The church faces the same issue as many public schools: Who helps with the homework when the student goes home?  How much of it gets lost or forgotten by the next day of school because there is no reinforcement within the family?  The challenge for youth ministry is to consider how we equip the “home” (however it may be defined) to reinforce spiritual formation.
We define “home” in this context as the place of primary care for a youth—the place where they receive the basic necessities such as shelter, food, and protection.  We do not automatically make the assumption that all youth have a home or family where spiritual formation can or will happen.  Therefore, it may be the role of the youth worker to advocate for some kind of “family” for all youth, such as an adopted family of adults in the church who covenant to care for a teen whose parents may not be connected to the faith.  Even in situations where a young person does have a supportive family, the youth worker may face the challenge of parents who are intimidated at the thought of providing spiritual formation for their youth.  For parents who feel ill-equipped in this area how, do we coach them to be able to guide their own children (and how well can this work when youth ministers themselves are often emerging adults who are not parents)?

  • Redefinition of family
  • How do we help families develop healthy ways to share life together in the nurture and support of kids?
  • How do we navigate the authority issues with the pastoral leadership if they are not already doing this?
  • Do we put too much emphasis or hope in the home for solving youth ministry’s problems?
  • Wondering about the relationship of emerging adulthood to mature faith: do youth with mature faith become adults quicker?
  • Parenting is now a part-time job. We share them with coaches, teachers, tutors, those who teach lessons, and friends.  Do we need life-management before or in conjunction with equipping for faith forming practices?
  • Will this “call out” students whose primary family is disinterested and disconnected?
  • Why should youth ministry carry this alone?  This is a cradle-to-grave issue.
  • Is this the end of an age-based model of Christian Education?
  • How do we offer this particular gift to folks who don’t darken our doors?  Maybe because we’ve told them they are not welcome or maybe because we’ve just acted like a country club and they don’t have the right clothes.

Other views:

  • Philip LeClerc’s Divided—”Family Integration”
  • Family-based youth ministry devolves into exercise to make parents feel guilty.
  • Relationship is needed through the church.  Develop relational ministry experiences for all to interact
  • If we are not understanding of the primacy of parents in youth spirituality we are losing 60-70% of our leverage.
  • It takes a village.  How do we equip families and churches to be villages?
  • What if we assumed the home was irrelevant to spiritual formation?
  • This responsibility to family may overburden you. Does it require another/different person? Not necessarily; it requires a reframing of what we shouldn’t be doing that we thought we needed to do.

Possible Solutions:

  • The small church is particularly well positioned for this
  • Intergenerational Discipleship Models and extended “families” to help
  • In launching new churches, hold fast to integrated programs
  • Family spiritual life plans with the pastor

Training and Education:

  • Training on how to relate to and partner with parents
  • Training in developing intentional communities of support
  • Training in helping youth find a “family” which will provide spiritual support
  • Study on effects of divorce on marriage
  • Study on “the congregation as family”
  • Learning to develop an adult/youth mentor ministry within a congregation
  • Development of an experiential curriculum for use at home by families (e.g. tied to practices around the liturgical calendar)
  • Methods for helping families do intentional faith development
  • Study of the theology/liturgy of baptism and is implication for the congregation’s responsibility for the spiritual development of all youth
  • Study of rites of passage
  • Theology of the household

Resources that exist:

Resources Needed:

  • Tools for the church to be the “family”
  • Resources for parents
  • Step-by-step guide for architecting the skeleton structure of family ministry
  • Older youth ministers to relate to parents
  • Tools for senior pastors and youth pastors to work together in coaching and equipping parents
  • Tools to help parents grow their faith and knowledge so that they can grow their youth
  • Caring for widows and orphans