Meet the Parents
A growing trend in youth ministry is to acknowledge and affirm the larger contexts of the students, especially their families. Whether this comes as a personal conviction on your part or as a mandate from on high – the pastor or your committee chair – connecting with the parents of your students is an important link in the faith net you’re helping weave. So how do you go about it?
ASSESS THE SITUATION.
First things first. Step back and prayerfully examine your program and your heart on this matter. Clarity is important. Write your answers on paper.
What’s the goal?
Who sets it?
How will you know if you reach it?
What place do parents currently have in your program? Why?
What do you personally believe about parents’ involvement in youth ministry?
Where are your beliefs lining up with your practices?
CONNECT WITH THEM.
Meet with the parents of each of your students, either at their homes or for coffee, tea or lunch. Get to know them a little; this is where your students are coming from. Ask them what they hope for in their children’s participation in the youth ministry. Ask them how they’d like to be involved.
Give the parents your contact information: phone, email, and social networking media links. Ask if they will share their contact points with you. Then keep in touch. Sharing general program information may be all you ever do, but you’ll have those links in place should you really need them.
Keep in touch about your planned events. If you have one, give parents the yearly calendar before the beginning of the school year, and then relentlessly advertise the events throughout the year via every medium possible, including face-to-face conversations (a novel concept in this day and age).
Use social media to create information sites for your specific group. Use it to post notifications of upcoming events and recaps of past activities, including photos and comments. Invite the students and their parents to join the page and encourage them all to participate on it.
HONOR AND RESPECT THEM.
Doug Fields has some great advice for youth workers’ relationships with the parents of their students (www.dougfields.com/posts/10-family-friendly-youth-ministry-ideas) including:
Respect the families’ schedules and need for time together; don’t overbook the week.
Begin and end your activities on time.
Keep program costs down.
Be trustworthy. Besides keeping on schedule, do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Lead by example. Both the kids and their parents are watching – and they care.
Speak positively about parents around and to your students.
Teach a lesson series on honoring parents and respecting the family. Give your students some examples of scriptural teaching on the family and help them develop the necessary skills for Christian living in these important relationships. Some pertinent texts include:
Deuteronomy 5:16 Honor your father and mother…
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord…
Psalm 133:1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Psalm 144:12 May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown…
Proverbs 17:1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet…
1 John 4:20-21 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters…
For a good published example, see Kara Powell’s Parents and Family Junior High Group Study (Ventura: Gospel Light, 2010).
Orient your youth toward corporate worship with their families. Stress it; practice it yourself. Sit in worship with a different student’s family each Sunday, if you’re not sitting with your own.
Help your students organize an annual “Family Night” where the students prepare and serve a supper to the parents, and then have some sort of entertainment for the whole group, like a movie or board games. Invite grandparents, too!
Recruit a Parents’ Advisory Team t0 help you with your program – especially if you haven’t yet had teenagers of your own! They’ll have valuable insight about what events/dates work from a family’s perspective and can provide wisdom and encouragement when you need it. Having their help and input will also increase the likelihood that they will help you enact your plans.
Create special youth/parent opportunities, such as an annual Back-to-School Prayer meeting and a community service project.
Invite the parents to events.
Keep them abreast of current youth studies (via all those contact points) so that they can keep the conversations going at home.
SHARE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES WITH THEM.
Invite parents to read a pertinent, topical book with you and then meet – or tweet or blog – to discuss it.
Let parents know about upcoming Christian youth, parenting, and marriage conferences and resources. Chances are you’re more in the know about those things, just by virtue of the ministry in which you’re engaged. A good source for that kind of information is the website of a local or nearby Christian music/talk radio station.
Create or make available a parents’ Bible study that covers the same themes as your youth study.
Team up with church staff//leaders in other areas of your church to develop a comprehensive approach to discipling for faith in the family context. For example, use a published curriculum designed for multi-generational participation.
Create a parents’ night and invite experts to talk to parents about topics of interest. Be creative! The expert can be anyone from a local pediatrician speaking on the many dimensions of puberty to a published researcher sharing data on the latest research on the teenaged brain. Do as much as your budget and parental interest will allow you to do.
Especially for special needs children – parents and youth workers:
Albers, Robert H., William H. Meller, and Steven D. Thurber, eds. Ministry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012).
Stephanie O. Hubach, Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability book and DVD series (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2012).
Pocket Guide to Special Needs: Quick Tips to Reach Every Child (Loveland: Group Publishing, 2008).