Parents can either be our greatest ally or our greatest nightmare. If you have been in youth ministry for any amount of time you have experienced both kinds of parents. I have found myself thinking many times, “why does dealing with parents have to be a part of my job!? Can’t they just go away?” The answer is no.
As long as we have students in our ministries we will have parents. We need to learn how to connect with parents and build a rapport with them. Here are 5 ways you can connect with parents, build trust, communication, and mutual respect for one another.
1. Monthly Emails
This can be a monthly newsletter if you will. Keep it something simple, just updating them on the highlights of the past month and letting them know what is coming up in the next month. These monthly emails do not need to be anything crazy and do not have to take a ton of your time. But what they do is continue to put you in front of the parents so you are present and seen. Even if they do not reply to the email they feel like they had contact with you and you care enough to communicate with them.
2. Parent info meetings
Again, this is not a huge time commitment but still a great way to connect. Have one before the school year, before summer, and if you are real brave add a third one between semesters. Having just 2-3 meetings a year where you get to talk about what is going on, answer questions and give them a “behind the scenes” look at the youth ministry. Keep them short (45min to an hour at most), give them some cookies and coffee and they will feel poured into, valued, and connected.
3. Parent trainings
This may be something you only do once a year or even every-other-year. Put on some type of parenting class. If you feel capable of teaching this yourself go for it, if you are like me and would rather bring someone in to teach it, then do that. You will speak volumes to parents about how much you value them if you are willing to come along side them as they parent and help them be the best parent they can. By simply putting on the event you communicate that to them. They will know you are not just in it for their kid while they are at youth group but you truly care about their whole family, including the parents.
4. Being Visible
Make sure you (or your leaders) are visible to parents. One of the ways we do this is by stationing leaders at the door, or in the parking lot so they can greet parents as they drop off their kids for youth group. Not a ton of interaction is required but it shows the parents that you are there and even a simple “hello” and a smile will connect with them.
5. Parents welcome events
This is a great way to connect with parents and gain their support in your ministry. Do events where parents are welcome to come and participate. Father’s day, Mother’s day, promotion day, students vs. parents game night, these are all examples of quick, easy to plan, youth events that involve parents. You don’t even have to go overboard on planning, just do what you would normally do but add a few elements where you address the parents and acknowledge they are there. Parents will feel connected to what is going on and will have a much stronger tie to the ministry when they themselves have experienced it first hand.
Connecting with parents can be a challenge. But if you apply these 5 tips, or even just a few of them you will have a much better time connecting with parents and will open the door for a great partnership.