One temptation for parents who are stressed out, burnt out, or bummed out is to take their kids to the youth minister or to the church in hopes that they’ll get fixed. As a student pastor, there’s just one big problem with this well-intentioned strategy:

It doesn’t work.

Photo credit to Click the image to read another excellent article about youth ministry.
Photo credit to Click the image to read another excellent article about youth ministry.

Most student ministries have access to your students a grand total of about four or five hours a week. That’s true only if they are involved on Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and all the extra stuff that happens. To have influence over them more than that, they would need to be spending extra time on trips and hanging around church.

Even those who do are influenced by their youth minister the most are devoting a relatively small percentage of their time. There are 168 hours in a week. With an above-average six hours a week of face time with the youth guy (or youth gal), that’s less than 4% of their time. Not much discipleship can happen in 4% of anyone’s time. The disciples were with Jesus 24/7 for three years. I’m sure your student minister is great. But they ain’t Jesus.

On the other hand, students live with you. They are in and out of your house, they wake up in a bed you bought them, and they are eating your food. They log about 3,000 hours of face time with you (compared to the average of 40 hours each year with the church). Whether you think so or not, you are still the main influencer in the life of your child–not MTV, not their friends, not Tumblr. It’s you.

Photo snagged from where there's a good piece on family meals. Good news: you don't have to have a rad mustache to be a good dad!
Photo snagged from where there’s a good piece on family meals. Good news: you don’t have to have a rad mustache to be a good dad!

Most parents disbelieve this. Popular opinion is that teens are most influenced by celebrities, peers, or music. But when students are asked who influences them the most, they are discerning and honest.

Teens state that their parents are their biggest influence when it comes to decisions they make about sex. Teens say the same about their view of alcohol. Teens usually practice the religion practiced by their parents.

Hear me on this point. It’s been said plenty of times but needs to be underscored. It cannot be overstated:

The most important thing any student ministry needs is parents who are discipling their own kids.

This is a life-to-life discipleship that doesn’t just happen when they are at church. Deuteronomy 6 advocates for this “as-you-go” approach, imploring parents to disciple their kids, “…when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when yo lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)

How are you capturing ordinary moments of life to disciple your student?

  • Could you pray over them before they go to bed at night?
  • Could you have a spiritual conversation in the car on the way to school?
  • Could you make a commitment to eat as a family 3-4 times a week?
  • Could you ask them how their day went and how they saw God move?
  • Could you go out on a daddy/daughter date and set the standard for how your little girl is to be treated by boys?
  • Could you go on Rites of Passage trips with your son when they turn 12 and talk to them about what it means to be a man?
  • Could you put notes in their lunchbox, bathroom, or car with Scripture on them?

Parents, you have more than 40 times the amount of time your student minister has each week to impact your son or daughter for Christ. To think that we can effectively help your student meet and grow in their walk with Jesus without you is not realistic.

Bottom line: you are more important than us. Stop selling yourself short.

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