In my 12 years of full-time Student Ministry, I have come to realize that there are a few areas where a disconnect can easily occur within Student Ministry. One is the connection between the Student Ministry and the church as a whole, another is the connection between the Student Ministry Pastor/Leader and the Senior Pastor/Leader, and one more is the connection between parents of the students in the ministry and the Student Ministry itself. All three of these areas need to be addressed by the Student Ministry Pastor/Leader in order to create and maintain a good connection (because we are to work together in ministry, not independently), but I believe the most important of these 3 areas is the connection with the Parents.
The role of the Student Ministry Pastor/Leader is not to take over the job of parent for the students in the ministry, but rather to be a help to the parents as well as a link between the students and the parents. Parents should be able to see the Student Ministry Pastor/Leader as their ally, and the students should realize that their Student Ministry Pastor/Leaders works with their parents rather than against them.
1. Communicate Plans with Parents: Letting parents know what is going on, when it’s going to happen, and what the details are is so crucial. Parents are busy and have a lot of things to coordinate on their calendars between their own jobs, their family life, and each of their children’s activities. So keeping them in the loop helps them plan better and keeps their stress level down…which, let’s be honest, is better for everyone.
I send out a monthly email to parents. This email contains all the information needed about any upcoming events, what weeks we are or are not meeting for Youth Group, as well as any other important information that parents need to know. I will often begin sharing about an upcoming event to the parents even before I announce it to the students, so that parents are aware far in advance and can put it on their calendars. This helps them know what is happen, plan accordingly, and not be surprised at the last moment which would cause extra stress in an already busy life.
I also plan out the Youth Group calendar a year at a time, similar to what a school does, and I give it to all the parents at the beginning of the school year. Our Youth Group Calendar’s include all the dates we are and are not meeting as well as what the planned topic of that night is. Our Summer Schedule is different than our calendar during the school year, but I do the same thing…I plan it in advance and get it to the parents a couple months before we get to the summer. Parents know that things can change, but this again helps them to plan and be organized in advance.
2. Share Lesson details with Parents: Parents send their children to us with, trusting that we won’t be teaching them something that is not in accordance with scripture. They are trusting that we are taking our jobs to teach them the truth of God’s Word seriously. And we need to take that trust they give us as well as our responsibility to teach the truth seriously.
I have set up a way for any parent who wishes to receive a transcript of the lesson from the previous youth group. I send out an email which contains all the small group questions they discussed, the passages of scripture used in the lesson, and either a recording of what I shared in my lesson or a summary of what I said. This allows parents to continue the discussion at home with their children, allows them to know what I’m teaching their children, and it keeps me accountable to the parents concerning what I’m teaching their children.
3. Allow Parents to be involved: Parents should have the ability to be involved in the Student Ministry that their children are a part of if they have a desire to do so. They are encouraged to be involved and help out when their children are younger and in the Children’s Ministry, and the same should still apply when their children are in the Student Ministry.
I do that is by allowing some parents to be Adult Leaders in the ministry. However, the reality is that some parents make great Adult Leaders, and others don’t. But just because a parent might not be good at being the type of Adult Leader I am looking for in the Student Ministry, that does not mean they can’t be involved. I have set up a couple of other ways for parents to be involved in the ministry even if they aren’t an Adult Leader.
One way is by allowing parents to be a driver/leader/chaperon for special events or on trips. Parents are good at driving students around and watching them…they do it all the time. This is a simple way for parents to be involved in a way that is comfortable for them, and it allows them to connect to the ministry.
Another way is by setting up a way for parents to know what to pray for in the ministry. Many of the parents might not be a good Adult Leader, and won’t even be interested in being a driver/leader/chaperon. But if you set up a simple way for them to be able to pray for the students in the ministry and the ministry in general, it’s a way they can be connected. We have a Student Ministry Prayer Team that parents can sign up to be a part of, and it’s just a simple way for them to stay connected and be involved through prayer.
4. Listen to Parents: Parents want to know, the same as everyone else, that they are being listened to…especially when it comes to their children. They are raising their children, and they want those who are helping them in that venture (teachers, pastors, coaches, other adults who have an impact in their child’s life) to listen to them in regards to their children.
I shared earlier that I plan the Youth Group calendar a year at a time, which includes the lesson topics. To be able to do that requires that I spend time thinking and praying about what topics/lessons to teach in the coming year. As part of that process, I let parents know that if they have a specific lesson or topic that they have been talking with their children about or that they feel their children should hear, they as parents can share that with me and I’ll do my best to include that into my teaching calendar. They can also share other ideas with me that they have (trip/event idea, fundraiser idea, game idea, etc), and I will listen to them and consider what they say. They know that I can’t always do what they suggest, but I do my best as often as I can because I want them to know that I listen to them and value them and their opinions.
5. Talk to and with Parents: Parents are very similar to students; they like to talk with others. And not just about serious things, but just everyday life. They like to watch and discuss sports, movies, music, etc. They have hobbies and interests. They also go through hard times in life and need to be able to discuss it and share it in a safe environment. In the Student Ministry we as the Student Ministry Pastors/Leaders put a lot of emphasis on building relationships with the students, and we even talk to our Adult Leaders about doing the same. Student Ministry is a very relational ministry, as it should be. This same idea should also be true when it comes to parents. It doesn’t mean we will spend as much time with parents as we do with the students (although there could be times where that becomes necessary), but we do need to make sure we set aside time to talk to and with parents.
When parents are dropping off or picking up their children from Youth Group or a trip/event, it is a great time to spend a few minutes talking to them. Same thing on Sunday mornings during church, or during any trips/events that they help with. Look for opportunities to talk with parents, having conversations with them and getting to know them as well as allowing them to get to know you. And be available to have a conversation go deeper than just surface things if the parent needs it. Be willing to set things aside to have a conversation with a parent who is having a hard time in life. Be ready to minister to parents too.
Ministering to parents is honestly a part of ministering to students. God set up the family, and we must be very careful not to try and dissect it so that we only minister to the members of the family who are 12-18 years old.
Here is a link to the “parents of teens” page of our website, which shares some more details of how I try to stay connected to the parents in Student Ministry.