Tips for Consistent Communication with Parents and Adult Caregivers
Don’t Assume Labels
Be careful not to assume that the adults at home are the parents. When reaching out to the adults at home, do not assume they are to be called mother or father. Youth are coming from dynamic family situations. They may be living with aunts, uncles, foster guardians, grandparents, older step siblings, etc.
Depending on your context, some families have many commitments and calendars fill up quickly. Families have to make choices about what they will do and what they must forgo. The earlier parents know about a youth event, the better they can make plans to attend. Knowing about an opportunity early allows parents to coordinate schedules and transportation as well as the opportunity to budget for it.
Communicate Regularly with Various Tools
Different forms of communication have different strengths and weaknesses.You want your message to break through the many communications parents sift through every day. Because an email or text message received at a busy or bad time may never get read, focus on regular and consistent communication.
Keep consistent branding in your communications including a logo, a banner, and even the subject line. Consider sending a weekly email on the same day each week. Participants will begin to expect and know what it is when they see it. Include information about your weekly programs and upcoming events as well as links to resources that are useful to parents.
Unclear or muddled communication causes confusion and frustration. Be concise and get to the point quickly. Use bold/italics/underline to highlight important information.
In addition to reaching out to parents through various means, you should have an information hub for parents to access all the details about the ministry such as: a program calendar,form, details about trips, events, and programs, and opportunities for parents to get involved in the ministry. These should all be housed in an easily accessible hub such as a website, or printed information in the youth room. This information should be maintained regularly so that all the information is correct. Use your other communications to direct adults here. Adults will appreciate having a place they can go to get information. Once adults are trained to go to your hub, you can shift the focus of your other methods of communication. Instead of relying on texts, emails, and Facebook to be the primary avenues for disseminating information, those means become supplementary. They serve as reminders and updates while continuing
to direct adults to your information hub.
Also, Don’t forget to Communicate to the Greater Community
One mistake that we often make is that we simply include youth announcements in worship and the church-wide newsletter. If that is all we do, then the congregation only knows what the youth are doing, not how it is changing their lives. It is important to invite the greater community into the work God is doing within the youth. They may be donors, mentors, or potential volunteers, and could be inspired to participate. They would much prefer to hear the stories of the mission trip and how lives were changed than to simply hear how it’s going. A great way to communicate how God is moving in the lives of youth is to let the youth speak! Pick someone who is good at communicating, and ask them to give the greater community information about how they’ve experienced God. This not only gives them a chance to reflect on their spiritual growth, but helps them develop leadership skills as well.