Do you feel like parents are on your side?
Can I be honest? When I first started out, years ago, I thought parents were the enemy. How could they not find the time for their kids to prioritize my youth ministry? If parents were truly serious about their kid’s faith, they would see how important my youth ministry was. That was what I thought early on in my youth ministry days.
I was wrong.
See how the arrogance creeps in. It quickly became about me vs them. It’s Iron Man vs The Hulk.
All it took was one relationship to start for me to change my mind, I became best friends with a parent of a student in my youth ministry and everything changed.
He was no longer the enemy, he was my friend. I saw how they lived their life. How full it was of things like sports, friends, church, and school. I started to understand why they couldn’t be at the three things I planned each week.
I started to adapt my ministry to partner with parents instead of fight against them. They were the primary influencer in a student’s life, and I wanted to be where the main influence was. It shaped the way my ministry was structured, and what I valued.
Here are some ways that I won over the parents in my youth ministry.
Limit the activities.
The most you can ask a parent to commit to each week is two things. I switched from multiple events a week to two events, one for Sr. High and one for Jr.High. If I had space, I would have had both groups on the same night.
Also limiting the schedule was another thing. We would start mid-September and go until the first week of December and then start back up in mid-January and go until the first week of June.
The first time I realized this was working when a few parents commented on how they were able to fit us into their schedules. Parents often commented that they hated being church busy.
Families are busy, they have limited time. Your schedule help families become less divided, and if you do that, you will win over parents.
Communicated with Calendars.
One of the best ways I found to communicate with parents was by a calendar. I would make up a calendar and hand it out a month before it would go live. The calendar was in 4-month sections so parents could get a glimpse of what was important to the youth ministry.
Over the course of years, I had people in my community who were not connected to the church ask for one. That is how I knew the calendar was successful.
When you communicate ahead of schedule, people can fit you in. Parents can fit you into their plans. They put the calendar on the fridge, students put it on their wall, they book it off work. It’s so simple, and it works.
Once I had kids, I couldn’t do things spontaneously. I have a plan of what my kids were doing each day of the week, and usually, if it’s not communicated before the month or season starts, I can’t try to fit the church in. Parents are the same way. They might love you and your ministry, but they can’t fit you in last minute.
How to communicate effectively is by using a calendar and sticking to it. This is the key. If you stay on your schedule, over time, parents will trust you. And they will get their kids to your events.
You can check out some calendars here.
Be accessible to parents.
The moments before and after a youth night are critical. They might be the most important moments of the night for you connecting with parents.
I would often be in the parking lot, or in the lobby greeting parents. Parents need to know you, and they need to know that you are accessible. Often I would be in the lobby handing out calendars or things to parents. How often do I try to communicate something and it never gets home. Giving the materials directly to parents allowed for conversations they might have about the schedule or events.
If you are in the lobby connecting, you will find that parents will want to engage you. It’s such a simple solution. Often the youth pastor is trying to justify his or her existence by showing how “connected” they are too students, that is not the case for parents. You don’t need to justify yourself to them, as a parent, I want all the help in the world.
Those are three simple ways to communicate with parents. I know this can be a struggle, but the partnership is the key, and these are three ways to get parents on your side.