Truly Partnering with Parents
I’m sometimes amazed how many youth ministries don’t involve parents.
“The kids don’t like having them around.”
“Parents just get in the way.”
Think about this for a moment. The students you see an hour or two each week have been raised since infancy by two (sometimes one) adults who probably have had the biggest impact on their lives… and probably still do. You can either partner with these adults—Mom and Dad—or you can try ignore this truth and further contribute to our society’s efforts to divide youth culture and adults.
Which are you? The church… or MTV?
I opt for the former: partnering with parents.
Does this mean discarding youth ministry as we know it and just running family ministry? Not at all. Partnering with parents is realizing their value, encouraging them, and helping them by building into their kids.
I see three effective ways to do this.
3 Ways to Partner with Parents in Your Youth Ministry
1. Truly open up the channels of communication between you, Mom, and Dad.
This starts with a vital practice that many youth workers neglect—making great effort to meet every one of your student’s mom and dad.
If you have 12 kids in your group, this very doable. If you have 400… then this is something that you can delegate and equip your leaders to do. But parents need to meet a face of our youth ministry. They need to know who their kids are hanging out with and have several numbers to call for any reason.
I didn’t realize how important this was until I had kids of my own. I wasn’t about to mindlessly drop my kid off with some 20-year-old with a bushy beard. I wanted to meet this hipster who was about to be responsible with my kid.
Some parents won’t make this effort, but they’ll be impressed when you do! So meet them, then use every channel of communication you can to keep in contact with parents. Find out what they prefer: tweets, texts, email… carrier pigion?
You can even provide helpful newsletters (DYM has tons of these: like this one).
2. Provide plenty of opportunities for parents to be involved
Realize that your ministry has opportunities to reach the entire family. The more you involve families, the more you have the occasion to share truth with mom and dad! This doesn’t mean you have to give all parents the option to be one of your leaders. Not at all. Just create venues where kids can bring their parents.
DYM has some fun games this week where you can involve parents:
My Dad is Smarter Than Your Dad—a fun competition where kids don’t have to know anything… but their dad’s phone number! Dads compete over the phone to answer trivia questions about the good ol’ days!
How Well Do You Know Your Dad—a fun game where you contact a handful of dads (something you should be doing anyway) the week prior and secretly ask them questions. Kids will then be asked those same questions to see exactly how well they know their dad!
My church provided several weekends a year where we did a special service for families during the “Sunday School” hour. Here we worshipped together, preached a message to families and did fun competitions (like this one) where kids and parents competed against each other in good fun.
Encourage family time. Let kids know that you “endorse” Mom and Dad.
3. Provide Parent Training or Workshops
Today’s parents are constantly on the lookout for help raising their kids, but don’t necessarily know where to look. You can provide them with the training and resources they need.
If your budget is tight, you can do training like this yourself (DYM even has some affordable ready-made curriculum you can use like this one- Parenting Teens with Smartphones). If you have a little more of a budget, consider bringing someone out to teach a parent workshop. Speakers/Authors like Doug Fields, Jim Burns and myself teach these kinds of workshop all over the country.
Raising kids isn’t easy today. Most parents realize they can’t do it alone. And most will welcome help from caring people in the church who humbly offers resources and care.
What is one effort you can make this week to make this happen?
JONATHAN McKEE is the author of over twenty books including the brand new 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.