You’re in children’s or youth ministry because you love kids. And you love parents too, right? Sometimes serving kids and serving parents can feel like apples and oranges:
Kinda the same – But kinda different, too.
Here are 10 tips to serve parents well:
1. Learn their names.
Dale Carnegie’s famous maxim comes to mind: “There is no sweeter sound to any person’s ear than the sound of their own name.” Why learn names? If nothing else, learning names paves the way for deeper relationship. Learning parents’ names also gives them a sense of place – communicating that they’re not just ‘another parent of another kid.’ But a real person.
2. Ask questions.
Learn to ask parents questions. Not just about their child, but about them. What do they do? How long have they been a part of your church? What are they enjoying about your church? What do they like about the children’s / youth ministry? Over time, you’ll earn the right for deeper discussion, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
3. Celebrate them.
Very few parents actually believe that they’ve got parenting all figured out. Many parents feel a sense of insecurity about whether or not they’re doing everything right. When you notice something incredible in the life of their child – let them know it. Connect their child’s success to their parenting decisions. Make your celebration specific, genuine, and personal.
Parents hate to be caught off guard. Email might work best for some parents. Phone calls might work best for others. However you get your message out, make sure that it’s being received. Under-communicating is a surefire way to slow relational growth.
5. Encourage them. Personally.
Parents want to know that you care. They want to you know that you are supporting them. They want to hear that their church is rooting for them. A simple hand-written ‘thank-you’ note or a personal phone call (either of which takes only 5 minutes) can make a world of difference for a family.
6. Surprise them.
Not with bad news. Not with a last-minute $25 fee for pizza. But with something that will bless them. Most parents have expectations about your ministry. Look for creative ways to blow their expectations away. This could look like a curriculum that will stretch their student in new ways. Or maybe a serving opportunity in a local food bank where parents are invited to come along.
7. Lead them.
Many parents define equate “successful parenting” with “surviving parenthood.” Redefine what “success” looks like. Help them build a vision for their kids’ lives by paying attention to how you see God using their son or daughter. Tell them how their child encourages you as a leader. Tell them what their child is good at. Help them to see kingdom-potential in their five-year old.
8. Resource them.
Parents are often overwhelmed. Being confused is just part of parenting. Juggling between soccer practice, homework, meals, and church life can be a frenzy. Parents want to know what their role is. They want to know what their child is thinking. They want to have a grip on issues their child might be dealing with. Share what you know. Email parents news articles. Connect them to books. Your role could be to help them connect the dots and bring a new aspect to your relationship.
9. Learn their family’s rhythm.
Every family has a rhythm: Parents’ work schedules, meal times, kids’ extra-curricular activities, family vacation, all make up unspoken priorities in family life. Some ministry leaders try to fight that rhythm. Don’t. Instead, learn their rhythm and program accordingly. You can’t do that for every family, but you can identify major trends and build your ministry around them.
10. Pray for them.
Time spent in prayer for parents will be rich. By praying for the families in your church, you’ll start to see them differently: Moms and Dads with high-stress jobs. Single Moms or Dads with the burden of raising kids on their own. Families who are dealing financial stress. Prayer will help deepen your heart as a pastor and leader in your church.
This list many sound like a lot to focus on. And it is.
Pick two or three ideas and go with them.
How about you?
Do you practice any of these tips?
Are they working?