In Student Ministry, a huge part of working with students is learning to engage with their parents. It is not just a good idea; it is a must do practice in order to have a holistic and effective ministry to students. Working with the whole family presents its challenges, but we must partner with them to disciple and lead our students to love and live for Jesus long term. Effectively, connecting church and home life positions students to grow even more in their faith.
When it comes to welcoming new families to the your ministry, they can be a handful at times. We can either get frustrated with them or we can lead in such a way that has them falling in love with your ministry. A genuine relationship with newcomers doesn’t just happen. Our goal across all ministries must be to successfully transition a new group of parents into your ministry. Here are three keys to successfully partnering with new parents.
1. Connect with your kid’s ministry staff and talk specifically about kids and parents moving up.
There is a difference in being prepared and gossiping. Do your best to talk openly with your team about new students coming up into your ministry so that you have a heads up about potential issues or boundaries you may need to create. Whatever information you get on these students and parents, do your best to keep an open mind with them in this transition. Just because your kids ministry staff had issues with a student doesn’t mean you will and just because the kids ministry staff loved a certain group of parents, doesn’t mean you will. If you foresee potential issues, move in their direction, make a phone call or set up a meeting. Don’t just sit back and see what happens. In my experiences, parents appreciate you wanting to proactively partner with them. This can also be a great tool for recruiting volunteers. The more buy in you get from parents the more volunteers you can recruit.
2. Extend the Transition
Find ways to make the transition into student ministry longer for those new students. Do your best to not let the first time they meet you or your space be on promotion Sunday. Plan some crossover events, go on retreats with the kids’ team, and have parent meetings just for them the summer before they move up. Find creative ways to extend the transition for these students and parents so that when its go time, they can’t wait to be in your ministry. Drop into their Sunday morning classes or spend some time with the incoming group outside the normal scheduled events. Again, parents see you and they will appreciate you being proactive.
3. Understand that parents are emotional.
Remember, parents will get upset from time to time and it rarely is a personal attack on you. When it comes to anything my kids do, I am more emotionally invested. I am emotionally connected in wanting my kids to have great experiences and when this is not the case I am emotional. When you get the phone calls, emails or text messages do your very best to keep this in mind. They are emotional because they love their kids. Sometimes emotions will cause parents to say and do things that feel threatening. This doesn’t give them a pass; but understanding this confirms to you that parenting is an emotional sport. So, next time you get the call or email, do your best to not blow it off or get frustrated. My advice to all leaders dealing with emotional parents, is to give at least 24 hours before you respond to an upset parent. Also, never email or text a negative reply. If you have to respond, do it over the phone or in person.
Praying that these simple tips will help you connect church and home, one family at a time!