This week we dismissed our Life Groups to have Parent Night. I wasn’t super happy about the idea, not because I didn’t want to meet with parents, but I hate not meeting with the students. By the end of the night, however, I had completely changed my mindset.
Three reasons I was happy we met with parents instead of students: 1. It removed the mystery, 2. Allowed me to cast vision, 3. Gained support
It Removed The Mystery
The most I ever see parents is when I look out my front door after Life Group to tell students whose parents are waiting outside. I don’t know parents, they don’t know me. What they do know of me is what they hear from their sons when they get back in the car, which, knowing teenagers, isn’t much.
By having parent night, they got to ask me questions; lots and lots of questions. I was loving every minute of it. When I started youth ministry 20 years ago, I would have rather died than go through that. When I was just starting out, I didn’t know what I was doing. Now, after all of these years, everything I do has a purpose behind it.
When parents know why we do what we do, they are much more at ease. The mystery of what happens at our small group every Wednesday is solved. When Johnny goes home and tells his mom how funny group was or how awesome the game or dessert was, she can know why we’re having fun and desserts. She also knows more is happening; we’re also studying the Bible, and she knows our approach to studying it.
A side note on this: Because of the mystery, parents will probably search your name on Google to see what they can find out about you without you knowing. I love when they do this. Help them out by unlocking your Facebook and Instagram accounts so anybody can see what you post. Also, make sure you’re posting a few pictures each month of what you and your students are up to. That’ll put them at ease and warm their hearts.
Allowed Me To Cast Vision
For volunteer youth workers, there’s a lot more to vision than what the youth pastor casts. Volunteers need to have our own vision, that supports the vision of the youth ministry, but also details how we serve within that vision. Without vision, we find we’re more frustrated and may lack a feeling of accomplishment.
A summary of my vision is lead a small group a group of freshmen boys and teach them the Bible until they graduate. During that time, I build traditions, nurture community, and create memories that will bond them with each other. The memories we make will also serve as a beacon back to Christ and better times when they life get difficult as adults, or they drift away from the church.
Everything I do with students works to accomplish that vision. When I explained this to parents that night, their eyes lit up, some even teared up a little. One parent asked, and I’m not making this up, “So, Jake gets to have you all four years?” Need I say more?
When parents know the “why” behind what we do, they’ll support us more heartily. The hard part can be knowing what we want to accomplish; there’s so much to choose from. That’s the vision. We have to develop it.
I’ll list a few of my traditions that help carry out the vision. For space constraints, I won’t go into detail. You can read all about them in my book (see the link at the bottom of this post)
We have traditions for when Life Group members:
- Get their wisdom teeth out
- Get their driver license
- Have a birthday
We also have annual traditions:
- Print your own T-shirt night
- Life Group Alumni night
By the end of our time together, parents were asking how they could help. Could they send desserts? Could they offer their homes for events? What could they do?
I’m very happy they asked. Here’s a strange struggle our group has: More than half of my students do not attend the weekend High School Ministry service. I told parents the group will bond better if all of the boys attended the weekend service together. I also know they will benefit from the added teaching. What the students will find is they’ll see people from their school at the weekend service they didn’t even know go to our church.
I’ve been working on getting the boys to attend the weekend service all year. Because of parent night, now I have parents helping nudge them toward the weekend service. Between that, and offering to help how we need it, I’m very excited about how Life Group will get even better than it already is. Parent night really opened my eyes to what can happen by pausing the routine and taking a week to focus on them.
One Last Thought
By now, if you’re not planning a parent night, you might want to re-read this post (unless you already have a great parent ministry). A parent night is an amazing tool. This is our second year of a new annual tradition. Last year none of my boys’ parents showed up. This year about 25% did. Because of this year, I expect that number to go much higher next year. Traditions might take time to build up, but reaching out to parents is a great one to have.
There’s so much more to working with students. I go into greater detail on several youth ministry topics in my book Volunteer Youth Ministry, A Roadmap For Effective Leadership (foreword by Doug Fields). You can download it at VolunteerYouthMinistry.com. (Click Here)
Written By Dennis Beckner
Dennis is a volunteer youth worker who trains volunteer youth workers. Since 1999 he has been a leader at Saddleback Church’s Student Ministry. He is the author of Volunteer Youth Ministry, A Roadmap For Effective Leadership, and owns VolunteerYouthMinistry.com. He graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University in 1994, BA Religion.