by Deech Kirk 10/31/2012
You are the youth director, youth pastor, or youth minister. Do you need to have a relationship with parents? Weren’t you hired to work with youth? How do you develop health relationships with parents?
Parents are the biggest influence on a child’s faith. Therefore, if you hope to minister to them well, you will need to learn how to develop healthy relationships with their parents. Here are four steps to help you:
Step One: Understand Where They Are Coming From
Their teenagers are the most important teens on the planet…to them! This means that it doesn’t matter how many youth are attending your youth group; they only care about whether Johnny is attending your youth group. It doesn’t matter how many youth love your Bible study; they only care about Susan’s experience. They love and care about their youth and want the best for them.
You have or will face a parent who is upset about how you are going about youth ministry. They may challenge things that you believe to be essential in ministering to teenagers. I had a parent tell me that small group discipleship was not working. We had over 300 youth in small groups and our leaders were really starting to lead well. My instinct was to become defensive, but the reality wasn’t that the daughter didn’t like small groups. The reality was that her daughter was feeling left out in the shuffle of organizing youth into groups of eight to 10; therefore, she didn’t want to come. Her mom never said this, but fortunately I had been doing youth ministry long enough to evaluate her statements through the lens of the most important youth in this mom’s world: her daughter. If she didn’t like small groups, then something was not working for her daughter. We helped her daughter get connected with a group that she felt more comfortable with and a year later the same mother was a raving fan of small groups and the impact they had on kids’ faith development.
Step Two: Get To Know Them
If you are going to effectively minister to youth, you have to know what most shapes them–their parents and family. You must build time into your job to build relationships with parents. I know how hard this can be. Parents, for the most part, drop their kids off at youth group and most of your ministries do not have a natural space where you can simply meet parents. Therefore, you have to create this space. Instead of staying in the gym and playing another round of gotcha, go outside to the pickup line and talk to parents who are waiting on their kids. Sit in the parents’ section at the football game. Talk to them before the school play. Let everyone know that you would love to get to know their families better and you would love for them to take you to lunch after church.
Step Three: Communicate with Them
I’m not talking about newsletters (although that information is important to communicate well to parents). I’m talking about sharing with parents the big and small ways you see Johnny and Susan growing in their faith. Make sure you communicate with them about any concerns you have about their spiritual or physical health. Are you noticing signs of depression or withdrawal? These are good reasons to give a parent a call. You may learn things that are going on that will better help you minister to that youth or you help that parent better respond to their teenager. Good communication is also about being a good listener. You can learn a lot by listening to what parents tell you about their youth. You can learn about stress points, home life, school struggles, interests, and passions. If you want to have healthy relationships with parents, then you need to establish open lines of communication with them.
Step Four: Partner with Them
Understand that parents are and should be the greatest influence on their youth’s faith and partner with them to equip them for spiritual leadership. Provide them resources and opportunities to learn how to model and develop faith habits in their home. Create space for conversations between youth and their parents about issues that matter. Invite parents to be in ministry alongside their youth so that they can grow together.
Yes, you are the youth minister, but if you want to do your job well you must be the parents minister, too