Aaron Colyer and his wife Krista have been married since 2006 and have three amazing kids. He has a passion for shepherding young people and their families. He serves as Student Pastor at MacArthur Blvd. Baptist Church in Irving, TX. Born and raised in Texas, he earned a B.S. in Communication Studies from The University of Texas in Austin, and an M.Div. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Many of us have not grown in our faith without the help of a mentor. While Christ accomplished everything necessary for our faith at the cross and the Holy Spirit does all the work of sanctification, one of the means that the Spirit uses in our sanctification are the men and women that come alongside to mature us in the faith. Examples of mentoring from the very beginning of the church are numerous, such as Paul’s relationship to Timothy and Peter’s relationship to Mark. One of the greatest joys a Christian can experience is the ability to pour your life into a younger believer and echo the words of Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
In recent years, there many church leaders and authors have rightly emphasized the theology and practice of mentoring and discipleship. One popular work that has been particularly helpful in reference to this model of multiplication is The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. Yet with all of the available resources on mentoring and discipleship, I have seen very little written about the importance of a spiritual mentor partnering with parents in mentoring teenagers. In fact, I often have heard negative sentiments expressed by some who suggest that parents can actually get in the way of the things the spiritual mentor wants to accomplish.
In ten years of student ministry, the Lord has taught me so much about mentoring. It’s been an adventure filled with spiritual fruit and rebellion, victories and failures, celebrations and sorrow, laughter and tears. Much time has been spent in mentoring relationships with students in prayer, with open Bibles, doing evangelism, hanging out, memorizing Scripture, sharing family meals, talking relationships, confessing sin, attending events, and reading books. One area of student ministry that I have come to value more now than when I started is the importance of establishing relationships with the teenager’s parents.
At first, it was intimidating to ask a dad out to coffee, lunch, or have both parents come by the house for dessert. I was a young student pastor in my twenties and was just starting my family. Yet I was reminded that my authority did not come from my experience, but from the Word of God and the calling that He had placed on my life. As these meetings became more frequent, not only did they become less intimidating, I actually started to look forward to them. I began to understand the potential that these conversations carried for the spiritual growth of both the student that I was mentoring and their parents.
Many Christian parents understand that they are the primary spiritual leaders in the home. If not, developing a relationship with the parents gives me the opportunity to encourage them to accept their Scriptural responsibilities as parents.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments…” Psalm 78:5-7
Walking with Parents
As a student pastor, my desire is to partner with parents and supplement the ministry that they are already accomplishing in the home—namely the process of keeping Christ at the center of their home by praying, reading the Scriptures together, setting spiritual goals with their children, keeping them accountable for those goals, and talking about how their teenager is experiencing the Lord as they walk through the adventure of adolescence. As I walk this path with parents, I’ve found several things to be helpful.
- Ask for the parents’ permission to be involved in the mentoring relationship with their children. This builds a relationship of trust between you and the parents.
- As the relationship continues, keep an open line of communication with the parents. This will encourage them as they lead, pray, and fight to stay connected to the heart of their teenagers. It also gives me the opportunity to see how my student is doing from the perspective of someone who spends seven days a week with them. It’s rare that I have the opportunity to see how my student ‘honors’ their mother and father throughout the week, or if they are interacting with their siblings in a loving way, etc. So teaming up with parents is a win for everybody involved.
- If the student has unbelieving parents, you still can partner with them and have an open line of communication about the spiritual goals that have been set for their student. You also will have the opportunity to share the good news of Christ with the parents themselves. They have a vested interest in the growth of their student and you can talk about Jesus as you discuss that growth. Conversations with parents about their students often allows opportunities to discuss the parents’ spiritual need to respond to the Gospel with repentance and faith.
For the last several years my wife and I have been mentoring teenagers with an emphasis on relationship with the parents. We have also trained leaders to do this. It has opened several opportunities for missional living with unbelieving parents and sparked many conversations with Christian parents as they are continually encouraged and equipped to fulfill the leadership role in their child’s life. It is often the case that the parents call the spiritual mentor asking for prayer and wisdom to handle a situation in their home. Emphasizing relationship with the parents increases the potential impact from one teenager and those he or she will influence to whole families influencing those around them for Christ. May it never be said again that the work of connecting with the parents of those we mentor is distracting or too hard.