When I was a young youth ministry leader, I found it very easy to blame the parents. For what? For anything!
I’d blame parents when teens did not show up to a youth event or when I saw bad behavior. I’d blame parents when teens did not know their faith or bible. I’d blame parents for lots of things.
And now that I have my own child, I’ve discovered two things: it’s not the parent’s fault, and parents are busy.
Even though I found myself “blaming parents” as a young ministry leader, I rarely took the opportunity to talk to the parents to find out what was going on in their world.
It was (and still can be) really easy for me to assume that I know what’s best for parents and their children when it comes to church and faith. What I ended up doing was providing events and resources for youth that did not meet the needs of the family or the parents.
I have a simple solution: Listen to parents.
Parents care deeply about their children. Parents truly know what is best for their child. I just need to listen to them.
Also, parents sometimes wish that the church would listen to what they have to say. I know, because I’ve said that before as a parent. (I’ve also heard other parents say that.)
Here are a couple strategies that might work for you as you look to engage your parents in ministry:
- Online Survey:
This is a simple one, but also impersonal. However, it can be a quick way to get some information and data from your parents. For instance, finding out what day of the week is best for them to send their kids to something at the church or what types of events they want their kids to get involved in. You can also use a survey to find out if they want to get involved in some way. But do this via email. Avoid a paper survey. Using a tool like SurveyMonkey can be simple and effective. Plus, you don’t have to deal with paper.
- Listening sessions/town halls:
Create a 2-hour block of time for a listening town hall session to hear from parents directly what they are looking for in your ministry. It’d be important to advertise this way advance and get creative on the marketing. Also, provide adult food. Avoid the cookies and pizza. Try some nice dinner entrees and desserts, like a chicken meal and chocolate covered strawberries. One warning: it is easy for parents to jump into the mob mentality. If the process is not facilitated well, it can turn negative quickly and parents will name all the things that are wrong with your ministry. This can be avoided with good facilitation.
- Meet with parents one on one:
This is the most effective strategy. Go to the home of your parents and chat with them one on one about what they are looking for and how you can better serve their family. Parents will be grateful when you reach out to them and making it convenient for them by meeting in their home. The real bonus is that this is the best way to get valuable information that can help you shape your ministry to families.
Question: How have you effectively listened to parents in your ministry?
Here is a summary of posts for “The How-To Guide To Engaging Our Parents in Ministry” series: