Thought Factory Podcast #306 || 10 Ways to Help Parents Win
How can we help parents win with their students? As youth leaders, do we really know what parents need from us? Is the way we are doing youth ministry helping or hindering them as parents? What is the #1 thing we can do to affirm parents? Will our efforts be felt by only the student or the entire family? In this episode, we provide a list of 10 ways youth leaders can help parents win.
10 WAYS TO HELP PARENTS WIN
1 Think about the Parents’ Schedule
When you are programming for your weekly gathering and you’re putting time into all those plans, are we thinking about the parents’ schedule as well? We can sometimes go long when we have a program and parents are thinking about more children than that just the one in your program. They are the taxi service for their kids. They could be hauling six kids even though they have two at home. They have busy schedules so running long is a big deal. They have other sports activities their kids may be in. The average family has three children at home. Are we thinking about the parents’ schedule when we are putting plans together?
2 Consider the Parents’ Finances
As a youth worker, we need to help parents throughout their calendar year and spacing out the things that we do to avoid having all your expensive trips at once or all of your deadlines for registrations happen near the same time. If there are any costs that are happening with parents, not only spacing them out is helpful but letting them know in advance. Build a rhythm in ministry, as it tends to drive parents crazy when they don’t know when unexpected things happen. It is harder for parents to get on board when they didn’t know about it with plenty of time in advance, and didn’t build it into their budget.
What is an annual amount of money you expect parents to pay to be involved in your youth ministry?
3 Parents are the Primary Disciplers
Now we all may land on completely opposite sides of this topic where you may think you are the primary disciple or you may have students in your ministry where there is no discplining happening at home, but the truth is, there is discipling happening, it just may be the opposite of what you agree with. Jesus says, “go and make disciples” and we are to do that but are we discipling the students or are we helping the parents disciple their kids? Do you consider it your job to disciple the students or do you see it as an opportunity to equip the parents to disciple their students? You are essentially the third voice in the students’ life. Parents being voice 1 and voice 2. Even if there is only one voice in the home, you are not necessarily the primary one. Take that time to affirm the parents, equip the parents, and not consider yourself more self-righteous.
4 Don’t Shame the Parents (external)
This can happen in subtle ways or not so subtle ways. We shame parents in things that we say or the comments we make to a student or in front of the entire group. When we think about how important it is to encourage parents, anything that we say might be taken and scrutinized by either parents or the students themselves. If you are a youth worker and you don’t have your own children, just be really careful what you may say or what you may believe about them as parents because you haven’t been in their shoes.
5 Know their Needs as Parents
Don’t assume we know the needs of parents. We can easily project our thoughts and beliefs onto the parents after interacting with their kids. Instead of assuming, try to find out their needs. Get real feedback by asking the parents directly. How can we help as a youth leader, to find out their heart and circumstances that may be going on in their life? They may be a parent who has an adolescent child who may be dealing with things that are unseen from you as the leader or is never spoken about in the small group. This can happen during drop off or pick up time while they are waiting for the program to be done. What they need will also be different, as their child(ren) age throughout your ministry.
6 Connect on the Parents Terms & Turf
Communicate strategically by giving them updates in ways that will help them. This means offering multiple options (email, flyers, postcards, social media, phone calls, text). We all know we’re bombarded with information, so find that balance between over-and-under communicating. If it’s too much, parents may not read the information and if it’s too vague it is not helpful. Make the information clear, concise, and current. Do don’t send out updates unless it really matters. If you send out meaningless information people will very quickly tune out. You can even try YouTube video updates. But, again, don’t assume what their need is. Ask what their preference is.
7 Help Parents Prioritize
Now it seems like students are SO busy. They are in more activities than just your ministry. They may be going from one thing to the next to the next to the next…and repeat. We are battling against activities that are outside of the church. As the spiritual guid-ers of these students, how can we point parents to the spiritual investments that should be prioritized – camp, retreats, trips, etc.? Our worth is not in keeping up with the Joneses or being involved in XYZ activity so they can see their kid get into a certain college. To help them in prioritizing, a resource to point them to is called www.changingthegameproject.com
It is an incredible website and resource that helps parents navigate their kids through the world of sports and extracurricular activities. Parents may feel the pressure to keep up with sports as sports demands more of our time and money. But, what these guys are saying is that kids don’t enjoy sports as much anymore because there’s so much pressure. Kids are quitting sports more and more because it’s become more of a chore than it is a joy. Parents are ruining sports for kids. Jesus said we are to “be in the world, not of it.” So when it comes to this particular area, we can so easily get caught up in the swirl of culture that it pulls parents and students away from church involvement. Their spiritual life is important, keep that a focus.
8 Be Careful how you Judge Parents (internal)
Be careful internally what you’re thinking about when you’re interacting with parents. It’s easy to look at some parents and begin to judge them based on the behavior of their children – either good or bad. Parents may be struggling. They may be hurting. There may be all kind of things going on beneath the surface that you have no idea. So whatever you see, just keep your mind open and be affirming in every way you can for them as parents. Naturally, we can tend to judge people based on appearances, but there’s a passage in the Bible, John 7:24, that says, “don’t judge based on appearances but make the right the correct judgment.”
9 Take the Parents’ Side First
We are passionate about students. We are passionate about just seeing them know God and be transformed by His presence. But are we trusting the parents more than the students when they tell us the things that are going on in their lives? Sometimes we can take the side of the student and then bash the parent. We can blame the parent. We can again judge the parent. Are we taking the side of the parent and go, “let’s first see both sides” instead of taking just the students side. Ultimately, these students aren’t with us forever, but they’re with their parents way longer than they are in our ministry. So are we assisting the parents in how to guide them post-graduation or post the time that they’re in your ministry? They’ll always have their parents, they won’t always have you as a guide. So again, how are we affirming them? Don’t cause the student to be divided from their parent. A student may say something and our response could show a negative point of view toward the parent. We automatically take the students’ side by responding with, “how could they be so cruel to you?!” or “I can’t imagine parenting like that!” We plant seeds of division when we do.
10 Coach the Parents Proactively
It might be wise for us to either partner with our children’s ministry or maybe go and meet with the parents of elementary our younger aged kids. Talk to them about some of these important decisions that are really important, that they need to be thinking about ahead of time. One of those big decisions these days, and it will be probably from here on out is the phone decision. When do they get a phone? There are all kinds of articles floating around, especially on social media about this decision with parents and what do you do?
Think of it this way, when you’re a parent of kids before school age you’re really a controller. When they’re in elementary, you’re more of a coach. When they’re in middle school and high school, you’re more of a manager. Then when they’re out of your house and they’re adults, you’re more of an advisor. All these different stages you play different roles.
You’re thinking about how we can coach them proactively. They’re making decisions based on how it affects their entire family and not just individually. That’s something that we can to help them to be aware of.
So how are parents being proactive in the digital age? There’s no such thing as passive parenting in the digital age. We can no longer let kids fend for themselves and make decisions while sitting alone in their room for hours, on their phone every night.
Our ultimate goal is to have as much influence with parents as we have with students.
What would you add to the list?
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