#1: parents are vital. I remember coming out of college with a passion to lead and encourage students to pursue Christ. In my first few years of ministry I remember having a disdain towards some parents. I know this sounds horrible right? I equated their students decisions to their parenting. I actually thought I knew better than most parents. What I did not realize is that many parents are in dire need of encouragement, prayer and support. I quickly learned that my time with the students pales in comparison to their time at home. As I repented of my attitude, I quickly learned that ministry to students is only one half of the goal.
The family is the most influential aspect of a student's life. Leading students means ministering to them AND their families. Including and using parents in the ministry is crucial to building a healthy foundation. Over time I have realized that if we can impact parents with the gospel, we will in turn see a stronger growth in their students lives!
What I Wish I knew about parents in student ministry:
- Be an advocate. Teach students to fight FOR the relationship with their parents instead of fighting against them. Teach students on a regular basis the importance of being under the authority of their parents (as long as they are not being abused, etc).
- Admit when you are wrong. Admit you do not have all the answers. Ask forgiveness when you make a mistake.
- Resource parents to lead in the home. We offer a weekly email with the message outline and discussion questions for parents to use in the home.
- Hang out and listen. Parents appreciate sharing about their children. Listen to them without offering your ideas on, "10 steps to change your child." Listen with the heart. Listening will build trust and support from parents.
- Time Matters. Parents are working full-time jobs as well as raising a family. Start when you say you will start a meeting or event. End when you let them know you will end. Remember, they have a lot of responsibilities, so value their time.
- Communicate all the time. Maintain a healthy level of communication to parents on a regular basis. Just when you think you have communicated enough, do it again! I'd encourage you to cover all the bases (email, facebook, twitter, snail mail, bulletin inserts, parent newsletter and so forth).
- Find opportunities to get to know unchurched parents. Many times the only way you can talk to parents is when they come to pick up their student. In order to build a relationship, we must take the initiative. Sometimes it helps parents see that the church is there to support them as a family and not just provide a "free childcare" service.
- Champion parents. Let students know how much you appreciate their family. Praise their parents in front of the students. Share kind words to the students in front of their parents. Build a bridge between the student and their parent. Our goal is to help the family grow closer to each other and God.
What are some ways you have grown in ministering to parents? What tips do you have to share?