Post-Ministry Parent Letters
Parents – ever wondered what your kid actually does at youth group?
Youth ministers – ever wondered what your teens tell their parents when they get home from church?
I have experienced the ups and downs of raising teenagers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked one of my kids about school, youth group, a social event, or a retreat that they attended – and the only response I got was “good” or “fine” or “okay.” And despite my attempts to pry deeper by asking questions, I often had no idea what my kids experienced.
Parents As Ministers
The Catholic Church has always taught that parents (not priests, teachers, or youth ministers) are called by God to be the primary educators of their young people in matters of faith and morals. Sometimes, however – for a myriad of reasons – those of us who work with young people can forget this essential fact and think that it’s all about our efforts.
With this in mind, the REAP Team has instituted an initiative that we want to encourage all youth ministers and retreat ministries to consider adopting: letters to parents about ministry events.
Around the same time that we send out our retreat agenda to our contact person, we also send out a letter that can be passed on to the parents of the students we work with. This letter includes a brief summary of who we are, a description of the serious content that we plan to present at the retreat, and a few key talking points – non-threatening potential discussion questions, so that parents have some specifics they can use in conversation with their child.
We recommend that parents always share their own thoughts and experiences on our retreat themes first. The experience of the REAP Team, when engaging teens in discussion on serious topics, is that teens are generally more open to discussion when trusted adults role model vulnerability for them. A final question that we always encourage parents to ask their young person is this: what was your biggest takeaway from the retreat, overall? That question can be incredibly revealing!
Make It Personal
We create this letter to parents in Word format so that it can be personalized by our retreat contact person – even highlighting specifics that will likely need tweaking after the event occurs. Some contact people even choose to personalize their letters to reflect who gave which talks and any powerful quotes that were said. We also always recommend that this letter be adapted from our standard-issue form since what we plan is not always what happens at any given event.
Obviously, our format is specific to retreat ministry – but a similar template could easily be used for any ministry event. Life nights, Bible studies, even social gatherings… any time your ministry meets, I’m sure the parents of your teens would be grateful to know any specifics they could use to engage their kids in conversation. If you work with young people in any capacity, we hope that you will prayerfully consider finding a way to include their parents in their process. It is definitely worth the extra effort!