Partner With The Broader Parish: Habit #4 of Highly Effective Lay Ministers

Have you ever wanted to put pictures of the parents in your program on your dartboard? If so, you may not be alone. The lament about faith based parenting (or lack of) is deafening at times. If only every parent did XYZ, we would be so much better off. We all know this, but unfortunately, some in youth ministry adopt an “us vs. them” mentality or a distant approach. Ignoring or cutting the parents out of the picture so we can try and save them is not the answer. On the contrary, we should be doing everything we can to support them in their role and primary formators.

All of the research shows that parents are the number one influence in the lives of their own children. Now when it comes to what the kids will wear or what music they are going to listen to, of course, they will turn to their buddies. But on things that matter – faith, values, morals – they look to their parents. Unfortunately, parents have been conditioned to think that being a good parent means signing them up for faith formation and dropping them off at the curb to let the professionals instill faith into them. We need to help turn the tide on this faulty train of thought.

Having raised two kids myself (both in college now), I can relate to the busyness and the sense of being overwhelmed with life. We need to put ourselves in their shoes and to help support them on the journey. We need to empower, encourage and inspire. They have so much to offer and more importantly, no one can ever take their place in life. We can never be their substitute. The best thing they can do for their child’s faith is to live the faith themselves. They need to foster the home church. They need to pray, love, forgive and serve. All of these things can make such a difference – far more than any talk we may give or video we might show.

I seize every opportunity I can to meet with parents and to assist them in reclaiming their important role as to the mission of evangelizing and discipling their own kids. We need to be doing family ministry – not just youth ministry. The stronger the family unit, the better chance the teen has. We get far more bang for our buck when we invest in the parents.

In addition, it is essential to collaborate with the Knights of Columbus, Women’s Club, bible study leaders, etc. Everyone is called to be a youth minister – they just don’t know it yet. It takes a village. I always say the youth are only as strong as the adult community that they are mentored into.

Be involved in parish wide efforts – the fall festival, gala fundraiser, soup suppers during Lent and the RCIA. I realize that most of these probably do not fall under your domain and I am not saying that you assume any major responsibilities. What I am suggesting is that you look for ways to cross-pollinate. Get your young people connected in the life of the parish. That way when they graduate from high school, they will still feel a part of the community instead of alienated now that youth group is over with.

Think big. Think globally. Do not be parochial in your efforts.

Bruce Baumann is the Director of Faith Formation at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Plano, TX. He received his Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and has been involved in professional youth ministry for 20+ years. Bruce is a certified catechetical instructor in the Dallas Diocese and a Life Coach for the Living Your Strengths movement. He is passionate about training ministry leaders and has had the joy of presenting workshops and retreats at conferences and parishes around the country.