The following are notes by Jeremy Holbrook from Kevin and Gina Ragsdale’s OC16 presentation.
Twenty years ago, the communication about ministry between volunteers and parents revolved around complaints (i.e. why do you play rock music?). At the time, there wasn’t a true connection between the church and parent; however, now, we have parents on the church’s radar. We are able to help encourage the entire family structure.
No matter the type of parent, we are trying to reach all of them:
- Parents who attend church
- Parents who don’t attend church
- Single parents
- Divorced parents
- Foster parents
- Adoptive parents
But there’s one truth we all believe…
Every parent wants to be a great parent!
No matter where they are on the spectrum of parenting, we know that every parent can do something more. It’s our role to lead the parent to the next step.
All parents matter.
All parents want to be lead.
This is why we partner with them in ministry.
When you shift focus to what makes parents essential, your ministry will follow. Parents have daily influence, weekly influence, life long influence that we, as leaders, do not have.
- kissing their cuts & scrapes
- packing up their lunches
- taking the kids to school
- feeding them dinner
- tucking them in at night
- helping them with homework
- teaching them how to drive
When you measure the church’s influence against a parent’s influence, you can see the need for the church to partner in ministry WITH parents.
So we have to shift our focus to parents, thus shifting our approach to ministry.
6 ways to partner with parents:
1. Make an initial connection— Small group leaders can call or email parents prior to promotion Sunday. Create profiles with pictures of small group leaders. This will make parents more comfortable and inform them of WHO is influencing their children. Have an open house for major transitions: Preschool to K, 5th grade to Middle School, and 8th grade to high school. Specifically sit small group leaders at tables for the main purpose of initial connections.
2. Give them access to YOU— Just giving them a cell phone number isn’t enough. Explain to the parent that they’re welcome to reach out at anytime. Also provide an e-mail, Facebook profile, Twitter profile, Instagram account, etc to parents. Providing account information is also a nice leadership training moment. Asking your volunteers (students and adults) to “clean up” their social media profiles to match the perception of a parent whose child you lead, gives them an opportunity to connect with parent’s thinking. Being in leadership gives a new filter.
3. Leverage technology to connect regularly— Partnering with parents is not a one-time event.
- Let them know what’s going on in your ministry.
- Let them know what’s going on in the group.
- Let them know that you value them. (What parent doesn’t want to hear that you’re proud of how they’re raising their kid(s)?)
4. Show up where parents show up
- Show up at church– Connect with parents when they’re picking their kid(s) up from church. Connect with students’ parents at special events.
- Show up outside of church– Be in the stands, be on the sidelines, and be present during their personal plans (i.e. birthday parties). When you show up to an event because you value the kid/student, they feel loved and valued.
5. Help parents find an answer— It’s really important for parents to know they do not always have to have all the answers.
6. Say something Positive— Anytime that you can give positive reinforcement, it goes a long way.
- To students about their parents– “Michael, your parents are right. It might be difficult, but they love you enough to make sure you take the right path.”
- To parents about their children– Watch how kids/students interact in their small group, and find a way to brag on them. Say things such as they’re quick to forgive, they encourage their peers, they lead the prayer for the group, etc.
- To parents about their parenting– “I know it’s difficult that your son got in trouble at school, but I want you to know I believe what you did was the right thing!”
Even when you feel like you’re not getting a response from parents–KEEP GOING!
If we all choose to believe that every parent wants to be a good parent, we can shift how we serve children/students; and, if you do this consistently, it will change a parent’s perception of you and ultimately the church.
Jeremy Holbrook is the pastor for children’s ministries at Wildwood Church in Ashland, Kentucky.