By Andy Broad
For me, partnering with parents in student ministry has always sounded like an awesome idea. When it comes to implementing a successful strategy, however, things don’t always pan out the way we expect.
A student pastor who wants to work with parents goes directly against every stereotype student pastors have been working hard to establish for decades, and parents don’t always respond the way we think they will when we reach out.
Let’s be honest, partnering with parents is not always easy. It can be straight up discouraging at times. But the time and investment that it takes is always worth it.
At our church, we definitely don’t have it all figured out. We’ve exhausted several different ideas and strategies over the past couple of years trying to find that secret sauce that would draw parents like flies to honey.
We’ve experienced our share of disappointment. We’ve hit a ton of roadblocks. We have several gallons of botched secret sauce recipes in our proverbial pantry. But we haven’t given up. Here are a few things we learned along the way:
- You have to earn their respect – Parents will trust and respect you when you prove that you are trustworthy and respectable. Period. Keep things organized, return their calls and emails, keep their kids safe, and honor end times and return times for programming and off-site events. I was very young when I stepped into my current role, so I know firsthand the importance of proving your capacity for leadership.
- Over communicate – I know this seems like a no-brainer, but don’t assume that all the info you give your students makes it back to their parents. Make sure you have frequent parent emails, newsletters, facebook, twitter, text alerts, etc. going out to keep them informed. We’ve learned that parents REALLY appreciate being kept in the loop; like REALLY appreciate it. So don’t underestimate the benefits of parental communication. We’re currently partnering with ROAR to build an app for our ministry that will give them easy access to all of our teachings, events, photos, and videos so they never feel like they are in the dark about what their student is experiencing.
- Invite them in – Have an open door policy. Parents are allowed at our programming. In fact, we specifically invite them a few times each year for a special event or service. We all know that parents will always have more potential to spiritually impact their kids than we pastors could ever hope for. So fuel that potential; set them up to succeed with their students.
- Get them involved– Not just in leadership roles in your ministry, but do the hard work to find something that works for you to connect your students, their small group leaders, and their parents. Here are 2 quick ideas you can feel free to re-create and get the ball rolling!
- Parent + Small Group Leader Breakfasts – This concept comes from my good friends and fellow Buffalonians, Kenny & Elle Campbell. We’ve experimented with it as a BBQ. Do what works for you in your context! You can visit their website and download a totally free and incredible resource kit here: http://www.middleschoolshine.com/parents.php
- Legacy Milestones – This past year we began to highlight and celebrate major faith milestones in the lives our families. You can learn more here: http://easternhillschurch.org/648525.ihtml
These are taken from the book Shift: What it takes to finally reach families today by Brian Haynes, which I highly recommend.
I encourage you to take some time this year to evaluate how well your ministry is partnering with the parents in your church. Yes, it will take significant time and effort on your part but your families will thank you in the end. Dream big!
Andy and his wife Kari serve at Eastern Hills Church in Buffalo, NY. Andy is the Director of Student Ministries. He is a graduate of Kingswood University in New Brunswick, Canada. His life goals are to draw students into a passionate relationship with Jesus and to get three stars in all levels of Angry Birds. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.