Equipping and Encouraging Parents to Make Disciples at Home
by Chris Sasser

For over half of my ministry career, I served as a youth pastor who really focused on just one thing: serving the youth of my church and community. Don’t get me wrong; I was helping with lots of things at church, supporting other ministries and pastors, and doing all-around ministry. But my real focus was simply on bringing in teenagers, introducing them to Jesus, and helping them grow in their faith. If I’m honest, I felt like my team could do it. Of course, God was leading the way, but when it came to being the primary influence in the lives of the teenagers in our church, I thought it was all about us and what we were doing.

Somewhere along the way, probably when my wife and I had our first child, my perspective started to change. The national conversation about youth and family ministry was introduced to the phrase “partner with parents.” Many of us in full-time youth ministry finally started to realize that we weren’t “all that” and that parents had a far greater influence on their teen’s spiritual journey than we did. Stats about kids leaving our youth groups and churches in their young adult years were staggering, and we needed to rethink how we were approaching the next generation. I don’t know if your story has any similarities, but I do know that we are all here, in this place where we realize that, indeed, parents are the primary spiritual influencers in their teenagers’ lives, and we have to do something to help them.

As we seek to help parents step into the role that God has created them for, I would say there are two main things we need to do: equip and encourage. There are, of course, specific ideas I have for you and initiatives you may want to start or continue, but they can all fit under equipping parents to be the primary disciple-makers in their homes and encouraging them along the way. I would encourage you to consider how to …

Equip Parents by:

  • Hosting seminars and workshops to train them and teach them about the real issues this generation is facing.
  • Gathering them in intentional smaller groups to talk about important issues and helping them to understand today’s culture and how they can step into their teenager’s world.
  • Providing resources to help them think through how they can deal with their teens, their emotions, and how they are navigating adolescents.

Encourage Parents by:

  • Building relationships with them and asking them how they are doing when it comes to leading their kids at home.
  • Connecting them with other parents who can speak to them and where they are in their parenting journey.
  • Praying for them to take the steps they need to take and have the conversation they need to be having with their kids and teens.

None of this is cutting-edge or new information to you. But I do believe that helping parents lead spiritually at home can no longer be an “add-on” to our job description that gets a minimal amount of attention. It needs to become a more central piece of the ministry we do in the church. We need to be reminded that a major part of our job should be to do what Paul tells us in Ephesians 4: 11-13. We are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” For years I thought I needed to primarily be equipping those who were youth leaders and volunteers. I now believe that the primary people I need to be equipping and encouraging are parents.

* If you need help with getting your church’s senior leadership on board with how you can better focus on a ministry to parents, email sass@ministrytoparents.com, and we’ll set up a time to chat.