In preparation for tomorrow’s Youth Ministry Conversation with Tim Schmoyer on the topic of parental involvement in the lives of their teenagers I thought I would jot down some of my own thoughts on this subject. This was a topic that Tim had put up for an idea to post a while back and now seemed like the right time.
My first thought is tied to the Word of God in the book of Dueteronomy 6 beginning in verse 4 and going through 9
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
This is a portion of Scripture referred to as the Shema. It is a prayer that is read through two times daily in the life of Jewish prayer services. It also serves as a great reminder of whose role it is to disciple teenagers. Parents remain the Scriptural leaders of their homes and therefore need to be greatly involved in the lives of their teenagers.
This passage of Scripture gives many different scenarios in our daily comings and goings where we should be talking with our children about God. It is not just enough to talk about it but also for parents to model this lifestyle. While the importance of parental involvement is spoken of in the Bible it is echoed in today’s society. Of the more than 250,000 teenagers surveyed by USA Weekend 70% identified their parents as the most important influence in their lives.
I believe that one of the most important roles that I can play as a youth pastor is that of a parent-discipler. Yes, the time that I spend with teenagers directly is valuable. But understanding that the influence a parent has on a teenager greatly overshadows my influence makes me that much more cognizant of where I need to be focusing my energy.
When I identify that the vast majority of students I work with have parents who are not mature Christian adults themselves I see where I must work the hardest. From issues of common-sense parenting to spiritual growth, I need to do whatever I can to help equip parents with the tools they need to grow. If I can mentor parents I know that the cycle will recur with parents mentoring their teenagers. Whatever I can do to communicate the importance to parents of this is what I will do. The major role that I play is in setting expectation levels for parents and teenagers. Children generally live according to our expectations of them. If I can help parents understand and form healthy spiritual expectations for their teenagers I have done my job.
George Barna has done some research in the area of family and faith and found that 85% of parents with children under the age of 13 believe they have the primary responsibility of teaching their children about spiritual matters, and 96 % believe they have the primary responsibility of teaching their children values. However, the majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing spiritual matters with their children.
Questions that can be asked of parents in regards to how they model their faith:
- Do you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?
- Do you seek first His kingdom?
- Do you spend regular time with God?
- Do you view your children as gifts from God?
- Are you encouraging your children?
- Are you spending sufficient time with your children?
- Are you a good steward of the gifts, opportunities, and resources God has entrusted to you?
- What is your involvement in caring and serving others?
These questions help me shape the approach that I can take with them as we talk more about how they can best be discipled. One thing that I have learned over the last 9 years of being a parent myself is that there are things in our life that matter most. My relationship with God, My relationship with my family – those are the things that come first. Whatever I can do to help parents reprioritize their lives to focus on involvement with the teenagers will pay off tremendously in the future legacy of each family that I can be involved in.
On a practical note, in our student ministry we find many ways to connect parents in volunteering within the student ministry. Whether they serve as small group leaders, serve food at our meal times, prepare desserts to serve after our small groups, help us set up and clean up at Impact, or even prepare mailings for upcoming events – we understand that parents can be some of the best leaders that we have in our student ministry because they have a great interest in the spiritual lives of the teenagers.