As the school year came to a close, I was overworked and stressed out. I was looking toward some down time but first had to plan for our upcoming mission trip to Mexico. With dread and apprehension, I made some space on my calendar to go shopping for food and collect all of the necessary tools and supplies we would need to build the house. As I drove home for the night, I realized it was becoming hard to breathe and my blood pressure was skyrocketing. I prayed out loud and asked God to give me peace. What He did next was unbelievable. As I continued driving, my cell phone rang and I answered it. It was Laurie, the mom one of the teens who would be going with us to Mexico. She asked how I was doing and I told her of my stresses. What I heard next were some of the most glorious words I have ever heard. Laurie informed me that she and Brad, one of the other adult leaders for the trip, had been talking and wanted to help more. She then asked simply, “If it’s okay, can I take care of the food and would it be okay if Brad could organize and collect the tools for the trip?”

I emphatically said, “Yes, of course you can!” I felt a weight lift off my shoulders and experienced the power of amazing grace that day.

I have to admit, that event was a huge learning experience because, during my first few years in youth ministry, I tried to involve parents as little as possible. I was under the impression that most teens don’t want to be around their parents and that parents couldn’t offer them real spiritual value like I, the paid professional, could. Boy, was I wrong! Not only did I practice bad family ministry, but I missed out on making my job easier.

In his book Think Orange Reggie Joiner shows that, on average, ministry leaders have 40 hours a year with a teen while parents have around 3000 hours a year with a teen. Because of this, parents are able to be much more impactful on the lives of their teens. This is humbling and also exciting. So, doesn’t it make sense to involve parents in ministry as much as possible?

Not every parent will want to be as equally involved or invested so it’s helpful to give them ways they can serve in ministry that is comfortable for them. What you may find is that, once they are invested, they will want to be involved in greater ways. The following list gives some ideas for helping parents connect to your ministry.

Ministry Assistant

These are entry level roles that don’t require a long-term commitment. They are important, so make sure to never view them as “lesser” roles. Many times parents enjoy serving in these roles because they are able to use their passion and gifts to serve. In addition, they are able to stay connected to their teen but not feel like they are smothering them.

Some examples include event-driver, food-shopper, supply-buyer, fundraising captain, envelope stuffer/stamp poster, birthday card sender, Bible study/small group host home and event/trip cook.

Ministry Partner

These are parents and volunteers that serve in ministry by committing on a more regular basis and are often focused on working with a group of students or attending an event. Parents work great in these roles because they are devoted to being part of their child’s growth.

Some examples include small group leader, event shepherd/chaperone, service project leader, event coordinator and one-on-one mentor to a student.

Ministry Leader

These are your fully invested leaders that are invaluable to your ministry. You may only have one or two of these people so invest in them well because they will help make your job a lot easier.

Some examples include large group leader, small group coach, Sunday school teacher and mission trip leader.

Overall, parents make great volunteer leaders in youth ministry. The only downside is that, once their teen graduates and moves on, they often find other ways to serve. But enjoy them and utilize them while you can. Parents are able to connect to teens in a variety ways that you often cannot.

I am still grateful to Laurie and Brad for helping me understand that parents want to help and be invested in ministry. If I had to start all over again, I would have utilized parents a lot more. Don’t be like me starting out–a lone ranger. Use parents and watch how your ministry flourishes while your stress level goes down. Can I get an Amen?