I Regretted Not Doing This In Ministry…And Here’s What Happened Next
“Parents are your friends, not your enemies”. This was the advice I heard from my former youth pastor in my early days of youth ministry. One thing I regret is not heeding this advice sooner and developing a plan to make this a fabric of my ministry. Not that I saw parents as enemies, but I neglected to design a culture of ministry that allowed them to be an ally and partner in ministry.
What changed? A little thing called Parent-Pastor Conferences. What is that? Well, let me give you a little background. You see, I have to admit. I was a little jealous of my kids’ teachers having Parent-Teacher Conferences. A sign up list for parents to come in voluntarily, talk about their child’s strengths, weaknesses, and development. Then, end the discussion about ways you can work together to better the child’s education experience. Hello? I want that with the parents in my youth ministry, and that is where Parent-Pastor Conferences were born.
Why are only teachers experiencing these meetings of direction, partnership, and clarity? In actuality, this meeting has more significance (no offense teachers, you are most appreciated), but not because of the teacher’s place in the student’s life, but because the church teaches about that which is eternal. Shouldn’t parents and pastors sit down and discuss ways they can partner with each other to allow the teenager to fight temptation, grow in their spiritual disciplines and gifts, and experience spiritual growth? I can hear you scream YES from here! So how is this done? Below are five steps to begin this ministry-altering program in your youth ministry.
Pick a date
Provide a date with a wide range of times. Example. 3-7pm on a weeknight can allow families with different schedules to attend. Provide alternate dates to parents so they can still have time to meet with you, but encourage the conference date as a primary option.
During your next parent meeting, explain the parent/pastor conference and pass around a sign-up list. Follow up with parents that may not sign up, but this provides a good base of meetings right off the bat.
Make it Professional.
I had my dear wife make her famous chocolate chip cookies (this puts everyone in a good mood to start the meeting) and some coffee. I set out two leather chairs in the lobby, coffee & cookies on a table, and a sign saying I would be with them in a moment. This is not a silly exercise, we are talking about the spiritual condition of a human being. Take it seriously.
Have a Plan.
For me, I kept it very simple. In order to stay in my 30 minute timeframe, I had 4 categories: Concerns, Strengths, Weaknesses, & Goals. The parents talked and I also gave my input as well. This plan worked well in this context and kept discussion on topic and with a firm direction. Make sure to have plans for each grade written down and ready to go.
Make Prayer a Focus.
We want God to be the main source and contributor to our discussion. So we make sure to invite God right off the bat through prayer. Then, I make it a point to have the dad pray at the end of the meeting if he is able to attend. This is a subtle encouragement to allow the dad to take charge spiritually within the family. It’s always a blessing to hear parents pray for the teens you serve and care for.
No more regrets. Since this was implemented a few years ago, I’ve had incredibly impactful conversations with parents. Some have turned into counseling sessions and others have provided incredible insight into student’s lives. Hopefully, you and the parents of your students have the same heartbeat, and that is to see their child grow in their relationship with the Lord and reach their full potential of using their God-given abilities and gifts. If not, this might be an opportunity to get on the same page for this ultimate goal. In the end, these conferences might just allow you follow that advice I heard to make parents your friends, not your enemies.
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.