I think there are four levels to youth ministry. One is ministry with parents. Here are three things that help with that and one that doesn’t.
- Clarity. I am learning the hard way that clear, consistent communication with parents makes most everything work better. So we publish an annual events calendar in August. I write a weekly e-newsletter with the upcoming weekend’s schedule and assorted announcements requiring action. I also write a monthly e-newsletter just to parents (hat tip to this Youth Cartel Course). I use our website to post static information with clear links to register and sign up, as well as, increasingly, explanatory descriptions of those things. Finally, as I wrote here, I’m going back to sending things home in the mail.
- Trips. I’m big on youth ministry trips. One reason is the partnership they offer with parents, especially, in my experience, parents of young teens. We took 5th-8th graders to Detroit last summer, led by a team of five parents. Some of those parents were already involved in youth ministry activities, but most weren’t, so the trip provided really valuable time to get to know them as we drove long hours, worked side-by-side, and strategized each day. It is perhaps the most valuable parent ministry I’ve done here.
- Coffee (or tea). One-on-one conversations at coffee shops or related public spaces are the lifeblood of effective ministry with parents. Some contexts make this more challenging than others, if people live over a wide geographic area and transportation is complicated. Also, most of my students’ parents work the same hours I do and aren’t necessarily looking for things to add to their evenings, so this requires some flexibility. But it’s worth it. There simply is no replacement when it comes to learning about the youth in your church, their families, and the things they’re both struggling with and thriving at, for an hour-long talk with a parent. Also, I find that these energize me more than almost anything else I do.
- Meetings. I have a calendar of Sunday morning parent meetings that I’d hoped would generate meaningful connections among parents and help me grow my relationships with them, but they’re not really killing it for those things. I’m finding them mostly to be vehicles for sharing information. That’s fine (see #1), but I want them to be more. Perhaps one hour on Sunday morning isn’t enough. Maybe there aren’t enough of them. Whatever the reason, parent meetings were something I expected to be a big part of my ministry with parents but that aren’t really.
Have a nice weekend!