I must confess that I’m no expert when it comes to developing wonderful relationships with the parents of the students I minister to. Unfortunately, in my six years of on-the-job-training, I had to learn the hard way.
But I most definitely learned!
So, today, instead of keeping this wisdom to myself, I'm going to share what I’ve learned about youth ministry and parents. But with a twist . . . Without further ado, here are five PROVEN (trust me) ways to ensure that parents will 100% dislike your youth ministry (and most likely you, as well).
1. Frequently Change Your Methods Of Communication
Why bother with stale, repetitive forms of communication when you can switch between texting, phone calls, emails, bulletin adds, and website marketing? What makes this even more fun is when the mode switches between them randomly! Unfortunately, parents don't seem to find this very amusing. All kidding aside . . . I’ve found that humans are rather adaptable creatures, but we seem to crave consistency. My advice when communicating with parents is to choose one primary method and stick with it. Want to use your website as your primary method of distributing information? Awesome! Use email, texting, etc. as supplements that point them to the website.
2. Make “Start” And “End” Times A Fluid Concept
Clocks exist to be ignored, right? I mean, come on, Jesus didn't wear a watch. Why should I? The problem is that parents do, in fact, wear watches or have cell phones. And even though many will drive you crazy by never picking their kids up on time, it seems that most really don't like playing the “guess-what-time-the-youth-pastor-really-means” game. All kidding aside . . . If your website says an event starts at 7:00, start it at 7:00. If it ends at 8:00, end at 8:00. I know this sounds simple, but most of us have struggled with this at some point or another. What happens if students are running late? Start on time or cut everything short. If you know in an advance that a service or event may run over, contact the parents and let them know in advance using your primary method (refer to #1).
3. Be Spontaneous (also called Waiting Until The Last Minute)
You're a youth leader. Which naturally means your mind is burning with fresh, innovative ideas all the time, right? (Cough, cough.) The next time you get a big idea for a brilliant new event, if you want to make sure parents dislike your ministry, schedule it for the next day. Oh, and really lay on the pressure for every student to attend. All kidding aside . . . In today's society, students are pulling their parents in a thousand different directions. Don't just add to the noise by inconsiderately scheduling your events while coating them with “get your priorities straight” guilt trips.
4. Mock Parents Early And Often
Parents make for hilarious laughs when they’re the butt of every joke in your messages, don't they? I mean come on, who doesn't like hearing a parent being made fun of? (Apparently, parents. Who knew?) All kidding aside . . . My experience is that many (if not most) youth leaders get caught up in the moment and slip in “harmless” jokes about how out of touch parents can be. The problem is, of course, that we’re supposed to be teaching students to honor their father and mother. Any message of respect on this front rings hollow when we’re doing the exact opposite.
We can’t minister to students and ignore their parents. It’s a package deal. In my early days, I treated this as a burden. Now, I see what a privilege it is to be able to partner with parents in guiding students down the path of their spiritual journey.
Make no mistake about it, healthy student ministry requires healthy parent relationships.
If you aren't interested in a healthy student ministry however, by all means, follow my five steps. Oh! Sorry . . . Almost forgot that one.