As a youth worker, you know it’s important to communicate well with parents. You may have learned that lesson via the School of Hard Knocks, maybe from a frustrated parent, or from 14 billion phone calls regarding something you should’ve conveyed with a quick text or email.
When those things happen, we tighten our announcement strategy, and parents are appeased. Yet they need to hear so much more from youth ministers than pick-up times and camp fees.
This became glaringly obvious to me during a brief hiatus from direct, day-to-day student ministry. For the first time, my kids were in someone else’s youth group. And I realized just how much of a difference great communication makes—and how much more of it I craved.
In addition to clearly communicating all the logistics of your ministry calendar and needs, share these 10 “truth nuggets” with parents—then watch what happens:
10. “Your kid is awesome; you’re doing a great job!” Don’t lie; just remember that most parents wonder from day to day if they’re raising a responsible adult or a potential serial killer. On any given day, parents overreact, under-respond, and lie awake wondering what kind of long-term damage they’re causing. Remind them they’re doing an amazing job.
9. “Parenting is tough; I don’t know how you do it!” Because youth ministers’ influence on teenagers often seems natural and easy, parents can feel minimized and insecure. But parenting is a lot more difficult than pastoring, and acknowledging that will tend to parents’ hearts and souls.
8. “Teenagers grow out of more than their clothes. Hang on; this will pass.” When communication breaks down at home, it can feel as if relationships will remain in a horrible rut forever. Reminding parents that teenagers go through stages and rarely get stuck may be the glimmer of hope some striving mom or dad needs.
7. “What can I do for you?” Youth workers ask parents to do stuff for us all the time: “Can you bring snacks for this gathering?” “Will you spend a week of your vacation sleeping on a gym floor and eating PB&Js to help teenagers serve a community, even though they won’t clean their own rooms?” (Even if you don’t ask that way, it’s probably what parents are thinking as they process the request!) Ask parents what you can do for them. Serve them. Lead them by helping them.
6. “Your kid said something great about you, and I wanted to share it.” Teenagers usually aren’t quick to praise their parents, probably because they want to keep Mom or Dad humble. So when you hear compliments and kindness, let parents know! And if young people aren’t talking about their folks, initiate those conversations and turn hearts toward home.
5. “I know things have been tough; here’s a scholarship for our next event.” It’s easy for youth ministers to give parents general offers of aid: “If you need help with anything, just ask.” But pride can get in the way. Parents and teenagers may feel too humiliated to request assistance—especially when it’s needed most. Anticipate families’ needs before they’re forced to approach you. If a newly single mom is struggling to find work, don’t wait for her to ask.
4. “I read this Bible verse and thought of you.” Nothing speaks to the heart more than Scripture. Give that blessing to parents often. (Just make sure the verse isn’t “Jesus wept.”)
3. “We’d love to have your family over for dinner this week. How does Tuesday look for you?” Let families see your family. Get off your platform and into the living room. Set a specific date to avoid the vague “we should get together sometime.”
2. “Thanks for the privilege of letting me come along on your family’s faith journey.” Parents are the strongest influence on their teenagers. Don’t take for granted the invitation to join them in that role.
1. “Can I pray for you?” Then pray for parents—right then and there.
Communication with parents must involve more than a monthly newsletter or weekly social media updates. Are you talking? Are you listening? What suggestions would you add to this list?
Bonus idea: Share these helpful guides for parents on topics like social media and sex & dating.