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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Team Up! How to Become an Expert in Partnering with Parents!

Expert Lightbulb
 photo credit: Light bulb on desk via photopin (license)

Partnering with parents to reach the next generation for Christ should be an essential component for every children’s and youth ministry. While we get to partner with them through our weekly programs, it’s imperative that we understand that God has called parents to be the primary equippers of their child’s faith journey. It’s essential that we comprehend the greater influence of time that parents have with their children.

 “I get it, but what next? I’m not an expert on parenting!”

That was a statement I made many years ago as I grappled with how best to reach parents with a vision to invest in their child’s faith journey. I had quickly found that parents were looking for practical ways to invest in their children, but many times, they were lost for ways to help faith come alive at home.  And while I was not always the one to help them with every question, it was imperative that I develop a network of people who had the answers.

“Be an expert at helping parents find answers rather than one who’s expected to have the answers.” Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. 

Consider the following experts and support you can provide parents: 

  1. “Been There” Parents: Who are the parents who are a few steps ahead of the parents in your ministry? While there are no perfect parents, it’s essential to connect your parents with those who have gleaned valuable lessons in raising their own children in the faith. Who are the “been there” parents in your ministry?
  2. Trained Christian Counselors: Every community has a number of counselors, but they do not all come from a Christ-centered perspective. Talk to your senior pastor and other church leaders to build a list of recommended trained christian counselors.
  3. Community Agencies: While many community agencies will not have the same mission as the church, they can often provide great practical help to the families in your church.
  4. Books: Ask parents if there are books that have helped them in their parenting journey. Create a list and even be prepared to ask a parent to write a review of the book for other parents to read.
  5. Websites: What websites and blogs can help parents in their faith journey. Recently at Kidmin2015 we created a list of websites, blogs, and apps that can help parents. Click here for the list. 
  6. Apps: Some of your parents are already using apps and loving the ideas and encouragement they bring. Ask parents if they have a “go to” app they use as they invest in their child’s faith journey. Once you have found that app on the app store, consider searching for similar apps to recommend them.

Parents see you as the expert whether you like it or not. It does NOT mean you have to know all the answers, but it DOES mean that you should be an expert in finding the answers!

What are your “go to” resources for parents? What are your favorite websites, apps, and books to recommend parents? 

Phil <><

 

Team Up! Partner with Parents with a Web of Support

PlayFor years, there’s been a tendency for us to focus solely on church programs and miss helping parents succeed at home. While many of us have heard of the importance of partnering with parents, there’s not always been a clear and practical picture of how to do it. That’s why I wrote Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.
Today, we’ll look at a simple strategy that will help support and equip parents without requiring us to expend huge energy or to navigate a huge learning curve:

 

“All parents need a web of support to help them on their parenting journey. It’s our role to connect them. It’s important for them to be surrounded by people who can help and encourage them as they raise their kids.” Excerpt from Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents

Help Parents Develop a Web of Support

  1. Connect Parents with Each Other. So many parents feel isolated and alone. They often feel like they are the only ones who are struggling or making mistakes at home. Whether it’s promoting small groups in your church (even if that’s not your area of ministry), or creating intentional ways for parents to talk and connect within your program and events, parents need to know they are not alone.
  2. Connect Parents with Seasoned Parents. Who are the “been there” parents who have a heart for parents? Who are the seasoned parents who can help create events, small groups, and classes to pour into your parents? So often, we feel like the burden to partner with parents is solely on us. However, if we pray and watch, God will often show us those seasoned parents who can come alongside the parents of the children we are ministering to.
  3. Connect Parents with Volunteers. So often we provide volunteers with the focus to invest and pour into the kids in their group or program. But what would it look like if we changed their focus and gave them a revised “job description” that included reaching out to and encouraging a parent once a week? What if every volunteer in your children’s and youth ministry reached out to one parent each week? What impact would that have?
  4. Connect Parents with Professionals. Do you have a network of professionals you can quickly refer parents to in a time of need? Partnering with them does not mean that we have all the answers and expertise, it can mean that we know who to point them to. If you don’t have a list of counselors and trained professionals, today is the day to begin building one

There are a number of additional ways to build a web of support for parents, but hopefully you get the overall idea. Partnering with parents in children’s and youth ministry does not always require us to overhaul what we are doing, rather we can weave some essential components into what is already existing.

There’s lots more to say, and it’s written in Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. Grab a copy and feel free to contact me and continue the conversation with questions and ideas!

Phil <><

15 Ways To Partner With Parents In Your Youth Ministry: The First 5…

Partnering with parents in youth ministry is absolutely essential. When I speak to youth workers, usually we agree that partnering with the family is far more effective than living in a silo youth ministry that only focuses on the students.

But the problems is this: While most of us agree that partnering with parents is essential, many of us don’t know where to start practically…

Partnering-with-Parents-570x372In the book, Think Orange by Reggie Joiner, he makes a great case for using our time and resources to support parents. Each year the average youth ministry will have approximately 40 hours of teachable time with students, while parents will have approximately 3000 hours of teachable time with them. It makes simple sense to support parents and partner with them as they raise their kids…

But what can this look like practically?

In the next few posts, I will list 15 ways in which we can effectively partner with parents. Some ideas are easy to implement, while others will take a change of culture in your church. Read more

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 4: Parents

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. Read more

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 3: Volunteers

In my previous post I talked about how a successful ministry goes hand in hand with a leaders who care well for their own family. Today I want to talk about the importance of caring well for volunteer leaders and supporting a healthy family focus for them too. Many of them work full-time, or have teenagers of their own and busy lives. Therefore, it’s imperative that I create an environment that is conducive to healthy family ministry for them too…

I could start by telling you what I do to promote a healthy family focus for my leaders, but I will let some of them start by telling you instead: Read more

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 2: You

Yesterday I began a five-part series reflecting on why it’s important to be family focused in our student ministries. I also gave a quick snapshot of how I keep this focus. Today I want to continue this focus by looking closer at one aspect I mentioned in my previous post:

IT STARTS WITH ME (OR YOU): In 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives Timothy the charge of calling overseers and deacons. Read more

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 1

Today I am beginning a five-part series on family focused student ministries. In the last few years I have intentionally changed my focus of ministry to focus on the family as a whole. Here’s why:

Every student that we see in our ministry is part of a family system and is impacted by the health of their family. Given that we typically will have only a few hours a week of contact time with our students, I have had to realize that my impact on my students is greater when I can impact and support the whole family.

In addition, students value relationships and family more than ever. Many of them have been raised in a world of broken families or have seen the impact the of broken families in their friends. Out of this brokenness, they are desperate for answers as they look to their future. Therefore, it is imperative that we not only look to support their families with healthy family focused ministry, but we also look for ways to model healthy family through our own lives as volunteers and paid youth workers.

In the next four days I will take a look at how I am attempting to model and support healthy family ministry for myself, my volunteer leaders, my students parents, and for my students. I don’t claim to have all the answers, I am simply on a journey to discover the answers. Here is a snapshot of where I am going this week:

For Me: In 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives Timothy the charge of calling overseers and deacons. He insists, “if anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church”? In the same way, as a church leader, I have to realize that healthy family ministry starts with me and how I model health for students and their families. It’s crucial that I understand how my ministry will reflect my own life and family…

For My Volunteer Leaders: My volunteers have families and are an example to our students on a weekly basis. Many of them work full-time, or have teenagers of their own. The time they volunteer in student ministry is over and above their work week, is over and above their family time, and ultimately takes them away from their families. Therefore, it’s imperative that I create an environment that is conducive to healthy family ministry for them…

For My Parents: Families are busy, stretched, and stressed. Everything I do must be intentional about 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). Again, if I can impact parents positively, I am helping my students for the long-term. If however, I choose to lead a silo ministry that runs incredible programs, I might feel like I am helping students, but in reality I am not.

For My Students: Many of the students in our ministries come from broken homes or difficult situations. Statistically many of them are living with only one parent and have seen divorce. It’s important that I see the big picture of my ministry as a model to these students who need to see how a dad / husband acts and lives. In the same way, many of my students need to see how a mom / wife acts and lives through the example of my wife. It’s vital that my students get the inside scoop to myself, my wife, my kids, and the way we live… Scary thought?

In the next four days I will be exploring each area and brainstorming the ways that I currently support families and how I hope to support them in the future.

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 <><

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