Today my kids start back to school, joining the wave across the country that began in early August and will continue into September (for the much-envied few).
As I walk my new Kindergartner to class, hug my third grader on the playground, and drop off my new middle schooler on the curb (she hopes!) at their schools, I’ll be wearing both my parent lenses and my youth worker lenses. Then tonight I’ll be working on our church’s youth ministry calendar and emailing volunteers about upcoming needs. Many of you are doing the same kind of juggling this month.
Whether you’re a parent, ministry leader, or both, here are five tips to help you launch into this season, plus a handful of really practical resources and ideas from all around the country:
1. Partner with parents more.
Remember that parents are feeling anxiety right alongside their kids this month. They’re wondering about their kids’ friends, teachers, academic journey, spiritual growth, and sports seasons. What they need from you as a leader right now is not more anxiety or guilt about what they’re not doing. Take some time this month to consider ways you can partner with parents more intentionally this year.
Last back-to-school season we hosted a few webcasts that are worth sharing again at the start of the new ministry season. Here’s one with youth pastors Nate Roskam, Katie Sanders, and Jeff Mattesich on new ways to partner with parents this year in your ministry:
Extra credit: Start a new tradition of parent-youth worker conferences this year!
2. Surround teenagers with support.
Earlier this week, my daughter Anna spent the afternoon and evening with her mentor from our church. They prepared a meal together for a family who just had a baby, delivered it, and were invited to share the meal with the family. I love that as Anna enters middle school, she has someone like Melanie who is walking with her, listening to her, and helping her serve others.
Whether you find mentors for your students, look for other intergenerational relationships in your church, or create new partnerships at local schools (see this great post from Adam McLane for really practical ideas on school partnerships), take another step or two toward surrounding teenagers with the support they need.
Here’s another webcast we hosted last year with ministry leaders Matthew DePrez, Mike Park, and Tim Galleher about creating a relational web of support for teenagers in your ministry:
3. If you’re a parent and a leader, remember to fight for the relationship.
Perhaps you walk the tightrope of leading ministry and parenting. Perhaps you can relate to the statement we once heard from another youth leader, “I’m far better with other people’s kids than my own.” If you can relate to the struggle of being intentional with your own family in the midst of ministry pressures, here are some thoughts from pastor and author Carey Nieuwhof in a recent webcast with Kara:
4. Infuse your ministry year with Sticky Faith.
Wondering how your youth ministry calendar can reflect Sticky Faith values and practices this year? We talked with a few youth leaders like you to hear how they minister differently to seniors, think about building faith rhythms, and structure staff and programs because of Sticky Faith. Watch this webcast with Alan Mercer, Cory Gregory, and Laura Larsen to hear how they’re thinking and doing youth ministry differently:
Extra Credit: Subscribe to one of our Google calendars to add regular Sticky Faith Prompts to your month, all year long.
Stay tuned for an announcement next week about an all-new resource coming this fall to help you implement Sticky Faith changes in your ministry!
5. Grace, grace, grace.
Whatever you’re finding yourself wrestling with in this back-to-school season, whether struggles with your kids, your church, or yourself, don’t forget to keep the persistent grace of God at the forefront of your mind and heart. As Kara recently guest-blogged over at A Holy Experience, Jesus is bigger than any mistake.
Grace to you in this season and the year to come!
What are your best ideas, tips, or practices for back-to-school season? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!