Earlier this year, we started a conversation about parental care being a core element of youth ministry. One key question is whether both the parent(s) and youth leaders understand where each youth is headed i.e. what’s the vision God has for that child? This isn’t just about future vocation or other generic answers like “to grow up, be a good person and have a good job”. While we may never know the full answer, youth leaders need to support parents in discerning that vision. After all, if God has given them the responsibility to raise that child, the parent needs to figure out what that vision is.

The fact is, not all the parents whose children attend your youth group are necessarily connected with your church community (or may not consider themselves as Christians). Whether a Christian or not, that parent is still the primary caregiver for that youth. As youth leaders, we need to respect that God-given role as we work with youth.

As a youth leader, how do you help in that discernment?

  • Ask that very question. Some parents have already begun the process, or at least have an idea of where their child is going. For others, being aware of that question is a start.
  • Create time for parents to work through it. This may include releasing parents from certain church responsibilities for an evening to focus on it. You may even gather some parents together to work through it together.
  • Provide materials to help them discover who their youth is. This can include various assessments including spiritual gifts, Strengths Finders and other personality/temperament tools.
  • Personally support them. Parents feel the weight of raising their kids. Sometimes, they need an affirming and supportive voice to be there. Find ways to encourage their efforts.
  • Pray. After all, this student is God’s creation. Intercede for that youth and that parent personally and as a church so that God’s direction would become clearer.
Side note: There are a small number of parents who will neglect the care of their children. In such circumstances, the church (i.e. the adults of that community) may need to provide direct care, whether spiritual, physical or otherwise. That is the exception, not the normal, pertaining to a church’s involvement in a child’s life.

If we’re not sure where God is leading that youth, it’s very hard for us to support them and their parents appropriately. After all, if you don’t know where you’re aiming for, you’re really aiming for nothing.