We all know the key to discipleship and pointing students to Jesus is building strong relationships with them. And we all want a team of leaders who are involved in the lives of students. But how do we get there?

I believe the secret sauce to preteen and junior high ministry is building relationships with parents AND students. Both are equally important.

I currently lead a small group of 7th grade guys that I’ve been with since the beginning of their 6th grade year. I started the journey with them in preteen ministry, then moved up with them to junior high. During that time we’ve gone through a lot of peaks and valleys together. I’ve cried with them, laughed with them, and have had the opportunity on a regular basis to point out what I see God doing in their lives. Honestly, I feel like an uncle to them all.

And then it hit me.

The reason I am so close to them is because I am close with the parents. My relationship with them and ability to speak into their lives is directly related to my connection with their parents.

As I was getting to know them in the beginning, I made it a point to meet and connect with the parents. I’ve showed up to countless football, lacrosse and soccer games to cheer on the boys. And who am I talking to 99% of the time at those games? The parents. I send out weekly emails to the parents with specifics of how our small group is going (this is in addition to the weekly email from our junior high ministry). They love those emails! I’m in regular text / phone conversation with them about what’s going on in their sons’ lives.

What does all that do? It builds trust. Parents see me as a partner. They feel supported and encouraged by my presence. As a result, they’re highly motivated to bring their boys to Sunday, Wednesday night, camp and other events. They’ll go the extra mile to get them to youth group even if sports is a conflict on the calendar. They’re even open for me to meet up with their boys outside of youth events. (I typically do this in small pods of 2-3 students at a time. Ex: grab a burger, eat pizza, get some gelato, etc.)

What’s the takeaway for you? Train your team to build relationships with students AND parents. Both are important in order to effectively point preteens to Jesus. Imagine having a team of leaders who are fully invested in the lives of students and parents. What kind of impact could that make?

Written by Nick Diliberto, Founder of Ministry to Youth & Ministry to Preteens

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