Many parents are busy, stretched, and stressed. Everything I do must be intentional about their helping families – not hurting them. The way I schedule, the way I communicate, and the way individually support parents should be a passage to helping them (and ultimately helping their kids). If I can partner with parents effectively, it could be one of the best ministry investments I make!
It’s God’s design that parents disciple their kids, (Deuteronomy 6:7). Unfortunately, many models of youth ministry either take over the role of parents, or do not intentionally partner with parents to support them. Given that parents spend so much more time with their kids than I do, I must invest in parents knowing that I am utimately helping my students more effectively.
Here’s aspects I am working on to create a Family Focused Student Ministry that partners with parents and does not replace them:
1) Remind Parents Of My Job (And Theirs): I am constantly telling parents, “I am here to partner with you and not replace you… I am here to support and reinforce what you are already teaching your kids at home.” It’s my supportive way to let parents know I am in this to support them, but also to remind them of their role too. I find this phrase does not threaten parents who are not keeping their role, it usually spurs them on to take a more active role in discipling their kids.
2) Communication: Given busy schedules, I over communicate as much as possible. We text (Simply Youth Ministry), email (Mailchimp), facebook, use the church bulletin, (a few parents read that), a monthly parent newsletter (through ParentLink), flyers, and constant conversations. Because parents have so many messages, emails and information coming their way, it’s pertinent that I over communicate. When I do this it gives parents confidence in my ministry and helps them plan well…
3) Schedule in Way In Advance: Not every parent looks way ahead in their schedule, but the ones who do really appreciate it when I give them good notice. Events like mission trips or weekend retreats or summer events seem to be most important. In addition, when I plan far ahead, parents will often bend and flex to make the church event work in their schedule. When I schedule late, too bad! Being family focused means I must consider their schedules first…
4) Recruits Great Parent Leaders To Minister To Parents: I am a father of 2 kids under 5, but I do not know what it feels like to be a parent of a teen. Even though I can talk to parents as the “expert” on their teenager, there is still a big piece of the puzzle missing. I have been very intentional about recruiting great “been there, seen it” parents who can come alongside the parents of teenagers in my ministry.
5) Promote Parenting Resources: I am constantly posting books and resources on facebook for my parents to read. I am aware that many parents follow me on facebook and I use this to give them ideas about books and websites that will be helpful to them. My favorite sites to point parents to are: homeword.com and cpyu.org. Currently the two books I am promoting to parents are two books by Dr. Jim Burns from Homeword: Teenology and Faith Conversations for Families
6) Quarterly Parent Meetings: We meet after church while everyone is on campus, we keep the meetings short, and we make them worthwhile by focusing on issues that parents are yearning to know.
7) Meet with Them: This might seem obvious, but I know it can be scary for some youth workers to meet with parents. A lot of the time I find they just want to get to know me and want to be heard. Just like teens, parents don’t care what you know until they know that you care…
8.) Praise them: Parenting teens can be a huge rollercoaster for our parents with more “downs” than “ups” at times. It’s important to see myself as a cheerleader to the parents. Building them up gives them confidence and valuable support. Don’t underestimate just how much it means to them when the “expert” on teens tells them what a great job they are doing!
Well, there is a lot more to say, but these are the main pieces I am working on. How about you?
Tomorrow: Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 5: Students