5 Types of Parents & What To Do With Them

Jeff Beckley
September 3rd, 2019

If you haven’t learned this lesson by now, it’s time.  Ready for this?  Student ministry is NOT just about the students.  It’s true.  Your parent ministry is just as valuable as the ministry you have to your students.  But no parent or parents are the same.  Below are a few examples of parents you may come across and some ideas on how to deal…I mean…minister to them.

Umbilical-Cord-Is-Still-Attached Parent

You may have heard of these parents as the helicopter parents or most recently, lawn mower parents.  The cord has not been cut from their child, so they hold their child back from any trouble, problems, or danger.  Any time you plan a youth event, be ready to play 20 questions with this parent.

How to Deal:  Communication is key with this type of parent.  Try to eliminate as many questions in your communications about your events and programs as possible.  In your parent meetings, provide a parent packet with detailed information.  Also, if the parent is concerned about UV rays, Lime’s disease, and upset stomachs…encourage them to provide a “survival kit” for the group so you have sunscreen, bug spray, and antacids on hand.

Jenny Lind Parent

This is the parent that no matter what you do, it is “never enough” (see The Greatest Showman).  You plan an awesome event, but it went too late at night.  You plan another event, and it was not long enough.  You come watch their child play a sport and they expect you to come to the next 12 games.  No matter what you do, it just seems like it is never enough.

How to Deal:  Set your expectations clearly.  For example, one expectation I set at the beginning of the year is I make it known that I can only see one game/play/performance per year of each student.  And I ask that parents provide schedules to help plan these visits.  Sure, you will never satisfy a “Jenny Lind” parent, but if you have concrete expectations, it makes it more difficult for them to find fault in your role as a youth worker.

Have We Met Before? Parent

It is always awkward when a parent who sparingly shows up to a meeting and you can’t remember if you had met before.  This category of parent covers a variety of family structures.  A parent who rarely shows up maybe a result of being a single parent.  It could be the parent is an unbeliever and is not comfortable coming to church.  

How to Deal:  Regardless of the circumstances, this category of parent will require sensitivity.  Whether it is a result of a divorce, tragedy, or unbelief…the parent that does not show up requires a sensitive heart attitude and gracious approach.  As a result, you may be required to provide additional communication, personal phone calls or texts, and most of all patience.  Instead of a “why aren’t they here at this meeting?”, it might be better to discover “why aren’t they coming to the meeting?” and meet them somewhere in the middle of their chaos and difficulty.

Support Group Parent

The parents that just get it.  They sign up first when you need a snack for small group.  These are the parents that send you encouraging emails and texts after a long week at camp.  You know, the parents that you hope have their kids spread out enough in age so they are parents in your ministry for a decade or longer.

How to Deal:  If they are not already, ask them to be part of your leadership team.  If they are busy, then it can be a smaller role like snack coordinator.  But if they are able, invite them to be small group leaders or event sponsors.  If they get it, and understand your ministry, then why not allow them to be a part of it.  

Busy Signal Parent

Remember the days of the busy signal?  You would call and get that annoying beep and you couldn’t get an answer.  Now, these parents aren’t necessarily annoying, but they are difficult to get an answer.  You plan an event, and they say we may have a ball game, Pilates, junior chef championships, karate, or climbing the Himalaya’s that night.  They are just plain busy all the time.

How to Deal:  This type of parent has become commonplace; almost to the point where the most common response to “How are you doing?” is “Busy”.  Parents are so busy taking their kids from one activity to the next, it has become difficult to find a sweet spot for a youth activity.  How do you deal with this?  You don’t.  Plan your event in a relevant time and place.  And those who are able to come, enjoy that time together.  Stop counting the students that can’t come, and make the time count with the student that did come.  

Parent ministry is rewarding when it is consistent over time.  It takes time to build trust with parents.  As you deposit your time, care, and energy into their kids, you begin to deposit into their trust bank.  That built trust will go a long way in your ministries to family.  They will allow you in for counsel, encouragement, and spiritual growth.  It truly is an incredible experience when your youth ministry becomes a family ministry.   

Jeff Beckley

Jeff serves as a Youth & Family Pastor in Columbus, Ohio.  He recently authored a teen and young adult devotional called Bottom Line Devotional (www.bottomlinedevotional.com). His blog www.JeffBeckley.org serves as a tool and resource for youth ministries across the globe.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.