The Middle Years Ministry

Formerly "The JH Uth Guy", THE MIDDLE YEARS MINISTRY is a Site Dedicated to Providing Resources, Ideas, and Help to Pastors, Leader, Directors, Teachers, Mentors and Anyone Else Working in
the
Pivotal and Important 5th-9th Grade Years. The “Middle Years” are not children’s ministry, not high school ministry, and are more than just Middle School/Jr. High. It is a unique and specialized ministry, where the final lifelong faith decision are made.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

"Why Would Parents Partner with You? (Craig Maart)

"Partnering with Parents” is a common topic of conversation and strategy in student ministry. However, I think the better and more important perspective to have is, “Why would Parents Partner with Us?” Parents, in most cases, will be the constant in students’ lives. Earning trust from parents is critical, especially as their child transitions from children’s ministry to the student ministry world and if it is with their oldest child.

I have learned over the years that when parents trust you and understand the “why” behind your ministry purpose, they release more of their student to your influence. When parents don’t trust you or understand the “why”, they may let their students attend programming but limit the positive support they offer at home.

For example, when parents trust you, you could advertise a “Mystery Night” activity subtitled: “bring a bag of cash, chain saw, lighter and toilet paper”, and they would send their kid. Without trust you could advertise, “Indoor Reading Party” and they would be looking on with nervous hesitation. 

So how can we earn the trust needed for parents to partner with us in the discipleship process of their kids? 

Here are my 5 Top Things we can do:

1. Make sure your purpose and discipleship process is crystal clear
If you and volunteer leaders don’t know what the purpose and process is, parents will have no idea. Therefore, if you don’t have a stated purpose make the time to stop and establish one that helps achieve the stated purpose of your church. If you have one, make sure parents know what it is. Post it, mail it, print it and communicate it over and over and send it from the department of redundancy department until it’s part of the DNA of everyone involved.

2. Make sure the “why” is answered
No matter what you do to accomplish your purpose it is your programming. Therefore, make sure everyone involved knows the “why” behind every part of the programming. Why is mid-week different than Sunday? Why do you have more games on Sunday and more serious stuff on Tuesday night? Why do you go here for a summer experience vs here? When the “why” is answered it brings clarity, calmness and an environment that facilitates the needed partnership.

3. Give audience to your harshest critics
Parents who don’t like you or are nervous about you are already talking so why not have them talking in your favor? It is important to be humble in the process of hearing them out and getting to the real reason they may not trust you yet. I once had a family mad at me because they “thought they heard” I was promoting dating and kissing with the middle school students. When we finally met, things were cleared up and the mom became a wonderful leader starting the next year.  Another time a family did not like that I replaced their beloved pastor. Therefore, they didn’t like any changes to the way things were. After we met a few times trust was developed as I explained the purpose and why behind everything we were doing. Today three from that family are serving in the student ministry at our church.

4. Lift up parents in their God designed role
Share with students God’s commands to parents. God set apart parents to be the primary disciple-makers of their kids. If we work to build ourselves up, bad mouth “out of touch parents” and avoid the involvement of parents, we are doing it wrong. There is a need for student ministries in churches to come alongside parents and help them with tracks to run on where needed. Promote families to go to the main church service together. Host environments for parent/teen conversations happen. Ask parents for help with special activities. This will build up them up in front of their kids and probably change their home environment.

5. Be Available
If you say your “office door is always open”, it needs to be that – open. If attempts are made to get together with you and you avoid them or take days to respond, you stifle the trust building process. Respond to texts and emails in a timely manner. Go to games, plays, chess matches and sit with parents. Accept invites over for dinner or offers for help. People who want to serve you or get to know you need the opportunity.

When we make time to build trust with parents they will more likely choose to partner with us.

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Craig Maart is a husband of 22 years, father of 2 (college freshman and high school sophomore) and is the middle school pastor at Hershey Free Church. He has been in student ministry for 24 years serving in churches in Florida, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. He loves developing leaders to multiply the disciple making effort of the church. He has a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry and is a proud Vikings fan.

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