If you’re involved with youth ministry and teenagers in any form then you’re going to be involved with parents, the two are kind of linked. Working with parents can be both challenging and rewarding, draining and refreshing. Do something wrong and you’ll get the dread angry parent email, but do something right and they can become your biggest cheerleaders. For those kind of parents, the most involved one we want to continue to draw them in and here are 5 thoughts on supporting them.
This one might seem the most obvious and the easiest, but really this is where we should begin. We should be in prayer for the parents in our ministries. We know how hard it is to raise teenagers, we spend several hours with them a week, but parents are spending every day with them, raising them along with the host of other responsibilities that they have. Spend some time with them and ask them how you can pray for them. As a parent and a pastor, I’m always humbled when someone tells me they’ve been praying for me. Pray is the first place we can start to support parents.
We know that raising teens can be tough. Parents need as much encouragement as they can get in the process. I try to make it an effort when I see students do awesome things, to brag on them to their parents. Parents want to know how students are doing in our ministries. Just as much as we like to see the fruits of our labors come to fruition, imagine how much more parents want to know that they efforts they are putting into their children are paying off. Encouragement helps them to stay the course.
Parents and students schedules are beyond busy. They are coming and going, between sports, school, clubs and church they can be out every night of the week sometimes. We need to do our best to respect their time. We need to over-communicate everything about our ministries. When we have dates for camps and retreats we need to get those out at soon as possible. It helps parents to plan their long range events, such as vacations. We need to send reminders about due dates for payments for events, possible even several times, knowing that they will forget. We need to communicate in as many different forms as possible (email, print flyers, social media, websites, and text messages). We need to help parents stay on top of their schedules by giving them the details and over communicating. There is an old axiom of communication, the second you start to think your repeating yourself and getting board, is the time when the audience might be just starting to listen to what you have to say.
Culture is changing faster the we can keep track of and trying to stay on top of it can seem to be impossible. Working with students, we are in a unique position to ask them what they are listening to, watching and who is having an impact on them through pop culture. We can pass this information along to parents. New apps, social media and platforms are always coming along. Helping parents to keep in formed of these changes, good or bad can be a huge win.
Another thing that can be of great help is passing along resources that will help parents do understand their students in their different areas of development. Understanding where they are developmental will help to parent to parent better. One such resource is the Oranges The Phase Project. They have different books for different ages that help to explain what students are going through in that phase of life and how to parent in that phase. They also have a free app called Parent Cue that contains much of the same information and they can use it from their phones or smart devices.
Bring Them Into Your Volunteer Team
Your most involved parents are most likely some of your biggest cheerleaders. They’ve bought into your mission, vision and strategy. Ask them to join your team of volunteers. I’ve done this with some parents and they’ve become some of my best volunteers. From here they get to poor into other students, but also get the inside track on what is going on in the ministry and have a much greater say in shaping the ministry, which is a win for you and them as parents.
Scott Nichols serves as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Canyon Del Oro Baptist Church. He received his B.S. from Portland State, and both his Grad Certificate in Bible and M.Div from Multnomah Seminary. Scott is married to Sarah and enjoys spending his free time with her and their three children–Nathan, Asher and Emsley.