The struggle is real in "middle years" ministry. Whether it is trying to get students to do bible study in small groups outside of church or simply organizing an event with their Sunday school groups, getting your "middle years students" to commit to your ministry is by far one of the hardest and more important tasks of your ministry. If you can hone in on a solid commitment from your students, it will set the high school years up for greater success and spiritual growth! In a nutshell, this is the goal of ministry.
In order to gain any kind of commitment from your students, you must reach the mountain peak, the parent.
Parents are the pinnacle of your student’s ability to commit in the younger years. If you can get the parents on board to commit, you have opened more of a possibility of their students committing. It’s like Paramount’s logo, the mountain peak comes into scene and then the stars rise up to fully surround it. If your parents commit, the commitment of their student is likely to follow. Here are 3 reasons why you need to partner with parents now rather than later.
1. Value: How to engage your parents so that they may find value.
As you engage parents, it should reveal how valuable they are to your ministry and to their children. After all, your parents are the main pastor to their kids. So, how do you even begin to engage your parents so that they may find value?
Everything starts with communication. If you poorly communicate with parents, their involvement is likely to be less. Let’s be honest, there is no way that you can over-communicate. In fact, if you ever figure out a way to perfectly communicate, please call me you might just be the smartest youth worker to ever walk the face of this earth. So what does this look like? Allow me to provide an example from personal ministry.
I had a strong desire to get 4 of my core middle school girls into a bible study. For some reason I had the hardest time getting their schedules to cooperate so that they could meet one day during the week. One day it finally clicked while talking to their potential bible study leader, “we just need to call the parents of each of these girls.” Think about it, who gives them rides to the bible study? Who knows these girl’s schedules better than they do? How well do middle school students communicate things with their parents? See where I am going yet? Yea, we needed to call the parents. When you call the parents it helps them to see your heart for their students. One phone call can reveal the value of your ministry to their students. In fact, one parent shared with me that she knows how valuable a bible study would be for her child because she knew how valuable they were to her.
Secondly, provide opportunities of training and insight for your parents. A couple of these opportunities include one-on-one engagement with parents of the same gender as yourself or church wide training/teaching opportunities. When opportunities like this present themselves, take them! This helps parents find value in you and your ministry. Above all, these kind of opportunities allow you to speak into the heart of the parent. At this time you go from solely investing into their child, to caring for the soul of the those who should impact them most. These moments are when parents find value as they minister to their kids.
As your parents find value, you will see that it becomes easier for them to commit to your ministry. When your parents commit further to your ministry, hopefully the priorities for their family will begin to shift as well. We have parents that go above and beyond in order to get their children to the church, because they see how valuable the ministry is for their student. If you do not communicate well, then your ministry will never be seen as a priority. Lets be honest, our forever shifting culture is striving all the more to prioritize our time for things that don’t truly matter. If we don’t step in the gap, other things will. I know your frustration when it comes to the extra-curricular activities on a Wednesday, but the question is what are you doing about it? Are you fighting for the commitment of your students and parents?
3. Future Leadership
This one will be short. If you gain the commitment of your parents, you gain the commitment of your students. If your students become committed in the "middle years", there will be great commitment in high school. If your students are committed, then they become core leaders for your ministry. Am I leaving anything out?
Oh yeah, about those parents you invested in and pastored as well. If you gain the commitment of your parents, you have gained a slew of potential leaders for the entire youth ministry. If you gain the commitment of your parents, you are officially pastoring your students well.
All-in-all, parents are the key to success during the middle years. They are an incremental part to the development of student involvement in ministry. Pour into the parents, and you will most likely have students fall in line.
Matt Sprinkle is serves as Middle School Minister at Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter, SC. He has a passion for working with middle schoolers with the purpose of helping them to establish their identity in Christ. Matt believes that the middle school years are some of the most formative years, as it will set them up for deeper growth in high school. He recently created the group MSM: Network on Facebook in order to create a resource point for Middle School ministers that are in the trenches with him. For more info, check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MSMNetwork/?ref=bookmarks