The Long Transition to Church Family-Based Youth Ministry

Originally published June 15, 2010.

Maybe by now you are becoming more and more convinced from the now many blog writers and resources (like from Wild Frontier!) encouraging you to include parents and your church family into your youth ministry in a greater measure.. Certainly you’ve been swayed by the great amount of statistical research that backs this up.We continue to compile these numbers at Support Statistics.

But you still may have questions as to how to incorporate this new practice of youth ministry into your local church situation.This may be true especially if you’ve been at your church for some time and the youth ministry is clicking along well.

This change would come easier if there are apparent problems in the youth ministry or if you are already in a transitional season.No matter what stage the youth ministry is in, you know that you know that you need to make this transition.There is this Holy-Spirit nagging that you must listen to.So here are some tips.


After beginning the discussion about the role of parents in youth ministry since 1994 when Mark DeVries challenged us to rethink this, three separate models of family ministry have shaped up.Those three are briefly:

  • Family Integrated - All age-segregated ministries are eliminated. There is no youth group, no children's ministry, nothing age-graded.The generations learn and worship together with parents bearing primary responsibility for the evangelism and discipleship of their children.
  • Family Equipping –Most of the age-segregated ministries remain intact but the church leaders plan and organize their ministries so that they champion the place of parents as the primary faith trainers.Often parents are required to serve.
  • Family Based - No radical changes occur in the church's internal structure. The church family still maintains youth ministry, children's ministry, singles ministry, etc.Teens may still experience worship and small groups in peer groups, separated from other generations, but each ministry sponsors events and learning experiences that are intentionally designed to draw generations together.

When we refer to CFBYM, we refer to a mix of Family Equipping and Family Based that also intentionally includes the church family.What you do at your church will most undoubtedly be your own combination and have your own flavor.Go as the Holy Spirit leads.

No matter what flavor your form of CFBYM grows into, there will be a long and intentional season of transitioning.Stay with it.There will be some intentional transitions which you can lead with.But honestly more of this practice will be caughtthan taught.Stay with it.

Before we talk about the intentional transitioning you can do from your youth leadership position, I must mention the importance of your senior pastor, elders, leadership committee, etc., being on board with you and this new practice of youth ministry.The youth ministry is not an island.You are making this transition because you desire to intentionally bring youth ministry back into the center of the church family.To succeed all of the church’s leadership needs to be on board with this transition.

If they are not yet on board, this is where you must is full of helps to do that.

There are some roles you can play and some practices you can incorporate from your role as youth worker that will help you lead during this transition.The following is a starter list:

  • The youth ministry plans and calendars are under you and your leadership team’s direction.You can purposely plan in events to introduce these ideas to the teens as well as the parents and other adults in the church.I’ve used this picture description many times to explain this.A CFBYM youth leader is the master of one big chess board with the prize being the faith and formation of the teens.In this role you are moving all of the pieces of the church to interact with the teens.Every person from the widows to the nursery workers are your beloved pawns, rooks, and queens to set up opportunities to pass on their faith experiences to the teens.Brainstorm with your leadership team how you can intentionally incorporate the parents and church family into your calendar.
  • This is more than just creating CFBYM events.A common leadership mistake in bringing about change is to try to get people to buy into programs.  While you may schedule through programs, it is more important for you to have the church family embrace the principles.This is where the time of transition becomes lengthy.People quickly adapt to programs but may or may not experience change.To adapt to principles takes purposed time.
  • You will need to let go of some youth group favorites to make this transition. Another problem which arises from just creating CFBYM events, especially those more in the Family Based style of youth ministry,are when these events are added into the already existing youth ministry plans.These well-intentioned plans tend to be yet another meeting or yet another activity squeezed into the already full youth ministry schedule.Most family schedules cannot handle yet another meeting to attend, so too often these new added meetings will get skipped in favor of what is already scheduled.In this transition, it will be very likely that something you’ve done before or have done traditionally may need to be dropped.
  • And remember, a CFBYM event is not a parent meeting where you bring everyone together to present your agenda.
  • Not all of your intentions need to be events.Use the church bulletin, church newsletter, church website, etc., to inform and educate your church family.Do a short devotional on a Scripture that values the family (there are more of those than Scriptures that support traditional youth ministry).Include nuggets of research from the collected Support Statistics.Also use those mediums to report true testimonies of the good things that happened at a CFBYM event.Maybe have that influential adult write his/her own report of his/her experiences of mixing with the teens.
  • The definition of youth ministry success will have to be changed.The previous measure may have been numbers or something better like teen faith commitments.It may have been simply the energy that the youth ministry created in the church.The new definition of success should become the numbers of lives who will be in Church (not necessarily yours as there are life transitions) ten years from now.That is an entirely different measurement but one that is more life changing for the teen and for the life of the Church.

Last month we mentioned in “A Youth Ministry with Staying Power”, another intention may be to arrange a mentor relationship for one of your teens with a specific member of the church family.It’s not an event but you’ve moved yet another chess piece towards the prize of the faith and formation of that one teen.By the way, this is a busy role for you.

  • Another area of transition will be what you do with your “youth space.”For many years we’ve all fought to have our sacred space for the teens.A space we could decorate and create an environment that helps teens feel comfortable and thus more open to faith ideas.To transition doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up your space but you certainly will want to open up your space.Not only by inviting parents and church family members through your doors so often that the door may not be necessary but to also purposely open up the entire church building to be “youth space.”You and all of the church leadership can strive to create the atmosphere that the teens are comfortable and feel wanted in the worship center, hallways, nursery, kitchen, and maybe (gasp) the church parlor.

I do not believe these practices are inclusive.Are there purposed transitional moves you have made that you would like to share here to complete this list?Submit these to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .We are actively seeking 150-word submissions for our new interactive digital magazine, YM Shorts.What you have tried is exactly what we are looking for so please submit so others can find success as they make this transition.