7 Ways to Engage Parents

Parents are a powerful resource in youth ministry. It can make or break your ministry. So how do you engage them to MAKE youth ministry? I’m sharing 7 strategies for engaging parents to MAKE your youth ministry rock!

1. Communications: Not that this list is in numeric importance, but probably your biggest pass or fail with parents these days is having solid communications. Parents will give, or settle, with some lacks in communications, but that gets old and they will eventually turn on you. Have a system that you can reach the masses of your parents. Poll how they want information at a meeting or call everyone to talk to them about how best it is to communicate to them. They will probably ask for everything and that is cool, it is on them to sort but you have done your part to keep informed. If/When you get parents involved in the week to week of doing ministry then it is even more critical to keep informed of needs, budgets, youth happenings they are close to, etc.

2. Expectations: Chances are you have asked someone to help with the youth ministries. Their response has probably been, “What do you want me to do?” For years I thought it was cool to just say, “Just show up and we’ll feel out how you’d fit in.” Yes, not sure why I thought that was a good idea. I would not show if someone gave me that invite. Truth is, parents have some crazy hours these days & their time is a premium. They want to know what expectations you, or a youth council, would have for them. You want me to head up a fundraiser, when does it start/stop? who would I be working with? You want me to help with a small group, what does that look like? am I in charge?

3. Presence: Work on the presence you have when you are around parents. I remember when parents in my youth ministry met my younger brother at church one week. They were all really impressed with him. I wondered what that was all about so I observed my brother a bit more closely. He didn’t say anything spectacular, but he was completely present to whomever he was talking to. He would stand up tall, look people in the eye and would call them by a polite name. His body presence in meeting people instilled a confidence in what he was doing and about. Before even you get there, you need to actually get around your parents. Schedule lunches or coffee’s. Work with their schedules in mind. Talk up what they are interested about and the things they hope for with their family, kids and spiritual life.

4. Ministry Match: Not everyone who has a positive impact on your ministry has to be directly involved in the ministry. Those who are willing to help with the infrastructure of your ministry are invaluable to your ministry. You have that parent who does not want to intrude on their teenagers ‘friend space’ but you know they could work great in coordinating other parents for a special event or a weekly ministry need. If you’ve been doing the ‘presence’ with parents then you will probably know if one of them is a project manager & could help put together a retreat or event. Maybe one of the parents is a CPA and would be happy to keep the books, as long as you keep your receipts. Team the parents up with teenagers who would match their temperament for leading tasks. Sometimes opposites can match, but always good to have parents and teens that won’t conflict from minute one.

5. Training: My wife has this say of “You don’t know what you don’t know” and this goes for people entering ministry. You might have some gifted parents who can relate well with others super naturally, but that does not mean that they know how to go about answering the random questions of teenagers in a small group setting. Handing over some fundraiser or mission event without giving them some basic training on the history off event or how it actually operates is setting you up for some last minute headaches for sure. Have some way to train your parents. Maybe those are individual coaching meet ups or gathered group trainings. They won’t know what to do unless you inform them what to do.

6. Get to Know: Flowing along with the ‘presence’ in engaging parents. You need to get to know not just who your parents are. You need to get to know what they are all about. Ask questions about their history, laugh with their stories, what are the things they dream for their family, what are their fears they have for their kids, etc. If you really do not care about them then knowing all this is at the very least, valuable information. Because I believe you do care about them, this shows that you are not giving lip service to caring for them and their family and the trust value and engagement results are going to sky rocket.

7. Don’t be Afraid to Ask: If you don’t ask, no one will offer. Rarely in ministry do you find the parent who comes to you regularly and offers “I want to head up the youth auction fundraiser because I know that allows for the youth to do the mission trips and confirmation retreats and that is what God is calling me to for my next 6 months.” Maybe you have had that happen before, I think I dreamed it once. Whatever your reasoning for NOT asking please throw that mind trash away and get in the practice of asking. They might say no, but they might then offer for something else. They might say no, but they will suggest who else you could ask. They might even ask on your behalf. Even worse, they might even say YES.

Being intentional about engaging your parents with these strategies in mind will put more people in ministry of the church (always a good thing) and give you more time for the relational aspects of your youth ministry (what you probably got into youth ministry for in the first place). So get started on one thing then work another. You’ll get there quickly we are sure.

Youthworkercircuit.com: We believe that youth ministry is a calling. We also believe that youth workers don’t have time to do it all and are probably distracted from the parts of youth ministry that they love by the parts that they don’t. And that good youthworkers walk away from their calling every day because they feel under-resourced, over-tasked, and alone. What if there was a place where you could have instant access to quality Wesleyan curriculum and program ideas? What if there was a resource that prompted you with inventive organizational ideas, guiding you toward better, more personal ministry? What if there was an opportunity to regularly share genuine, live conversation in community with likeminded youthworkers from across the country?

Well, that’s what we want & are doing, we’d love to have you join in with us.