As the launch of a new school year approaches, remember to include on your calendar some strategic touchpoints with parents. It’s essential to partner with them and be available as you work together to nurture teenagers and their faith. Being available makes a profound positive statement to parents and boosts their confidence in you as a youth worker.
Here are four ways our ministry intentionally connects with parents:
- Parent-teenager gatherings—We schedule what we call Parent Connect two to four times per year. These parent-teenager gatherings feature a teaching that builds on the family dynamic. After our first Parent Connect, a parent said: “Wow, that was actually helpful! I thought this would be a parent meeting where we’d all get yelled at for not turning in forms and signing waivers.” Although our meetings do have a bit of “aligning,” we discovered that parents don’t like parent meetings, but they do love worshipping with their kids. A parent-teenager gathering, when done well, is a gift to parents. Parent Connect has earned us a lot of favor with those who attend.
- Drop-in hours—Like college professors, I have office hours for anyone to drop in. But there’s something about getting outside the church walls and being in the community. A couple of times a year, I text or email parents a location (coffee shop, community center, mall) and let them know I’d love for them to drop in. This communicates availability and openness.
- Celebrating young people—Parents want to know that youth workers know their kids. Some of the easiest ways to do that are sending birthday cards, remembering important dates and milestones, and showing up at plays, concerts, and sports events. Pull fringe kids into activities, too. I recently met a ninth grader for the first time, even though he’s been coming to our church for years. I asked him his name, remembered his name (it’s a big deal to be known!), and invited him to play foosball with a group of guys. His mom was so moved she sought me out the next week to tell me how much that meant. Parents also love to hear the good things their kids are doing. If I have positive news, I try to go out of my way to share it. If you want parents in your corner, show their kids you love them.
- Current communications—This might not be an obvious trust-builder, but when we aren’t communicating with parents clearly, it is a huge trust-buster. Make it a priority to keep your monthly newsletter, website, and parent Facebook page current. That also increases the chances that parents will reply to what you publish and promote. It makes your job easier when parents know what’s going on, how much an event costs, and what’s coming up next. When your communication isn’t updated, you lose ground—and time—by calling and emailing. Current communication says, “We value your time” and “This stuff is important.”
Pro Tip: Be selective with emails to parents. If you send multiple mass emails per month, your communication turns to white noise or spam. But an up-to-date web page has the potential to keep parents coming back.