Inherently, being a small group leader comes with a lot of responsibility. You’re being entrusted with your few at least once a week and then some, especially as they get older. This isn’t something that anyone should take on lightly. There’s an incredible amount of trust and commitment that needs to go into those relationships. And as much influence as you may have, ultimately, you’re not their parent. You don’t have the final say in these young peoples’ lives. So, how can you care for and nurture the relationships with parents, so you can continue to speak into the lives of your few?
It’s important that your few understand they can trust you entirely. But it’s also important for their parent(s) to know this. Take time to communicate your expectations and your intentions with them. Make sure they know you will always inform them if there’s any kind of serious, life-threatening situation—but they need to trust your discretion and understand that you are trying to build trust too. They need the reassurance that you aren’t going to keep anything from them needlessly. It’s also a good idea to go out of your way to let them know about plans for outings, get-togethers, birthday parties, etc., no matter the age of your few! Parents of high-schoolers appreciate communication just as much as parents of third-graders do. Make sure you aren’t keeping secrets when it comes to how you are leading your few.
When you get married, you have to accept your partner’s family as your own, even if those relationships aren’t always easy. The same is true of your small group. You’re stuck with their parent(s), whether you like it or not! Don’t ignore that. Instead, make the effort and take the time to connect with them. Consider meeting with them every once in a while, or at the very least, reaching out regularly via email or text. Let them know you’re still around, and remind them that you’re there for their kid(s). Try planning a family small group outing of some kind, where everyone is invited. Give them opportunities to understand and participate in whatever topic you’re working through with your small group. Within reason, do everything you can to include them and help them stay connected to the group, allowing that trust to grow between them and you.
You can communicate and try to connect all day long, but if you aren’t doing so with genuine care, all will be lost. This should be common sense, and yet it’s not always. Sometimes we need the reminder that kindness and care goes a long way toward building a good rapport with people. Showing you care about the parent(s) of your few is one of the simplest, most profound things you can do for them. Remembering names, birthdays, family milestones, and other information also contributes to showing how much you care. These people are more than just placeholders. They have to deal with their kid(s) on the daily, making hard decisions, and walking through things you couldn’t even imagine. Show empathy. Learn to love and respect their role.
Ultimately, you hold much of the power here. Sure, you may be dealt some difficult parents. But you can only control you and your response to the situation at hand. Don’t mess it up by lacking in the way you communicate with, connect to, or care about the parent(s) of your few. Step up to the plate and do whatever you can to build trust.