LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE:
Have you ever noticed we talk to people’s dogs before we talk to people? Have you ever seen a cute dog on a walk or at a cafe and done the baby talk and approach for a pet? Yep, you do it too. We might not even glance at the owner at first. As youth workers, we can do the same with students and their parents.
Look, I have a LOT of favorite parts of ministry, and parents are one of them. First off, they are trusting their children to you. Sometimes without even meeting you first (a friend invites them to youth group and gives them a ride). You already have an in with them, so jump on it! I used to be pretty ignorant of the importance of parent connection. After all, the ministry was the students, right? But then I had one too many students run up to me in public and give me hugs or high-fives to realize the parent connection is so important.
When a new student shows up, introduce yourself to the youth and the parent. Talk to both. Connect the student with the ministry and inform the parents what to expect. And the best tool in your tool belt: questions. How did you guys hear about us? Do you live around here? Do you recognize any of the students from school? Have you ever played <insert tonight’s activity here>?
Also, pay attention. Sometimes there are little hints. I had a parent wearing a Marvel shirt when dropping off their students. “Yes, Marvel! Do you have a favorite of all their movies right now?” Sometimes they drop off their students in their work uniforms – big hint there. It might be awkward at first but embrace that and be real. You want to know a secret? It’s also their first time, so they’re a little shy, too. It’s important to form that relationship ahead of time. If you wait till it’s absolutely necessary, you might have an opposition instead of an alliance.
As much as we want to be the superhero in every student’s story, we are only one person, once a week, for a few hours. (Hopefully, a bit more with discipleship and mentorship). But the parents are with the students much more. As we connect and plug in more with the parents, they become a part of our ministry team. So don’t neglect the parents!
You might be reading this and feel like it’s a little too late. You have students in your ministry that have been coming for a long time, and you don’t really know the parents. You have seen them either drop off or pick up, but you couldn’t recall their name. It’s not too late. Here’s how I have done it in the past:
Pick a student. Ask them if their mom or dad is picking them up from youth group tonight. Then let them know you really want to meet them, so don’t let them leave before you get a chance. (This really helps you not to forget or get distracted after youth group). Then simply say, “Hi, I’m ________, your daughter’s/son’s leader. I haven’t really gotten a chance to introduce myself, and I just wanted to meet you.” Then shake hands and refer to the Start Off Strong section above.
I Facebook stalk, and I admit it. Look up the parents on social media and follow them. (Just know that they will now see everything you post. Be aware!) Then, the next time you see them, don’t be afraid to bring it up. “How did your surfing lessons go? I saw on Facebook that you tried it out for the first time?”
If any of this makes you cringe, that’s okay. Because I promise it works. Get past the awkwardness and talk to the parents – it’s totally worth it. They’re just like your kids – part of your ministry, only a little bigger and a little older.
And since they’re a part of your ministry, make sure you have a great way to get information out to them. Depending on the size of your ministry, this could be an Instagram page, a Facebook page, a Messenger group, texting, etc. Try different methods, and ask the parents about their ideal form of communication. Sadly, I think email is a little outdated, but by all means, try it. Just don’t let it be your main source of information and connection.
Bottom line, don’t neglect the parents. They aren’t just there to fill out permission slips. They are a part of your ministry as well.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- Are there some parents out there that you need to get to know? How can you go about doing that this week?
- Do you have an effective way to stay connected with your parents? What’s worked well in the past? What hasn’t worked?