It seems like families are busier than ever. Most parents are working full time jobs and have a full plate. Then, on top of that, their kids play sports, and are involved in other extra-curricular activities; not to mention all the homework that needs to be done. Church and youth group activities are competing with other activities on the family calendar. You have the ability to help families as they manage their crazy schedule. Here are four ways to help busy families.
It can be a huge help to parents to know what’s happening months in advance so that they can make sure to include your youth ministry dates in their family’s schedule. The longer the event, the more time parents need to put it on their schedule. For example, summer camp information given out in January gives parents early information as they plan vacation and other summer activities. I usually unveil the the fall schedule with activities throughout the school year a month or so before school starts. Think ahead, make plans and the families you serve will benefit.
Clear communication goes hand in hand with planning ahead. When you provide clear details in advance, parents can plan their schedule and their budget. Clear and early communication also allows parents to be properly prepared for events like items needed for a service project, special clothing for a neon night event, or bedding for a camp.
Think Like A Parent
For most of my time as a leader in youth ministry, I was not a parent of a middle or high school student. I thought I knew what parents needed and what would help them. However, the more time I spent with the parents the more I realized I don’t know. Now that I am a parent of two middle school students, I have a new perspective on the family schedule. The best way to think like a parent is to ask their advice. Take a survey, have conversation, don’t assume and take on the posture of a humble learner. One thing I learned is that parents need permission to say no to opportunities that fill their children’s schedule. Many parents feel like they have to have their students involved in as many activities as possible. Encouraging them to plan downtime as a family and sharing some of the benefits “free time” has in a family’s life can free parents up from any pressure or guilt they may feel from not signing their kid up for every activity.
Not only are family schedules busy, so is the church schedule. There are children’s programs, youth activities, adult education, services, parent trainings, and so many other activities. A few years back our church decided to line up as many of these things on one night as possible. Our goal was to help families find some margin in their lives. We found that another benefit is more consistent attendance because everyone can come to the church for their own purpose. When parents can bring their children and youth and then attend a marriage ministry event at the same time, everyone is engaged at the church and the families schedule has more free time.
Lining up programs also saves parent’s time in their cars transporting the family to multiple events. Many parents in my ministry feel like they are running a shuttle service; especially if they have two or more kids in the ministry. So, less time driving kids equals a huge help to the family.
Managing your youth ministry schedule will always be a challenge, but any effort you can make to think of parents, line up activities and communicate the details early will be greatly appreciated. Listen and learn from parents, it is worth your time and effort.
JARED SORBER is a pastor at Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland. He has served youth and families at Bridgeway for more than 18 years. He enjoys developing young leaders and desires to help other ministries reach their communities. He loves being the father of two energetic boys, and he loves being the husband of Amie. You can find Jared at Instagram and Twitter @JAREDSORBER