This last year I made a big shift in my career. I went from being a Student Ministries Pastor overseeing mostly Middle and High School to shifting part of my focus all the way down to birth. And I’ve become a better Youth Pastor because of it.
The reality is that for 15+ years I pretty much did youth ministry one way. It was my team and students as the primary relationships and any interaction with parents was a secondary thing.
Now that I work as a “family pastor” and interact with a wide age of children/students over an extended amount of time I’ve realized just how important interacting with and ministering to parents and the whole family really is.
In youth ministry, parents often drop students off without getting out of the car. Our interaction with them is very quick and often without depth or significance. In Children’s ministry it is very different. Parents are involved in programs, in the rooms with their kids, engaged with each other and generally much more present. Consequently, I have the opportunity to spend more time with them. (Even as I write this I’m watching several moms walk by who have pre-school age kids.) I know that those families will be a part of ministries I lead for the next 18 years of their lives. That’s a big chunk of time and an investment I take seriously.
As I think about those 18 years I envision that a big part of what I need to be doing is to be resourcing those parents and families. In youth ministry, parents often have the mindset that it’s time for them to back away and allow other leaders to be involved in leading their students in the faith journey. That’s not at all how it happens in Children’s ministry. We partner in all things with the families.
Parents are always asking for advice and sharing stories with me about their kids. Together, we walk through major milestones. As I reflect, I think in youth ministry we forget to celebrate these types of milestones with the family.
One last area that I think I’ve learned from working more with children is the reminder of how important the relationships the children’s staffing
team is when considering the whole family, youth ministry included. My advice is to regularly talk to the children’s staff before transitioning students each year.
Ask about what parents will be huge helpers and which ones might be a little bit of a pain. See what they’ve done over the years to maximize relationships and teaching time with specific students. Are there special needs that you need to know about as youth minister? How can you leverage the relationships that have already been built without simply starting them over?
The children’s ministry isn’t your completion. It isn’t something that has screwed up kids either. It should be a big resource for you as you co-labor to minister to families.