Coaching Parents to Lead

by Chris Sasser

I’ve had the privilege of being a volunteer high school football coach for over twenty years. I really love having the opportunity to be in the lives of young men and their families in a different way than I am at church. For most of these years, I’ve coached the same positions, and I know them well. I’ve felt comfortable as I’ve taught players what to do and how to react in certain situations. I knew what to do and how to do it. Going into this season, I was asked to move to a different position. It was a position that I was a little familiar with, but I certainly wasn’t as comfortable as I have been for the last two decades. There was a lot I needed to learn to be able to put my players in the best position to succeed. As we approached the season, I felt unprepared and, quite honestly, less than supported by those who had asked me to take on a new challenge. I was trying to coach players with very little confidence that I knew what I was doing.

Sound familiar? It might on a few different levels. First, you may have heard that part of your role as a ministry leader is to coach parents to better lead their teenagers spiritually. That responsibility may be a part of your job description, or it may simply be something that you naturally feel because you understand how important it is. Either way, you might be less than confident that you can do it effectively. Second, you may be a parent who feels like you are attempting to coach your own kids in a life of faith, and you feel unprepared to do the thing you are also called to coach others to do. It can get complicated, for sure.

As you step into one (or both) of these roles, here are a few things you can maybe focus on:

Lean on God for your guidance and direction.
 As leaders of parents and maybe a leader of our own kids and teens, we have to make sure that we are putting our trust in God to lead us. We can too often put our trust in other places as we move through life, but deep down, we all know that the only one to trust is our Heavenly Father. Psalm 127:1 tells us, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” This is true for both our own house and the house of worship we serve. Take time and space on a regular basis to make sure you are centering yourself on your relationship with God and asking Him to lead and guide your home and your ministry.  

Lean on others.
 If you’ve ever played a team sport, you know how vital it is for players to lean on each other for support and encouragement. When a player is on his or her own, it can be a lonely place. As followers of God, we are all on the same team when it comes to life and ministry. Find other ministry leaders, both in and outside of your church, who can help and guide you along the way of learning how to coach and support parents. Maybe partner with other churches or ministries as you seek to have a real impact on the families in your community. If you are a parent yourself, surround yourself with other parents you trust. Spend time with people who are at your same stage of life and people who are a stage or two ahead of you. If you have helpful teammates who engage in your life and ministry, it can help to propel you in a lot of ways. 

Run some plays.
 As a ministry leader, don’t just think about the parent ministry game but take some steps to engage, equip, and encourage parents. Find or create resources that will push parents to lead their teens in a real, meaningful way. Create or adapt events at church that will give parents opportunities to practically lead their teens and step into their role as the primary spiritual leader. Don’t just hope (or assume) that your players (parents) are checking themselves into the game and excited to play. Some of them are not. Jump into the game yourself as a coach and help the parents who look to you experience what it’s like to excel in the game that God has called them to play.