A report from Youthworks into the impact of COVID-19 on youth and children’s ministers has highlighted why developing a strong partnership between families and youth and children’s leaders is vital.
Youthworks surveyed a sample group of 257 youth and children’s workers. The strongest correlation noted in the data was between youth and children’s workers who said they were confident to ask families to disciple their own children during COVID-19 and those who observed much spiritual growth in the young people they were leading.
“The most likely answer to what’s going on is that there was a pre-existing partnership between youth and children’s ministry and the parents,” says Al James, youth ministry advisor for Youthworks, who headed up the study. “When a crisis came along, the partnership was there and that enabled growth to continue or to happen during the hardest COVID restrictions.”
A partnership that is beneficial for all
The takeaway is clear for youth and children’s leaders: keep building strong relationships with the parents and families of the young people you lead.
Mr James insists that this effort should not be in one direction. “Pewsitter, you can be involved too,” he says. “Get in there and support, encourage and have conversations. A strong partnership between ministry and families is good for ministry in a crisis. The resilient faith in young people is highly correlated to strong partnerships with parents.”
"We share a common mission: that is, the long-lasting faith of children and youth.”
Support with words and actions
The first step to partnering with leadership teams is to know what’s happening in these ministries.
“Don’t be shy,” Mr James says. “Go and talk to the leaders. Ask them what they’ve been doing in the lesson in kids’ church. Ask them what’s happening in the term for youth ministry. Ask them how they’re going and be involved in their lives.”
The second step involves jumping in and finding ways to serve alongside the leaders. Mr James offers a few suggestions:
- Drive young people to outings, gathering and camps
- Offer to provide supper
- Ask for prayer points regularly (and then pray)
- Give unsolicited gifts to youth and children’s leaders to thank them for their work
- Offer to be “youth group/children’s ministry parents”, providing a listening ear and care for youth and children’s leaders
- Pop in when picking your kids up in order to make conversation with leaders and other parents and children
“The free flow of conversation and of relationship between youth and children’s leaders and parents and families is only going to be good,” Mr James says.
“I remember the parent of one of our youth kids, who was always there to support the ministry in all kinds of ways. She would drive a Tarago load of kids to youth every week. She would have people over. She would ask how I was going. She would share [encouraging stories] with me and my team.”
He adds that the motivation to do this stems from striving towards the goal of seeing Christ made known.
“We want our young people to know and love and follow Jesus, and when there’s a space of conversation between leaders, parents and families, that means we can be all the more effective as we disciple our children. We share a common mission: that is, the long-lasting faith of children and youth.”