What would our ministry look like if we could truly partner with parents in the way that we would like? What would it look like to truly reach parents?
There are a lot of different pieces to the puzzle that is youth ministry, but the parent piece is one that is both confusing and frustrating to a lot of us. How do we get parents to fit into our ministry like we want them to?
Some of us might settle for figuring out how to get parents to open our emails. While that would be a good start, we can do better. We have to change how we think about and view parents.
Here are a few reasons why you may not be able to reach parents through your ministry right now.
You only want parents to serve your ministry
Youth pastors love the phrase “partnering with parents.” But what do we mean when we say that? If we were to really get into specifics, it would mostly include things like getting parents to chaperone events, financially support the youth ministry or just bring their kids to youth group more than once a month.
And, I get it. You need parents to support your ministry. But parents are never going to have sustained enthusiasm about your ministry if you are only concerned with ways that they can help you pull off your next event. Giving parents opportunities to serve your ministry is not going to be enough to reach them.
You’ve only built half of a bridge
When you started serving in youth ministry, your thought may have been that if you build a bridge half-way to the parents, they would build the other half. Then you would have this beautiful, thriving ministry relationship, and all your problems would be solved. That is reasonable, right? Halfway is pretty good.
Parents are generally drowning in student homework, soccer practice, errands, their careers, birthday parties, and laundry. They honestly do not have time or the emotional energy to build the other half of your bridge. It’s not because they are not interested in supporting your ministry. Most of them are just too busy and tired.
If you want your ministry to reach parents, you are going to have to build the entire bridge. I know that sounds difficult and maybe even a bit unfair, but doing everything you can on your end is going to free parents up to devote themselves to be the parent.
Parents don’t know they need you yet
Parents may not always see the value in what you do in your ministry. But, if their teen is going through something really tough and will not talk to them about it, they will be very grateful that you are in their teenager’s life. In a time of crisis, parents tend to naturally move toward other adults who love their children.
If you have been consistently making the effort to invest in their family, not just their teen, then it is going to be a lot easier for parents to trust you. And since you have built the whole bridge between your ministry and their family, not just half of it, they can get to you quickly and easily. You may not feel like the things you are doing right now are having an impact. But, you are building a relationship that parents will need when the time comes.
So how do reach parents?
Here are a few practical ways to reach out to parents:
When a student does something her parent would be proud of, send a short text or email to the parent and let them know. Or, here’s another one: The next time you think to yourself, “____________ is amazing. I love the way she ____________”, ask yourself if you have ever told her parents. Parents are constantly struggling with their teenagers at home. It goes a long way when another adult lets them know they have a great kid and they are a good parent.
Any time there is something significant going on in the life of a student, it is probably impacting the parents. So reach out to parents in times like the beginning of the school year, during testing, enrolling in a new school, during a big sports tournament, after a big performance in some extra-curricular activity, etc. Just a short email or text to let them know you saw that awesome performance or are praying for their new season can go a long way.
Be a matchmaker
You cannot give parents all the answers to their teens’ problems. But there is probably another parent in your church who has previously dealt with the situation. Do what you can to connect them to each other. They will minister to one another and it will require very little time from you.
Spend some time finding good resources to help parents raise a middle or high school student. Whenever you find articles, books, speakers, share them with parents.
Create ways for students and parents to serve together inside and outside of your church. This gives them opportunities to have conversations about spiritual things. They also observe active faith in one another.
Before you do your schedule of events, think through how it would impact the typical family in your church. Bring to mind things like frequency, length, cost, time of day/week, etc. All of these things will impact the schedules of families in your church.
As you move forward in ministry, keep in mind: parents are not your enemy. They are by far the biggest influencer in the lives of the students that you nurture and about whom you care. Love parents well. Because when parents win, everyone wins.
Skylar Jones serves as Youth and Family Minister at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in DeLand, FL. He has worked in many different capacities since he began serving the church nearly 20 years ago. Skylar is married and has a son. He met his wife at Berry College, in Rome, GA, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. He enjoys sports, music, long walks on the beach, and anything made by Reese’s. Click the social links below to engage with Skylar.