The phone in my office has a little red light. It’s small and not really an important feature of the phone. Actually the phone works just fine whether the light is lit or not. But I dislike that red light. It means there’s a voicemail waiting to be retrieved. The reason I don’t like that red light is because of who may have left the message.
I think many of us have a hard time trying to figure out how to deal with certain types of parents. I call them Agenda Parents. The sole reason they call you, talk to you, or email you is because they have an agenda that they feel needs to be your
agenda. My favorite moments are when they “just happened to be driving by the church and saw your car here” so they stopped in to “talk”…but the talk isn’t casual, it’s intentional.
Before you think I’m anti-parents, please know I love parents. There are times I actually love working with parents more than with teenagers. I enjoy their feedback, ideas, life learnings, and suggestions (good or bad).
I just don’t enjoy Agenda Parents.
I’ve learned that Agenda Parents are often either misinformed about certain situations or they just want something a certain way. Here’s how I’ve learned to interact with them.
Listen. When you listen without being defensive it will help the conversation stay civil (hopefully), and it will display a lot of integrity on your part. Most people who are frustrated really want to have their voice heard. If you show enough care to listen, odds will be they’ll do the same to you.
Give enough information and make sure it’s clear. If parents are misinformed, then inform them properly and clearly. Give them the details. Be specific. Help them see the bigger picture. They may be confused about the cost of a camp or why so many changes are taking place. They still may not like the answer, but at least you’ve left no question unanswered for them.
Be the pastor. Care for them, their family, and their kid with a pastor’s heart. Show them pastoral care and love but also remind them of your role. If you’ve made a decision that has the backing of the senior leadership of the church, or you have the authority to make certain decisions, inform parents of that, but not with pride. I’ll never forget when a parent at a church actually went to my senior pastor to asked if I was a “real pastor” or not. Sometimes certain parents do forget your role in the church; let go of the ego and stay humble in those moments.
Be willing to disagree. People who are wired to be people-pleasers can get pushed over by Agenda Parents. Agenda Parents wants it their way, and if you’re a people-pleaser, you may go their way so you don’t lose their support or their son or daughter’s involvement in youth group. But if their agenda doesn’t line up with a kingdom mind-set or the overall direction of the student ministry, you’ll have to disagree. But do so in love and be sure to explain how it doesn’t fit.
For me Christ’s kingdom and the overall direction of the church and student ministry matter more to me than Agendas. I still need to make room for Agenda-based conversations but I need to do my best to use those moments to teach, and help parents see the bigger picture.
Hang in there, be dependent on the power of God, and trust his Spirit to guide your words and conversations when those moments arise.
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Time to go check my voicemail.