Many of us in ministry work with parents on a regular basis. Maybe they are parents of youth in the youth ministry program, parents who want their children prepared for the sacraments, or parents that don’t quite know when to cut the ties with their children as they enter adulthood. At any rate, research shows that, if we are leading any ministry with youth and children under 18 years old, parents play a huge role.
If you’re like me, I’m sure you have dealt with grumpy parents. Yes, these are the parents who don’t like anything you do. These are the ones who send you emails upon emails about what needs to change about your ministry.
And sometimes, these are the ones that are so mad that they yell in your face and disrespect you. (Hopefully, that doesn’t happen too often. Only happened once for me.)
But I’ve got news for you: you can control the grumpiness level of parents. Here’s how to help grumpy parents be less grumpy:
- The more information, the better. I never hear people complain about knowing too much. In fact, I only hear complaining about not knowing. The question to ask is, “what type of information are my parents looking for?” A date of meetings, retreats, and paperwork due dates WAY in advance. You may be able to plan for something that is only a week away, but parents usually cannot. I recommend a weekly email to parents. Whether they are short or long, it is an avenue where parents can get the information they need from you. Are they likely to respond to the email? No. In fact, if they don’t respond, that means either they didn’t read it (which is likely) or they have all the information they need. Success!
- Think from a parents’ perspective. When I was a young ministry leader, I never thought about things from a parents’ point of view. Juggling work, kids schedule, finding time to make dinner, and still connect with their spouse. Families are busy! Thinking from their perspective makes me more sensitive to their needs and the needs of the family. If I was unable to think clearly from their perspective, I invited in parents to talk with me so I could get their perspective. It helped.
- Be a professional. They are not expecting me to wear a shirt and tie to my ministry everyday. But, parents expect professionalism. When I act professionally, I gain greater respect and build report. You and I are professional ministers. Parents see us as that. So we need to act like a professional.
- If you are not a parent, don’t teach on parenting. When I was a young youth ministry leader, I often felt that some parents needed help with there parenting skills. Was a right? Probably. We all need help. However, no parent wanted to listen to a 23 year old with no kids teach them how to parent. Here’s the solution: get other parents in your ministry to teach parenting skills and lead parenting seminars.
- Partner with them, don’t advocate against them. When dealing with children, especially of the teenage variety, they often say things about their parents that are negative. Don’t jump on the parent bashing bandwagon. Parents may not know it, but they need us to intentionally partner with them. They need and want our support to pass on a legacy of faith to their children. So tread lightly when a young person starts bad-mouthing their parents. They may be right to do so, but we are about building relational bridges, not tearing them down. Agreeing with the child is a great way to tear down bridges and widen the gap.
What strategies do you use to grump-proof your parents?