Parent engagement: it’s an issue that has been present at almost every youth ministry I’ve been a part of. If you’ve been to nearly any youth ministry conference in the past five years, you’re practically guaranteed to have seen a breakout session on the topic. If you’re a youth minister, you understand the frustration of having parents that seem completely elusive and non-existent, except when they want to complain or get their child confirmed. We pour time and resources into e-mails, texts, social media, bulletin announcements and whatever else we can think of just to get the ever-frustrating response and internal scream-inducing response, “Oh I never heard about it, have you advertised that?”
I get it. Everyone has their frustrating parent stories. But you can’t do ministry without them. They are a vital part of your student’s lives and can be your best ally when mobilized well. Think about some of your rockstar parents. Yes the few, the proud, the involved-in-your ministry parents. How much have those parents blessed your life and your ministry? Parents are a great part of your ministry, and I promise there are more awesome parents out there who can pour their gifts into your program. Here’s an idea for finding them and hopefully reducing your number of hair-pulling parent frustration moments.
Start a Parent Board, What’s That?
Imagine a Pastoral Council, but for your youth ministry. You assemble 6-10 parents of students in your program that are willing to meet with you once a month. There are probably parents that would be all-star core team members or small group leaders but just don’t have the time. There could also be parents that aren’t as gifted with small group leading or don’t have a desire to serve in that way but are skilled in other areas. Instead of putting up a barrier to involvement for these parents, this is an opportunity to involve these highly skilled people in your community.
Meet with them and give updates on the youth program, and things that you have coming up. This is a great group to be a sounding board for future ideas or for feedback on how your events have gone. This is also a group of parents to give you constructive feedback on the youth program and how the community is receiving it. Ever wonder what’s the best night to put an event on so that parents would be most likely to send their kids? Your parent board can help you with that. Ever wonder what your youth are communicating to their parents about the youth program? Your parent board can help you with that.
This is a collaborative group that will help you bridge the gap to the parent community of your parish, especially if you’re not a parent already yourself. This board will give you feedback on the program and the parish culture. Do this right, and they will also turn into your biggest advocate to the church and to your parent community.
Why Do I Need One?
Read this carefully and let this point sink into your ministry mindset:
Parents can be your best asset for reaching other parents.
You can think of yourself as a marketing pro, but the parents of your program are likely around the other parents much more than you are. School events, practices, neighborhood events, and brunches are just a few of the places parents see each other. The parents that you never have time to talk to because they only drop off their kids and never interact with you? I’d be willing to bet that someone on your parent boards sees them around town or their child’s school. An invitation from another parent that’s a friend is much more powerful than an e-mail appeal (still send it though! Nope, I’m not getting you out of it). Think about a movie or T.V. show that you were really excited to see. I’d be willing to bet that hearing from others who had seen it was a big motivating factor for what made you excited to see it. When movies or shows generate hype, that’s the best marketing, because Hollywood knows that if enough people talk about how good their show is others will want to see it. It’s no different in your church. If enough of the right people in your parish are spreading positive talk about your program, it will have positive effects. If you have the right people out seeking for volunteers making those personal invitations, they will be much easier to find.
Everyone has weaknesses as a youth minister when it comes to reaching parents. Maybe you aren’t a parent yourself. You might serve in a diverse community and need help reaching a segment of that. Maybe you have a ton going on to keep your programs afloat week to week and quality parent outreach just gets put on the backburner. These are realities of ministry that you are not meant to face alone, so don’t try to. Lean on the help that God has given you, and find some parents to help you fill in these gaps.
How to Create A Parent BoardHere are some easily formatted bullet point steps for how to get one of these boards together:
- Talk to your Pastor about the need for good relationships with the parent community and pitch your idea for a parent board
- Identify the type of parent that you want on this board. Some good qualifiers are:
- Has a child in your program
- Is involved in your parish, community, or both
- Can be trusted. You want your parent board to be a good sounding board for ideas as well as giving you advice, you want to know that won’t turn any information you give into gossip
- Has a passion for seeing amazing youth ministry at your parish
- Is willing to give you feedback when you need it
- Reflects the diversity in your community
- Ask around your parish to find this type of person. When you find one, ask them if they have friends who would be good candidates as well.
- Call a meeting to explain your vision for the program, this board, and to give these parents a chance to express their dreams for their youth.
- Create a schedule to meet once a month. Have someone take notes at each meeting and send them to your Pastor afterward. He will appreciate it.
I’ll be praying for you in your efforts. If you need any advice in creating this board, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org