Parents and Youth Ministries
by Derek Gentle

The modern church youth ministry provides recreational and social opportunities for teenagers as well as spiritual guidance. Over the last two decades or so, youth ministries have increasingly adapted to confront the evolving culture. Programs for youth are now faster paced, full of activities, and Bible studies delivered in clear language. It is no wonder that they attract a good number of young people.

One particular trend is the increasing number of young people are coming to church without their parents. It's seen by non-attending parents as a pretty good deal. The parents are afforded some quieter moments at home with the kids out for a while. And since many of the trips are subsidized by the church, the youth get a lot of fun for the dollar. Parents know that their children will be safe and that they won't be out on the streets where they can get into trouble.

However, there are additional reasons why parents should be supportive of the local church youth ministry. The church is the last institution left still teaching basic morality; the schools now being practically forbidden from doing so. The church is the one place which teaches, "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1). A mid-week youth Bible study will often address such matters as choosing good friends and responsibility. Youth are told the why's and how's of wise living. With television situation comedies, MTV, and movies exemplifying sex, violence, and weird thinking, the church remains the counter- force for good. Smart parents know an ally when they see one.

Usually, in a youth program, teenagers are being exposed to positive peer pressure. Perhaps, not consistently, but overall, way above who they will be around in a public school.

There are some ways parents can help support their local church youth ministry. First, guide your child to be faithful in church attendance. We don't allow our children to decide for themselves whether they will go to school. Neither should we assume that they are mature enough to decide for themselves about church.

It is unspeakably unwise to ground children from church. Church attendance is a responsibility, not a luxury. One would not ground a child from school. Grounding a child from church could keep him from the very Bible study he needs most (and instead keep him at home watching a TV show which portrays Dad as dumb as a box of rocks). Instead, when correction is called for, parents should ground them to church, making them attend more services.

When your teen signs up for a trip or activity, please see that she honors her commitment. Since many of these events are subsidized, the church often loses money when a child drops out at the last minute. That is the Lord's money, often given sacrificially.

Communicate with your youth leaders. They can help reinforce what you are teaching at home. And they may see or hear things you need to know.

The very best way to support the youth ministry in your church is from the inside. Don't just send your teens to church, take them with you. Avoid sitting around the Sunday dinner table evaluating what took place in the worship service. Families which critique the music and have "roast preacher" raise children who mature to be cynical and negative about the church. Children grow up to "be" their parents; so your faithful example is crucial to their development.

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