Early in my youth ministry career, I would have rather juggled chainsaws while blindfolded than deal with the parents in my ministry who were impossible to please. You know the type:
– “Summer camp is too expensive.”
– “My daughter didn’t get in the small group she requested.”
– “My son wasn’t treated fairly at the overnighter.”
– “God’s word isn’t being preached faithfully enough.”
– “I can’t believe you would play a secular song at a church event.”
– “I’m going to have to talk to Pastor Bob about this.” (the trump card!)
Back in the day I would figure out ways to avoid running into the high maintenance parents in the church hallways because to do so meant getting an earful…or two. But over the years I’ve discovered that embracing the concerns of high maintenance parents is a good thing….a really good thing. Here are some benefits of making sure high maintenance parents feel heard:
- They are going talk to somebody about their concerns, so why not me? Most high maintenance parents simply want to be heard; they want to air their frustrations or concerns to somebody….anybody….who will listen. It’s better that those concerns get shared with the point person of the ministry than with somebody else.
- Listening builds trust. When you listen; when you take their concerns seriously, you build trust. And when trust is built, high maintenance parents usually become lower maintenance.
- There’s almost always an element of truth in their concerns. I’ve learned not to let my perceptions or frustrations with the messenger cloud the truth of the message. Just because a parent is hard to please doesn’t mean their concerns are invalid.
- You can build allies out of adversaries. I’ve seen it happen time and time and time again; the parent who was once a thorn in my flesh becomes one of our youth ministry’s biggest cheerleaders. When high-maintenance parents know you are available to them and take their concerns seriously, they often times become the first people to come to your ministry’s defense when the chips are down.
I’d be lying if I said that I look forward to dealing with hard-to-please parents…who does? But, I’m done avoiding them because I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of embracing them.