Growing up playing baseball at every opportunity, I learned under my fair share of coaches. I had coaches that were really good and others that were somewhat less than good, but the best “coach” I ever had was my own father. Although he never officially coached one of my teams, I remember the hours spent together at the local park with him hitting me ground balls or throwing me batting practice pitches. No matter what my subsequent coaches contributed, nothing that they did or said ever came close to the investment my father made in my baseball development. Fortunately for me, everyone’s efforts often aligned perfectly. Which reminds me of our task in the youth ministry.
At the outset of his great address to the nation of Israel, Moses places the responsibility for instruction in the ways of God at the feet of parents.
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
We feel as though our role in the youth ministry is to come alongside parents, much like my baseball coaches, and supplement their efforts. One way we try to accomplish that is by thinking through our teaching topics in relation to our church body.
One of the most unique aspects of the youth ministry at SBCC is the coordination of the youth ministry curriculum with the teaching calendar of the broader church. That is to say, what students learn in Sunday youth group aligns with what the homegroups study and what is discussed from the pulpit each week. This gives us in the youth ministry arena a great opportunity to truly support parents’ efforts to provide spiritual direction for their students and, hopefully, establish common ground that facilitates easier discussion of the biblical topics and themes at hand.
So, how does that look in practice? One of my favorite questions to students when I have the chance to see them on a school day is, “What did you learn in school today?” (Notably, this is their least favorite question, but I ask anyway.) Parents, after Sunday services, do the same with your student, pressing your advantage in already knowing the answer because you’ve just heard and studied the same thing. Ask follow-up or clarifying questions. Check that they have understood the actual concept, rather than just picked up on a few key words.
Another idea is to revisit the topic later in the week. Granted, this will likely require more creativity in selecting an opening question and probably will mean priming the pump of discussion more than on a Sunday evening. Our students, though, can certainly benefit from viewing their faith as a seven-days-a-week kind of reality.
Finally, parents, be willing to share your own moments of insight, discovery or confusion with them as you work through your homegroup study and consider the sermon on Sunday (and beyond). The more your students know that you, too, are a student on a quest of discovery, the more likely they are to engage with you.
I don’t write this from a place of authority, but a place of partnership. Consider these as humbly submitted suggestions from an assistant coach, not the dictates of the head coach. We simply want to complement your pre-existing game plan. You are still the primary spiritual director in your student’s life and we want to assist you. These methods may not work for each student and that’s fine. What matters is not the method, but the dedication to their spiritual growth communicated by such efforts.
We feel privileged to partner with you as coaches and hope that our efforts will support yours in demonstrable ways. Let us keep on praying that, together, we will influence our students toward greater love for God and devotion to His Word. And may the effect of these joint efforts produce results that last longer than my baseball career.
(Do you have other suggestions or ideas for how parents can spark spiritual conversations with their student? Send them to *protected email* and we’ll add them to the parents section of the website.)