Who Would You Choose? Deciding who deserves the majority of your attention

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A youth minister walks into a restaurant and sitting at three different tables are three different groups of people. Teenagers, parents and volunteers.  The youth minister knows all of them and cares deeply for all of them.  All three groups notice the youth minister and gesture for him to come over, but he’s only got the opportunity to talk to one group.  Which group does he choose?

Ever think of that situation? Probably not, because it’s a pretty limited situation.  BUT, do you have an answer? You might think you do, but what’s your reasoning?  Again, you might have an answer, but is it the right one?
Are teens more important than parents?  Are our volunteers the most important people in our ministry?  Without parents are ministry is only a drop in the bucket, right?  So who is most important.  Here’s an argument for and against each group:

The obvious is without teenagers we don’t have a youth ministry; therefore, they are important.  They are not only the future of the church, but they are the present and young church.  But should the majority of our attention go to them?  We really only have 40 hours a year with them, so what can we really teach them, that won’t get erased by the world?  We can teach them all we need to know but who holds them accountable at home?  We make an impact by being good role models, but then again as one person, how many teens can we really impact…3…4…5?

Again we have the teens for 40 hours/year, but parents have them for about 3000/year, so wouldn’t it make more sense to put the effort into the parents?  Wouldn’t it make sense to work ourselves out of a job where we would encourage youth ministry, to become family ministry, which would then mean that youth ministry was done in the homes?  Isn’t it our job to team with parents, because without a strong family, the church’s most efficient way of evangelization is dead? But then again, what about the teens with non believing parents?  What about the teenager who needs to evangelize their own family?  Should we put them second to the families that are “more complete”?

We can only do so much on our own.  There are only so many teenagers we can reach, there are only so many parents we can team with, if we do not have a good volunteer base.  There are only so many events, trips and activities we can plan on our own.  If it’s just up to us, then our ministry is limited to our ideas, meaning we can only target one type of teen, one type of family…but then again, maybe ministry needs to happen in the homes.  Then again what about teens mentoring other teens?  That’s a good idea, right? Wouldn’t peer ministry be more affective then a group of “not cool” adults?

Now the push back to this whole post is that, “No one is more important than the other, they are all equal.” I’m going to push back and say nonsense for the same reason we can’t both love money and God.  For the same reason our job isn’t as important as our family.  Something, someone will lose out.  Even if it’s by a small margin, something has to win out…right?

So Who Would You Choose? Parents, Teens or Volunteers? Why? 

Which Group Of People Is Most
Important To Your Ministry

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  • Matt Cleaver says:

    Wow, great hypothetical.

    I chose parents, mainly because they tend to be the group that gets communicated with the least on a personal, face-to-face basis.

    I’m not saying parents are “more important,” but given the scenario, parents offer the most yield on your time. You will get a chance to talk to kids and volunteers a couple of time a week. Not so with parents.

    So, for me this was less of a question of who is most important and a very specific “what would you do” in this specific situation.

  • Matt,
    Great answer. I tend to focus on the volunteers because with them we can reach more parents and more teenagers, but you make a good point with that situation. I didn’t think of it in that light, but then again that’s why I kept the situation general and vague to see what other people’s perspective are. What do others think?

  • I agree with parents and in this social situation, you can have a bigger impact on the parents…its not so much the groups but also where…put this at a football game and my answers change.

    Is your ministry lost when none of the three groups gesture for you to come over? Youth ministry can be a lonely gig sometimes too.

  • Anonymous says:

    I would also say the parents.We get to see and communicate with our youth, and our minister to them.

    volunteers,we get to hug and love and teach and BUT a majority of the parents we may have never even met EVER.The parents may not know we are for real ,many are not saved and do not even understand the love of Christ. Or that they can be forgiven.If the parents were together in a group all at once I /our leaders and pastors would probably be soooo EXCITED,laughing ,crying, and just in total amazement. Praising God for this ministry opportunity !

    I know I personally wouldn’t miss the opportunity to minister/love them.We/Harbor @Holley Assembly of God send 2 buses into our community to bring in youth for our Wed. night services sometimes totaling up to 100 kids being brought in for Worship service.So therefore it would be important for us to share with the parents the same unconditional love,and ministry of Jesus that we share with their youth.

    The parents will then in turn~ possibly~ give their lives to the Lord someday(the seed has been sowed).They would also know that their children are in good hands with people that genuinely care for them and have their best interests at hand while learning and growing in the Lord.All built around Love of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for allowing me to post.
    Colleen Tonning
    Acts Ministry Director/
    Youth Leader

  • Anonymous says:

    I made a mistake* at the top it should read:We get to see,communicate and minister to our youth and our volunteers.We get to hug, love and teach ……………..

    Sorry for the confusion!

  • Paul says:

    I think this depends on context. In my group now, I don’t have a lot of youth or leaders. It’s fairly easy for me to have regular contact with all three groups.

    My last group was big. I spent most of my time training and working with my leaders. They were the ones who spent most of their time with youth and parents.

    I would imagine larger groups tend to focus more on leaders. Smaller groups probably focus more on teens. In rural areas, they probably spend a good bit of time naturally just by being a part of the community. Urban areas maybe as well. Suburban seems to be the hardest.

  • Nikomas says:

    I would scootch the tables together and then sit on top of the table, right in the middle so I’m an equal distant from everyone in attendance.

    Then we would start singing. Flash mob style.

  • Wow…great post. I took away teenagers immediately from my choice. The next one was tough, because ideally, we’d have an amazing team of volunteers that serve both students and parents.

  • Paul, I think you make a good point about the size of the church. I think if we focus on parents, they’ll be more willing to give us their teens to shepherd, but when it comes to ministers and teens. Is it…the more teens we have the more ministers we will get or will more ministers bring in more teens?

  • Andrew says:

    In that hypothetical situation I would have sat with the teens first. I have always felt that teens even in youth ministry and church settings always get pushed aside for the “more important” adults. I do believe that parents are important and that family ministry is extremely important to developing a strong faith in teens but the teens would more than likely be put off by me not going to see them first. Parents and volunteers in my ministry would I believe agree with that philosophy and be doing that same thing.

  • Andrew, thanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s true that teenagers can get pushed to the side, but I’m wondering if focusing on parents and volunteers would fix that situation?

  • revwookie says:

    I would go to the table of volunteers and encourage them to interact with the teens and then go visit with the parents. All too often the church expects us to be the ones to interact with the youth in our churches so the don’t have to. If we can at least get our volunteers to fill this role we can target those opportunities like a table full of parents in a way we can’t if we are focused on the teens.

  • revwookie,
    That’s a good strategy, one I try to live by. It’s with ministers that we can duplicate our efforts. Parents and teens don’t need us they need Christ and we aren’t the only ones that can deliver His love and light. Good thoughts, thanks for sharing.