One key to a fruitful student ministry is partnering with parents. Students have many different obligations tugging at them, from school to sports, jobs, and extracurricular activities. When it comes to church, we must partner with the parents of our students so we do not add more stress or tension to already busy schedules.
I used to think that adjusting and working around students’ schedules meant the church was losing, that somehow students should prioritize church over everything else in their lives. However, that attitude is not one of grace, love, or outreach and is only effective in alienating students and achieving poor attendance.
After some research and trial and error, I have found five ways youth workers can partner with parents to help develop a stronger student ministry:
Create a one-year tentative schedule
Partnering with parents means communicating plans and events coming up in your ministry. Honestly, I am a bit OCD about this because it has made such a difference in my ministry. Having a one-year tentative schedule starting at the current month allows your parents to know what is planned down the road for the student ministry. Yes, this means adding a new month to the end of the schedule every month.
Parents can have a heads up on when camp, pool parties, retreats, and other events are planned so they can schedule their family time and vacations. Having a schedule planned out shows parents we value their time.
Disclaimer: Just because you have a tentative schedule does not mean the dates are all set in stone and it does not guarantee record-breaking attendance. But, parents will know you value communication and their time.
Send a Monthly Newsletter
A monthly newsletter offers a few different opportunities for your student ministry to partner with parents. I send out a newsletter every month with three main sections:
1. Article or Blog Post for Parents of Teenagers—Either a snippet or the full article for parents to have and read on their own time.
2. Upcoming Events—Parents like to have a digital or physical copy where they can understand what that month has in store for their students. In my monthly newsletter, I am very detailed about times, places, and what is needed for that event. None of these events are new information for the parents because it has been on the One-Year Tentative schedule for a whole year now, but the newsletter shares more information to help parents understand the event in further detail so there are no surprises.
3. Social Media Button to our Accounts—I add a Social Media button to the digital copy of our newsletter so parents can also be connected and follow us on social media. Why? Because when parents start following the student ministry accounts, they feel connected to what is happening within your ministry.
Invite Parents to serve as volunteers
90% of the volunteers within our student ministry are parents of current students. Our ministry loves when parents get involved because it means they have bought in to it and the direction God is leading. When parents buy in to your ministry, they become your most prominent advocates and have your back. I love having parents serve on my team because they build up our ministry within the community. They are partners with me in ministry.
Have an open communication/door policy for parents
For some reason, student pastors often feel that when parents have questions, it means the parents don’t trust them. In reality, questions usually mean the parent wants to partner with you and understand your ministry.
Open communication and door policy means you allow parents to contact you, ask questions, and serve beside you. I have found that the parents who email and communicate with me most, are the ones who want to be a part of my ministry. Please understand some parents will question everything you do, but when you give them the “why,” it allows them to buy in to your ministry. When parents buy in to your ministry because they know the “why,” they will participate.
Every student pastor needs to create a partnership with the parents. Amazing things happen in your ministry when parents get on board.
Scott has been doing youth ministry for 13 years. He serves at Ebenezer Baptist in Hillsborough, NC as the Pastor of Students. Talley has studied and written on youth ministry and received his Doctorate in Global Mobilization at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Talley seeks to help fellow youth pastors reach teenagers with the Gospel, while also engaging students to make disciples locally and internationally.
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