7 Keys to Influencing Church Leadership to Partner with Parents

You’ve likely heard it said that our time with kids and students is getting shorter in an increasingly busy extra curricular culture. Parents however, still have the greatest influence with their kids, While what we do on a Sunday or midweek program is vital, it’s imperative that we make a shift in our time and resources to help parents to succeed at home. But, it’s not entirely up to us, is it?

Influencing church leadership to embrace a vision of reaching the whole family is critical. After all, your leaders set the direction of the church. And if the church employs you, it’s likely you will have to get them to buy into partnering with parents. But that’s not always easy to do! Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.

Here’s the question I get asked a whole lot! How can I get buy in from my pastor or church leaders to reallocate my time and resources to partner with parents? 

Climbing Leadership

While it can often feel like climbing a mountain alone, there are some practical and tactical steps you can take to gain buy in from those who lead us: 

  1. Focus on your Job Description First. It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer or full-time, the leaders in your church see your primary responsibility to invest in children or students (or both). We have to remember that the idea of partnering with parents, and the titles of “Next Generation” or “Family Life Pastors” is foreign to many leaders in the church. We also have to consider that there is a certain way children’s and youth ministry has been done over the years. Therefore, it is essential that we gain influence first by doing a great job in the role that we were called to. It can take two or more years to establish a healthy ministry before partnering with parents can truly become a focus. While this might be frustrating, it doesn’t mean you can’t infuse partnering with parents into your role, it just might take a little longer to arrive…
  2. Pursue Healthy Conversations. Part of our role is to constantly find ways to passionately talk up the need and vision to partner with parents. However, in my experience it is crucial to pursue conversations that are positive and filled with great reasons why, as opposed to criticizing what the church is missing out on. In pursuing healthy conversations with the decision makers in your church, keep in mind that they are usually managing multiple people, plans, and ideas. Therefore, ensure that you come prepared.
  3. Own the Vision. Can you articulate why it’s essential to partner with parents in a sentence or two? Can you provide a biblical basis along with specific examples of how partnering with parents is more effective? Chapter 4 in my book provides a clear vision for you to articulate. If you need help in this area, consider picking up a copy.
  4. Have a Strategy. One of the greatest shortcomings in my early days was not having a good strategy that other leaders could support. Having a strategy that includes a timeline and specific steps showing a progression of implementation is crucial.
  5. Share Stories. A story of life change is always going to be the most effective way to cast vision with leaders in the local church. We all want to know one thing. Does it work? Providing stories of how partnering with parents is making your ministry more effective and how it is helping parents to be more effective is so crucial. It ultimate serves as a crucial way to cast vision for leaders.
  6. Request “Stage Time”. I am very fortunate in my church when it comes to my senior leaders supporting the vision to partner with parents. It’s not difficult to ask for opportunities to cast the vision in the overall church. However, this has not always been case. Even though there are always so many events to be promoted and given stage time, it shouldn’t mean that we do not ask. As long as we don’t come across as whiney kids, you and I might be surprised by the opportunities that come our way.
  7. Commit to the Long Haul. One of the greatest ways you and I can influence leadership to capture a vision for partnering with parents is longevity. When you have been around for a while and you have a track record of “getting your job done” as well as having gained trust with key leaders, longevity brings influence.

What would you add to this list? How much “buy in” do you have with your church leadership to truly partner with parents? Is it just an add on, or is it something that is weaved into your role? Who are the leaders and influencers you need to connect with this week to discuss your vision to reach the whole family?

Phil <><

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Step aside and let leaders Speak

If you knew that you could make changes in your ministry to present God’s truth to students more effectively, would you make them?  Seems like a no brainer right? One of the best ways to present God’s truth more effectively is to step aside and let other leaders speak…

Why is that so difficult for some of us?  Let’s be honest, if you are like me,  it’s very easy to come up with reasons for not making use of volunteers in this way…

First, it’s easy to conclude that their volunteer status equals poor messages… Not true. 

Second, it could mean that we have to plan far in advance… Not easy for some of us!

Third, after we have met with the leader and walked them through the message,  we could have written it ourselves in less time… This is true, but would it be more effective? 

All seem like compelling reasons?  However, here’s why it is imperative to to invest, equip, and empower our volunteers to give messages: 

1) They are Different: As hard as this is to admit, students in our ministries will tune us out week after week. No matter how dynamic we are,  kids will naturally tune us out.  I have a British accent and my youth ministry friends say I could talk about anything and it would be interesting… I wish!  I tell them, yes, the new kids love it… (if they can understand me at first), but give them a few months and it’s old!  Our leaders are a different face, have a different style, and different ways of thinking through things… Your students have different learning styles and different ways to think through things too… We cannot cover the whole ‘bandwidth’ of students personalities and learning styles on our own. 

2) Planning Pays Off Volunteers will present poorly if we give them short notice… When we plan ahead in a series, we can give leaders 4-6 weeks to think and work on a message.  Leaders perform better when they have time to pray and think through their message. If we are not planning this far ahead, we are not helping our leaders succeed. 

3) Investment  Pays Off. Recently two leaders gave messages for me and I have invested hours of time into both of them. They both have good communication skills and a strong faith and these most recent messages were the best I have seen them give. We would all agree that their first messages were shaky and not as concise as they could be, (do you remember your first message?) Investment pays off as we take time to encourage, tweak and improve their skills. 

4) Get the Night off and Lead: When a leader gives the message for me and I am able to take the night off from speaking, I am able to lead better. I can step back and assess the program from a different vantage point and see tweaks we need to make that I would not normally see.  Finally, I can invest more relational time with leaders and students. It’s great for students and leaders to see us laughing and being a part of the group in a different way…

Is it time to step aside and let leaders speak? 

Phil <><

How to Build a Youth Ministry Fan Base

Once any of us have been in a church for more than a year it becomes very apparent that the honeymoon is well and truly over. People are starting to discover that we have faults and failings. We’ve already stained the new carpet with paintball. Or we might have shown a video clip in church that had a cuss word in it. (Actually, I have never done that… I have tended to leave that to my lead pastor… he’s done that twice)!

The fact is, give it time and people get to see that you are not one of the Apostles and that you don’t stay awake 24 hours a day, and that you are not the answer they were looking for in a youthworker. It’s in these situations that you and I need to build what I call a ‘youth ministry fan base’.

A fan base is not an ego boost… The fan base are the people who have your back, who know you, who understand you vision, who see you and accept you for who you are. Our fan base will not only keep us encouraged, but will also keep us in healthy accountability. The fan base are the ones who speak for you at a church meeting or when a parent is concerned about you and their kids. The fan base can be the difference between short-lived ministry and a healthy long one. So how do I work on my ‘fan base’

1) Invest in the Leaders. Choose 4 or 5 influential people at your church, (in leadership or simply influential). Take them out for coffee and find out about them, ask them about their hopes and dreams for the church. Ask them how someone like you and I could do well there. Then, at the end of your time together, ask them if you can share your vision and dreams … (You will be surprised how your vision might be restated by someone like this at opportune time).

2) Invest in Parents. Parents need to be heard and need to know that we care. They need to know that we are reaffirming what they say at home to their kids. They only know we care if  we take time out. On a typical evening you will see that I spend 50% of my time talking to parents at the end of the program. These conversations are valuable to understand families and their dynamics, but also to build trust with parents. Here’s the other upside… some of those parents become your leaders, event planners, and food providers too. Hopefully, they are blessed, but so are our ministries.

3) Invest through the Generations. At my last church we had quite a large number of shall we say, ‘older folks’ who seemed to struggle with teenagers. (I am sure your church has similar issues). However, I quickly learned that it was important to seek out a few influential pensioners who could become ‘youth ministry fans’. It was just a question of taking time to talk with them about what the students were up to and what issues these kids face today. It’s amazing to see the walls come down when you share stories of kids joys and challenges to older folks. You see, it’s a lot harder to judge when you heart is hurting for kids…

4) The ‘Up Front’ Strategy. Work with you pastor and leadership to be ‘up front’ as often as your schedule allows, even if it is for the announcements on Sunday, or helping with a kids message. Whatever way you can, it pays to let people see you. At my current church I preach every couple of months, (it used to be every 5-6 weeks), and I regularly do announcements. Even if I am not doing either, you will always see me on the door greeting people as they leave. Even if I don’t feel like I know everyone, I have found that people feel connected with me because I am up front a quite a lot. When people feel like they know you, it’s harder for them to be a critic. Be strategic about being up front. 

More ‘Fan Base’ Ideas to come…

Phil <><

I’d be dead without Volunteers.

roadkillThis morning I am meeting Sara and Nancy for coffee, and later I am meeting Jeremy for lunch. All three of them are great volunteers in our youth program, but they have also become great friends in the last couple of years. In ministry, these are the kind of people I would be dead without! They not only produce amazing things at our events and programs, but they are the kind of people who every youthworker needs to hang in for the long haul. 

For me, the key to getting and keeping volunteers like this has been very intentional in how I meet with them and how we do life together. Here’s 5 things I do with all my volunteers: 

 

1) Large Leaders Meeting – Every two months: This is to celebrate victories, cast vision about why we do what we do, take a look at what is coming up in the big picture and pray for our kids. (I sometimes bring a load of postcards so leaders can write their kids as they pray for them. (When I say ‘their’ kids, I mean the ones that they have in a small group)… We always try to meet at the house of one of my leaders (it’s big house), and have snacks and drinks to make it laid back. (We could meet at the church, but I want it to me more like a party than a meeting)!

2) Individual Meetings: On an ongoing basis, I try to meet with all my main leaders at least once every two months for a coffee and catch up. I split an hour meeting into three ‘C’s. First, I ‘Check Up’. How are you doing personally? How is your walk with God etc. The second ‘C’ is: ‘Cast Vision’ – What do I need to say that will restate or refocus why we do what we do? Finally, the last ‘C’ is to ‘Communicate Details’: What events, details or changes do they need to know about?  

3) Key Leader Meetings: ‘Key Leaders’ are leaders who oversee a certain area in our programs. These are the people I often meet with at least monthly. This time includes, planning and implementing what is coming up. 

4) Emails – once a week:  This is how I communicate the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what we are doing. Schedule, events, details of program are emailed to leaders and are we have a calendar and events page online with specifics. 

5) Quarterly Fun Events: Events at my house, BBQ’s, Christmas party, Wii nights etc… All designed to build community and relax

Phil <><

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