I have discussed this issue ad nauseam with my youth pastors over the years. I address it regularly with our body.
Though it's sometimes yielded more heat than light, the question cannot be avoided: What role should parents play in youth ministry?
In a new roundtable video, Cameron Cole, David Plant, and Liz Edrington discuss how parents and youth leaders ought to relate. "The church has done of poor job of communicating to parents that they are the primary discipler of their children," Cole remarks. Additionally, there's a tendency on the part of parents to outsource the development of our kids. So, for intellectual development, we send them to school; for athletic development, to Little League; and for spiritual development, to youth group.
But this won't do. "Youth leaders must let parents know we're partners with them in the spiritual formation of their children," Cole continues. "Parents may not believe this, but the reality is their kids listen to them far more than they're going to listen to us."
"Parents are our allies, our best support, in doing youth ministry," says Plant, youth ministries director at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. "Youth ministers love their students, but nowhere near the way parents do. We look to them to know what's going on in the life of a kid."
Youth leaders, then, should labor to cultivate relationships with parents, observes Edrington, who will lead a workshop on "iRelationship: Doing Incarnational Ministry in a Technologically Dependent Culture" at the Rooted conference for youth ministers in Atlanta next week (October 10 to 12). "Sharing the grace of God with parents is part of the honor we have as youth ministers."
Watch the full seven-minute video to see these three leaders—each of whom serves on the advisory board of Rooted—discuss bridge-building, "youth ministry" versus "family ministry," the place of empathy, and more.
Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.