It’s inevitable. A parent pulls the pin and throws that grenade right into the middle of your office. Actually, it’s probably a bonus if it’s thrown into your office and not in the middle of the hallway of the educational wing or the church foyer.
So how can you diffuse the bomb before it explodes leaving devastation in its wake?
1. Apologize. Period. If you did something, apologize for doing it. If you didn’t, apologize for the misunderstanding and ask for a chance to make it right. And never apologize for them – like this: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” That’s not an apology for them – it’s an apology for you. Probably because you really ARE sorry they’re so mad because they’re spewing shrapnel everywhere.
2. Listen! Let them say everything they need to say. Part of diffusing is allowing the ‘injured party’ to be heard. And when I say listen – I mean really engage with what they are saying. Uncross you arms. Lean slightly toward them. Repeat what they’re saying to you to insure you understand what they are saying.
3. Try to make it right. If you, indeed, made a mistake – own it and try to make amends. Sometimes it’s impossible to do that and an apology is all you can offer.
4. Don’t exchange venom for venom. If they are completely off base, you can endeavor to shed some light – but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t shine very far. The room’s probably been dark for a while….long before you ever entered the scene. If it’s obvious that progress will not be made or that digress is inevitable, abandon the mission with a smile and walk away.
5. Ignore it if it’s a fake bomb. Sometimes parents throw bombs at every turn. You see it lobbing in and all you think is ‘oh, look, another paper weight!’ This parent just seems to function better by making other people feel worse. Their complaints are baseless and without threat. So ignore it – that bomb’s not gonna go off anyway. It’s a false alarm.
Parents are NOT the enemy. They are a great ally. But they can occasionally engage in friendly fire that’s not so friendly. Don’t let it taint your ministry to all parents…or even that parent. Love them in their fallibility – that’s where Jesus started loving you, right?
Darren is a veteran youth pastor in Corpus Christi, TX, and co-hosts a weekly podcast for parents of teenagers (http://www.facebook.com/mipodcast) with his wife, Katie.