One of the most crucial relationships a student pastor can have is one with the parents of the students he/she leads. Why? Because, for the most part, those students’ lives are still dictated by their parents. Let me tell you from experience… it’s better to have the parents of your students as allies than enemies. So how do you develop a student ministry that is “parent friendly?” Now… I’m no expert on this. I have a LOONNGG way to go when it comes to parent ministry, but I have learned a few things along the way that have been helpful to me:
1. Plan Ahead
Nothing angers a parent more than last minute youth ministry. “oh, btw, we have camp next week,” or “we have an event coming up in a couple of days.” These are sentences that parents HATE to hear. Why? Because we are not the only thing that is going on in their life. Parents need to know, in advance, what is going on so they can plan accordingly. Planning ahead tells a parent, “I care enough about you to think about your plans when I schedule our ministry’s plans.” Planning ahead builds trust with parents.
2. Communicate Often & Clearly
parents need communication; they need to be aware of what is going on. One way that we can get parents on our side is to learn the discipline of communication. This can be accomplished in a number of ways: letters, emails, enews, blogs, etc… What I have found, though, is that parents want to know specifics not generals. They don’t care how well you can write or how funny your stories are or how cool the graphic is. They want to know the details and they need them to be crystal clear. As a parent of two pre-schoolers I am learning this to be true. What I need most is the bottom line info. Where do they need to be? When do they need to be there? What do they need to bring? How much is this going to cost? What are they learning? These are all important questions to answer often.
3. Find Ways to Get Them Involved
A very basic way to get parental support is to invite them on your team. Parents make GREAT youth volunteers because they already have teenagers! They know what it is like to be around them 24/7. Now, I would caution you against sticking a student and parent together in a small group… that is a recipe for disaster. But one of the key things I would look for in a youth ministry that is healthy is “are parents involved?”
4. Brag About Their Kids to Them
Take opportunities to share with parents the successes of their children. It does a parent’s heart good to hear that their children are doing the right things and being influential. This can be as easy as a quick, “hey, did you hear about how your son/daughter did __________?” Or, you can drop the parents a quick email or write them a note. Parents LOVE this.
Whatever you do… make sure that the parents of your students are on your team and that you are both going after the same thing together.