Back in pre-Internet day, newsletters—in the traditional sense—were one page or multiple pages filled with stuff you needed to know. In the digital or social age, newsletters can now be shorter. A newsletter can be a post or a series of tweets, pictures, or videos. Let me be perfectly honest: when I would create my epic, colorful, and artistic paper newsletters, parents didn’t read at least 20% of them. Parents reading a newsletter are like people who used to read a thing called a newspaper: some turn to the comics, some to sports, and some to obituaries. Something is bound to be overlooked or missed. That’s why I have created shorter but more frequent portions of content to send to parents
I had an email strategy, which was once a week. I sent semi-long emails with multiple links, announcements, etc. Today, I communicate with parents in a Facebook group. Whether you use social media, texting, or email, you still have to decide what goes into that “newsletter.” Using Facebook allows me to post one thing every day or a few things every day, depending on what’s going on in the ministry or life of the church.
I quit using email, because an email list is something you have to manage, parents change their email addresses, their work will not allow group emails to go through, etc. And tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a parent says, “Oh, I didn’t get that.” Social media means the content is there, it stays there unless I delete it, and it is seen by everyone at the same time.
Many newsletters have the throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach with very little intentionality. We can do better. If we think in terms of months and quarters and the needs of our parents, we can create a schedule of content we want to send to parents that parents would want to read. Posting a singular piece of content (an event, etc.) means there is no confusion about what you’re trying to say or how you want parents to respond.
Here are ten things you can use to create a content schedule for your parents:
This is the biggie, right? Parents want to know who, what, where, what time, and how much. These are necessary to be given in advance; otherwise parents get cranky, confused, and frustrated. Post one event with all the pertinent info a week to two weeks before the event and then the day before and the day of. Retreats or anything that require deposits should be announced months ahead of time with an occasional reminder.
I love posting articles. I can look back and see what I’ve posted and what was/is trending, and the articles remain there if parents want to go back and read them. Posting on current events or trends keeps parents in the know, and you look like a genius.
Sometimes I post a quote about parenting teenagers, about teenagers, or quotes from teens in the news. This is to provoke or evoke feedback. Parents can like it, comment on it, share it, etc.
Another thing my Facebook group has is polls. This gives me a way to ask questions and get feedback in real time. I may want to ask if they agree or disagree about something or which color T-shirt they like best.
There are days I write about where I think God is taking us as a youth ministry. I share my heart and my dreams for their kids and ask for their prayers and their involvement. Example: Months before I advertise about the missions trip, I may post some quotes, verses, articles, or short devotions about missions to whet the appetite of those who have never been on a missions trip.
Simple: How can I pray for you and your family today?
Sometimes I post fun stuff like this music video by Bekah Shae. It’s meant to get parents up and moving and having a little fun, or maybe you want to post penguins escaping from a zoo and tag it #teenstryingtoescapehomework or something funnier than that (which shouldn’t be hard).
Picture and Videos
I always post pics or video after an event. Parents get to see their kids doing something silly or something profound. It shows that we had a good time and that there was a lot of energy.
Parents—like all believers—need encouragement. Why not plan a series of posts that have Scriptures about parenting, communication, listening, discipline, and other necessary parental skills.
Files and Forms
One more great thing about Facebook is that I can store files there and they are accessible at any time. If I’m not at my computer to shoot an email to a parent who deleted the other email I sent, before I download the form, I can redirect them back to the FB group.
How are you currently communicating with your parents? How is the response?
Do you have a content schedule, or do you just fly by the seat of your pants?
List three things your parents need or things you want them to know about. Using the ten items above, create a schedule of when you will send it or post it to your parents.
PAUL TURNER is a long-time youth worker, speaker, and blogger of all things youth ministry. He’s the youth pastor at Pleasant Grove Assembly in Birmingham, AL and writes regularly at THEDISCIPLEPROJECT.NET.