How Do I Work With Parents? The Big Picture
In Doug Fields Book “Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry” he states that “Of all the chapters in this book, this one (becoming family-friendly) emerges from the trenches of trial and multiple failures rather than trial and occasional error.” Doug recalls that early in his ministry he treated parents as the enemy of successful church health. “How dare they say no to my creative ideas? Why won’t they just buy in?”
The Big Picture:
It’s important that all ministry workers gain a big-picture perspective regarding vital connections between their ministries and family life. When a strong family ministry is in place, trust can be built. Trust opens the door to buy-in, and buy-in helps fill low volunteer roasters. Healthy volunteers reach more kids, and health breeds success in the congregation. Below are 4 big picture points to consider when dealing with parents.
1: You’re an influence, not the influence:
I have learned that as a pastor I have a measure of influence on a child’s life, but ultimately the parent is the one who will have the longest and greatest impact. Our ministries act as only a protein shake to an already healthy diet. Our goal is to come alongside parents and partner with them, our goal is not to lead and raise their kids. While students may think you’re nice and feel safe talking to you, parents are doing all the raising and the ones God has established to primarily influence a child’s life.
2: Family – friendly ministry is important, but it’s not easy:
I’m writing this to you because I have been in the trenches with you. There is a difference between the perfect world situations presented in seminary school and parent responses in real life. In your first two years of leading a ministry, you need to think less about programing and more about building trust and relationships. Focus on understanding families, their rhythms, the up’s and the down’s. Remember the goal is to partner with parents, not to take kids away from parents. Here are five suggestions to help you partner with parents.
3: Don’t teach parents to parent unless you’ve been a parent:
Let me make this clear, as a youth worker you may know about teens, but unless you have raised a teen you don’t know how to parent one. You maybe aware about teen development, popular trends, how to use modern slang, or even current social media tools and tricks, but when it comes to parenting save your ideas for your own kids, or you will quickly learn humility.
4: Understanding basic family needs:
Parents need to know you’re not trying to take their place. You’re trying to help them. Sometimes in the midst of our department ministry we pour all our attention into a kid or a teen, while neglecting mom and dad. To develop effective family ministry we must consider the needs of the parents. Busyness is an epidemic and universal in our culture. It’s not limited to youth ministry or kids ministry, but families need to actively fight for time together. When you understand this, you’ll be more sensitive to your programing, you’re teaching, and expectations of students and parents. Take a look below to get a better understanding of your mindset vs a parents.
Department Leads Mindset:
- How can I make my ministry more fun?
- How can I keep my students attention?
- How can I help them grow spiritually?
- What activities would draw more students out?
- What service projects can I provide?
- What topics should I be speaking on?
- How can I keep parents happy?
- How can I stay alive working in a job that never ends?
- Why am I so busy?
- How can we pay the bills this month?
- How can we have peace in our home?
- How can we get our kids to do their homework?
- How can I afford to send my kid to college?
- How can we get ahead in life?
- Who are my child’s friends?
- How do I parent my kid in this culture?
- Is my teen having sex? Are they doing drugs?
- How can I get my kid to go to church without a fight?
- How can I get my family to do things together?
- Why am I so buys?
8 suggestions to help you partner with parents:
- Make it a habit to ask parents how you can pray for them.
- Find a parent volunteer to gather parent prayer requests, find someone on your team who can take in parent calls, pray for the families and pass this news on to the rest of your team.
- Have a follow through – if you tell a parent you will be praying for them, do it.
- Ask parents to help pray for you, your ministry, and your team.
- When you gather your group to leave for a special trip or camp, have parents stay with you and have a special time of prayer before leaving.
- Ask for parent input regarding your events schedule. Are you doing too much? Scale back. Remember your ministry is an aid, not the main course meal.
- Make sure your events fall in line with the main church schedule. Don’t try to stagger your events too close. You will force kids and parents to pick and choose.
- Try and have no more than 1 main event (think lock-in, turkey bowl, game night) and 1 small event per month. (Think football, evangelism in the community, service projects, etc.)
- Based on this short article – how do you feel you can better partner with parents?
- Why do you think it might be difficult for parents to accept authority from you?
- Do I understand that I represent MorningStar Fellowship even when I’m not at church functions? How do I feel about this?
- How can I trim down my events and programs to better partner with parents?
- Make a list of 5 things you can do to encourage parents