Generation to Generation: Partnering with Parents

Each week we’ll be writing about different ways that we, as leaders, can effectively be examples to our students, and we’ll discuss different topics to talk over with our students. These topics range from relationships to being active in a small group. All of these topics are nuggets every leader can apply to his or her life. It’s our hope that you’ll check back to see what next week’s topic is, and that you can apply what we’ve learned in your own life as a fellow volunteer youth worker.

“Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will thank you forever and ever, praising your greatness from generation to generation.” Psalm 79:13

Partnering with parents

One of the easiest ways to be successful in student ministry is to partner with the parents of your students.  Parents gain a comfort level with you ministering to their kids and you can keep the parents informed with the progress or problems with students.

Matt: If you’re not communicating with the parents of your students, you’re missing out on opportunities.  When you communicate with parents you help to build their confidence level in you.  They are placing their trust in you to help them bring their kids closer to God, to know Jesus, and to help them get through some tough years in life.  When you have parents involved, they know what’s going on with their student.  Parents know the growth and also know the roadblocks that are in their kid’s lives.  However, I make it clear that things that are told to me in confidence by their kids, unless it involves their kid harming himself or someone else, is going to stay with me.  You need to have your students’ trust that what they tell you is going to stay with you.  Sometimes it’s a difficult area, but if you communicate with parents from the beginning they know to expect from you. 

Give parents your cell phone number, your Facebook or Twitter, let them check you out and see what you’re all about.   Let them know that a phone call asking for your assistance in an area with one of your students is important to you. I’ve had single parent moms call me and ask me to talk to their son about things that they felt their son would be more comfortable talking to me about and not his mother.  They know that my solution is going to involve God and way to work through a problem.  They know I’m going to insist that the guys in my small group respect their parents.  A partnership means two or more working towards the same goal.  Partnering with parents makes the job of a student ministry leader a lot easier.

A friend of mine who also is a small group leader starts  the year off by having a meeting with parents to discuss what’s going to be studied this year, what issues need to be addressed and also the ground rules for small groups.  He let me sit in on this meeting and after watching the interaction with him and the parents it’s something I’ll do next year at the very beginning of high school small groups.

Steven: I feel that in my area of today’s youth ministry world, this is a hot topic. When I was an intern with our junior high ministry last summer, one of the major things we tried to accomplish was to build an effective parent ministry because it’s almost as important to minister to the parents of our students as it is to minister to the students themselves. Instead of working against them or around them to get to the students, it is way more effective to work with them in order to help your students achieve success and stay on the right path.

I’m typically pretty good at keeping my small group parents in the loop about what we’re up to, what topics we’ve been discussing in the group, and any upcoming events that our ministry has put together. As I write this, I feel a little hypocritical because I’m about a week late getting a parent email out (oops!), but I usually try to send one once a week to keep them caught up. I try not to write a novel every week because, let’s be honest, no one wants to read a long email. Even for how short and how little effort it takes to get that email out every week, it seems like almost every time I send one, I’ll get at least one response back thanking me for keeping them informed of what we’re doing. It’s just one small step in partnering instead of opposing parents.

Another small thing that makes a lot of difference is giving them my personal contact number. I know this might not seem like a huge deal, but I encourage my small group parents to shoot me a text if they ever have questions or are wondering what the group is up to. Since junior highers aren’t the best at passing on important information, I’ll usually call or text parents letting them know if I’m planning on taking their kid out for lunch or something, just so they’re aware. As long as you keep the communication lines open, you open up to a full and continuous partnership, closing the gap between generations.

What do you do to partner with parents in your ministry?

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Dennis Beckner
Dennis Beckner has served in youth ministry leadership for Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA since 1999. Dennis is a contributor and speaker to youth training events, writing projects and other engagements. Contact him at his blog, VolunteerYouthMinistry.com.