Partnering with Parents without Adding MORE

Youth Specialties
June 10th, 2016

“You have what tonight?”

“How much money do you need?”

“Why didn’t I know about this before now?”

These are all questions I’ve asked my own kid. Being a parent is hard and keeping track of all their games, teacher conferences, carpools, church events, and extracurriculars is overwhelming. Families are busier than ever. Chris Danaceau, an IT professional in Gaithersburg, Md., has his 16-year-old daughter take an Uber car home from ballet when he can’t pick her up.[1] Parents are stretched thin with 74% of families whose youngest child is over 6 years of age both working outside of the home.[2] How can we as churches and youth workers partner with parents and be the good news to them?

As I was thinking about my own “partnering with parents ” philosophy, I loved what Adam McLane wrote once upon a time in the interwebs somewhere and it’s stayed with me ever since.

“Good Lord, getting invited to another thing is as far from Good News in my family as I can imagine!

Adam McLane

How do you partner with parents without adding more to anyone’s schedule? “Families are already too busy” is what I seem to be repeating at every staff meeting and every network meeting where we try to add MORE to a family or youth group schedule. Short answer?

[bctt tweet=”Help families with what they are already doing.” username=”ys_scoop”]

That’s the way I roll. Here are a few ideas:


[bctt tweet=”Maybe they don’t need Uber. Maybe they just need you.” username=”ys_scoop”]

The best help I’ve offered…driving! Yup. Want me to pick your kid up from school and bring them to soccer? Done! Driving helps the parent (especially single moms or dads!) out BIG TIME. It also gives you a chance to chat and connect with students as you take them and their friends from point A to point B. Oh and follow all your church policies on driving students. I always drive more than one student in my car to avoid being alone with any one person.


For my youth group students to mix it up with adults in the church (which is a huge priority!), we do things like serve the homeless. We participate in community clean up days with the church family. We join the co-ed softball team with the “big people.” I look in the church bulletin and browse the church website to find things the church is already doing, and then bring students with me. I do want students to mix it up with adults in the church and find inter-generational activities to do together, but try to do it without adding “MORE” of my own things and simply show up to what already exists.


Make the most of when parents are ALREADY on your church campus to schedule parent meetings. Don’t make them come back for your parent meeting on another day of the week. They can easily pop on over and enjoy an informative parent meeting over yummy food if you are smart about your scheduling.

Remember the phone before it was so smart?

Go old school, forget email and texting for a bit, and CALL up each family in your ministry (the ones involved and the ones who are not). Don’t wimp out on this! Call at least twice a year and ask “How can we be praying for you?” and “Is there anything we can do to support or help you as a family?” These questions will reveal a lot. I am tempted to try an entire year without email and be forced to communicate with parents in more creative and personal ways.


Except on very rare occasions, our student ministry refuses to be the reason our volunteers and students are away from families more than one night a week. We only offer ONE student ministry program a week to help volunteers and students succeed with their families and enjoy the other life giving things in their life—like sports, dinner at grandma’s, friends, and time for homework.  The “less is more” approach allows our volunteers more time during the week to show up in student’s lives. They can get to a student’s ballgame or recital because we don’t ask them to show up at church 3 times a week for a program.

[bctt tweet=”Be strategic and realize that life exists beyond the walls of your church. ” username=”ys_scoop”]

As a mom of 3 and a full time youth worker, I know what it feels like when everyone wants more of my time or my family’s time. I’ve learned that just because youth group is the center of my world as the youth pastor, it isn’t the first and most important priority for church families. Jesus modeled entering our world, our context, and established life changing relationships with people.

[bctt tweet=”Jesus didn’t hide behind a list of programs.” username=”ys_scoop”]

Instead of competing to help parents make youth group a priority, I shifted my thinking to make parents and families my priority and serve them well through that lens. It’s been a game changer for me by deepening and growing my ministry.

Gina2013headshotGina Abbas has been in Youth Ministry a little longer than The Tower of Terror has been open at Disneyland’s California Adventure Park. Gina leads the 7th/8th grade ministry at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids. She lives with her Star Wars loving husband and 3 kids. Gina is the author of the book, A Woman in Youth Ministryand can be found decoding Taylor Swift Lyrics, hanging out with Middle Schoolers, or shooting foam finger rockets at her children.  


[1] http://www.wsj.com/articles/when-uber-is-the-family-chauffeur-1418859749

[2] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm

Youth Specialties

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.