
How can I get them involved? The easiest thing is invite them. Think ahead what you will invite each person to and work them up the totem pole. Even if you find someone you think could be a youth ministry leader, start them with basic tasks. If someone is involved in other ministries, you could start them part way up the pole.
In conclusion, we need to get parents more involved.