In her previous post, Leneita Fix talked about the importance of having the right focus and attitude toward unchurched parents. Ultimately, we should see them as Jesus see them, but we don’t always do that do we? Today, Leneita shares practical steps to get unchurched parents to show up to parent meetings, as well as crucial insights to building authentic relationships that bring about opportunities to minister to them…
1) SIGN YOUR STUDENTS UP: Have students (if you don’t already) fill out some sort of start of year registration. On that ask for parent or guardian. Also, ask for the names of any other adults living in the home and their relationship to the student and the parent/guardian. (i.e.- “Stepfather” may actually equal Mom’s new boyfriend.) Get all pertinent contact info- Home Phone, Email, Facebook, Address, Parental Cell Phone. The more contact info the better. Ask students to update this every couple of months in case anything changes.
2) EXPECT THEM TO SHOW UP: That is the first problem. We give up before we begin. Set up a meeting in the evening after dinner. Point is think through when the best time for a meeting for your parents would be. Then over communicate when the meeting is and how you really want them there. I have a process that I go through that gets every parent to the table. I start with a letter home, a month out. Then I follow with an email, two weeks out, (Follow up letter to those without email.) I might put a reminder on the parent’s wall on FB. A week out from the meeting the adult youth team and I start making phone calls. In this call we ask the question: “Will you be coming?” (This is key, it causes them make a decision). Finally, two days out from the meeting I use a mass texting program (joopz.com for example) and I send a final reminder. “Parent meeting tonight! Time/Place” Sure should I leave the responsibility on the kid- Yes. The child may or may not care that their parent is at the meeting- or even want them there. I want them there, so I expect them to show up. Then I leave them without excuse for not “knowing” or making a way.
3) CAN YOU HELP THEM GET THERE? Do you need to provide rides? Ask them if they need one? Do you need to set up childcare for the meeting? What are the deeper reasons, that might be very practical beyond, “I’m too busy.” I will give you an example. We have one car. Just tonight we are supposed to be at a youth parent meeting. Well, my younger child has an after school lesson on the other side of the town. The parent meeting is at 5- before dinner and in the middle of the lesson, before my husband is done at work. Practically, neither my husband and I can get there. Not because we don’t want to. Instead, we really CAN’T.
4) WHY DO YOU WANT THEM THERE? Communicate clearly what the meeting is about and why it is vital that they are there. “Vision Casting,” in truth isn’t always what will get a parent out. They may feel “information” can be given over the phone. However, if you let them know that you need their help in growing their child, every parent wants that. Tell them crucial you NEED them there.
5) ARE YOU DEVELOPING OR BETTERING? “Betterment” is helping someone for a day to make their life a little “better.” Development is seeing others and working with them to grow into who Christ intends them to be. Use words and statements with the parents like- “It is an honor that you allow your child to come to my program.” “I am walking with you as YOU raise YOUR child.”
6) DO YOU EVEN KNOW THEM? Do you show parents the regard they deserve? Not based on whether or not you believe they are doing a “good job?” Instead that student spends most of their time under the headship of their home. Help parents see themselves as who God meant them to be. Do you make sure to reach out and say hi? Have you walked to the door and introduced yourself? If you pick their child up do you beep the horn and wait for the student? Or do you walk to the door and say a simple hello. Try this “trick.” Between you and your team split up the list of students. Once a month call home. Have a 3- 5 minute conversation with the parent. Tell them why you love their kid. You have no idea how much this will get you “in.”
7) Have you ASKED- what they want or need? Try brainstorming at your first session with parents. Instead of telling them what you are going to do FOR them, try including them. Ask- “What does the program do well?” “What could use some tweaking and how would they suggest it?” Ask how you can help them- or what they think might help you together influence their child.
8) BE CREATIVE: Want to get the “non-regular” involved parents… to be involved? Find creative ways to meet them and draw them in. Include dinner as part of the meeting night. Ask them to make their child’s favorite food. (If budget allows offer to provide the ingredients!) Have a cook-off for the parents. You can do this so many ways- beans… chili…best mac and cheese. Have an Art Show or Talent Night- Require every student to DO SOMETHING… even if they say the Pledge of Allegiance. Every parent wants the opportunity to smile and say, “Hey that’s my kid!!!!”
In the end I believe we give up before we even start often with the “unchurched.” We show up with the expectation that they don’t care. We think they will never arrive in the life of their children. Then they fully meet the “bar” we have set for them and we are disappointed. Change your heart. Pray for them. Ask the Lord how to meet them. Remember he wants the parents NOT JUST the kids to walk fully in relationship with him. Have you ever thought that a changed parent = a changed family= a changed world?
Leneita Fix is the founder and lead consultant for Blue Sky/Green Sky Consulting whose heart is : “Passionate about developing and training youth-oriented programs that are looking to take a generation from surviving to thriving in Christ. In 2012 she will reach the 20 year mark of experience in youth ministry, suburban, urban and rural. Most of her time has been spent in the urban community, living as a neighbor to those around her. http://www.blueskygreensky.com/