Partnering with Parents for God’s Glory: Youth Ministry with a Mission

Ebenezer Student Ministries Mission Statement:

Our student ministry seeks to partner with parents as we disciple students for God’s glory.

Our context: partnership with parents

Seventy percent of our student ministry volunteers are parents, myself included. (My daughter enters middle school this fall.)  While I was not always cognizant of the importance of parent partnership, it has become very clear over the years that no method of ministry is more effective and biblical. The average parent spends far more time each week with his or her teenager than student ministers or volunteers ever could. Based on pure strategy, it makes sense for youth ministers to work in tandem with parents and focus a portion of our energy and effort on encouraging and edifying parents. 

But we have a far greater reason than strategy — we have the biblical rationale of Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  As a parent I have a sacred call from God to teach my children the Scriptures, and no one can replace me in this endeavor. But I sure can use help!  This is where student ministry ties in beautifully. Parents need youth ministers and volunteers who will complement a parent’s calling and support the biblical teaching that happens in the home, saying the same things a little differently.

I believe if we are not exploring ways to grow in parent partnership, we are missing something. Too many youth volunteers unknowingly present themselves as “hipper than parents,” and this perception conflicts with Scripture. God promises in Malachi 4:5-6 to send a prophet, most likely John the Baptist, who would reconcile families: “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” If strengthening the relationship between parents and children is important to God, it must be to us as youth ministers.

Our focus: discipleship of students

It has been important that our student ministry identify exactly what we are trying to do. If we don’t know what it is that we are shooting for, how will we know if we hit it? Indeed, we may even be discouraged or elated by false indicators of success, such as the number of students who are coming or the buzz that seems to be in the youth room. Don’t get me wrong — we want numbers and buzz, but neither spells success. 

We believe that our calling as a student ministry is the same calling that God gives the church: to make disciples. We are not a rogue crew seeking to do our own thing. No, we are intimately connected to what the entire church is committed to: equipping people to know and love God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our ministry may look slightly different because of the constituents, and it may be a little louder and brighter, but it can never be constitutionally different. We are all in this together — senior pastor, elder board, even facilities manager. So anything that supports discipleship may be employed. Anything that distracts should be abandoned.

Our goal:  to glorify God

This part of our mission statement has evolved as I have grown theologically. It finally hit me one day that our end goal is not even the discipleship of students. While that is our ministry focus, ultimately our heart’s desire and reason for existing is to bring much glory to God (Genesis 1:26; Isaiah 43:1,6-7; 1 Corinthians 10:31). 

Making this distinction frees us from the tyranny of guilt that oppresses us when one of our students appears to abandon the faith. We all have seen it, and in these moments we cry, “we failed!” But this is only true if the end goal is the discipleship of students. If, however, the end goal is to bring glory to God, we succeed when we faithfully point students to Jesus and teach them to cherish the Gospel.  Truth be told, the fruit of a student’s faith doesn’t hang on our shoulders as youth workers. It doesn’t even hang on a parent’s shoulders. It hangs on Jesus Christ, who succeeds where we cannot.

Practical Implications

What does this mission statement look like in our student ministry?

  • Partnering with Parents

    • Talking about partnership often enough that everyone expects it

    • Quarterly “family nights” at youth group where parents join us and are the small group leaders for their family

    • A “synergy” blog to connect parents and youth workers

    • A bi-weekly parents newsletter

    • Considering youth parents in our ministry as much as teenagers and talking to them in the hallways and ministering to their needs

    • Regular meetings with youth dads.  Strengthening a dad’s spiritual walk has exponential effect on his teenagers. 

  • Discipleship of Students 

    • Deep theological teaching each week — “Hot topics”are no substitute for teaching “the whole counsel of God’s Word” (Acts 20:27)

    • Weekly small group times at youth group to unpack the teaching practically and help adult volunteers mentor students

    • Focusing on substance and relationship, rather than hype

  • Glorifying God

    • Prayer is important for our youth volunteers and makes up most of our staff meetings. It is all for God’s glory, and nothing will happen of value unless “the Lord builds the house” (Psalm 127:1).

Mark Culton has pastored over twenty years in Pennsylvania, Indiana and now in St. Pete, Florida. He enjoys building relationships with different types of people – all with the heartbeat of making disciples who make disciples. He can be found spending time with his girls, reading, playing sports, enjoying live music, and at the beach with his family. Mark married Jen in 2001, and they have three teenage daughters (Avery, Quinn and Preslie).

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