Youth Work 1-C: Organization and the Family-Parents
[To read the introductory post on this topic, as much of this advice builds upon and flows from the principles laid out in it, click here.]
To reiterate, the principle that ought to drive the organization of youth work in a congregation is that youth work is:
Parent and Pastor Led- God ordained parents and pastors to shepherd the youth of a congregation, for the sake and in the best interests of the youth.
4. How to ensure good communication with parents?
Similar to a separate youth board, a separate parents’ board is unnecessary. If parents have concerns or suggestions, they will (and ought to) let the leaders know directly. To ensure good communication with parents, the youth program should be sufficiently family oriented and the parents directly involved so that communication happens naturally through conversation. When the youth coordinator and/or pastor work side by side with the parents at church and youth events, they will have many occasions for discussion.
Furthermore, the parents’ time and effort should be spent on actual events and activities with the youth. The less time of theirs that is sucked away on committee work, the better.
5. How should parents be involved?
First of all, the parents are already involved; they are parents! They ought to be raising their children in the fear of the Lord, catechizing and leading family worship, Bible study, and Christian formation. The specifically designated youth program or youth work of the congregation is, and only can be, supplemental to formation in the family. This point must always be stressed to the congregation by the pastor in preaching, to parents specifically, and to the youth.
This fundamental point will cut off at the pass several, all too common, ideas:
- 1. That the religious education of the children of the congregation is really the duty of the pastor;
- 2. That the youth work of the congregation gets the parents “off the hook;” and
- 3. That the youth leaders (whether pastor or lay) are to be gurus of the youth, supplanting the parents’ role
A good place to begin this emphasis on family is to point out that the Small Catechism is addressed to fathers, not pastors or congregations.
So the question of how the parents are to be involved is here specifically concerned with their involvement in the youth work of the congregation. As stated above, inclusion on the Board of Christian Education of a parent(s) is appropriate. But in general, the most fruitful way that parents are involved in the youth work of the congregation is by being asked by the youth coordinator (or volunteering) to take on specific responsibilities.
Specific tasks include chaperoning, going on retreats, planning and organizing specific events or tasks, etc.
The key word in all of this is specific.
The words “committee member” strike fear in the hearts of many because they do not represent a clearly defined responsibility and task. What will be expected? What will get dropped in my lap? The only sure thing about committee work is that there will be regular meetings, which are usually dreaded. Parents with children need to be at home, not at committee meetings. The key to involving parents in youth work is to ask for people to accomplish specific tasks.
“Will you chaperone for the youth event on Saturday, April 26th from 1-4:00pm?” or “Will you help grill hot dogs and hamburgers for dinner at the youth retreat next month?” are specific, defined requests. After any additional details about the duties are explained, the parent who has been approached knows precisely what is expected of him.
Open-ended time commitments are rightfully feared! Many parents are ready and willing to help with congregational youth work. The more specific and less open-ended the involvement of parents, the greater their involvement will be.
Though I believe it applies to coordination/organization in general, my advice on how parents are to be coordinated for activities is simple: Always follow proper biblical and wise organizational principles. Don’t reinvent the wheel—use blueprints that have worked for others. Tweak as your local circumstances dictate. Be specific in duties and requests. Do it. Revise and sharpen–then do it again.
The next post will continue to discuss the organization of congregational youth work, specifically addressing organization and the family-youth.