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Chapter 12

RELATING TO PARENTS



Many youth leaders admit that they either fear involving parents or simply do not have the time to relate to the parents of the children they are ministering to. But, a ministry to children that ignores the parents, who are the most important people in the lives of the children, will be shallow and probably ineffective. There is no short cut when it comes to ministry to children. A family emphasis must be reflected in our ministry to children! The state of ministry where leaders try to relate effectively to the parents of the children has not always been rosy, as reflected by Duffy Robbins, “Strengthening ties between parents and teens hasn’t been a youth worker’s forte. More often than not, the team work of the teenager, the youth worker, and the parents has come off looking like an episode of the Three Stooges trying to hang wallpaper” (Robbins, Youth Ministry Nuts and Bolts, Pg 200, 1990). He goes on to speak about the roles that leaders usually assume in relating to parents, which include that of commentator, where the leader gives scriptural teaching and describes problems from a safe distance. Then we have the dictator, who threatens kids with Bible passages guaranteed to scare them into loving and communicating with their parents. But if we are to relate effectively we must take the role of a facilitator, who opens lines of communication and does whatever is possible to assist parents and children to understand each other.

There are four strategies that will assist the youth worker become a facilitator and thereby ensure that ministry to children is rooted in family ministry.

1. INFORMING PARENTS
Keeping parents informed about activities and programmes builds their trust in the ministry leadership. It will enable them to know and understand what you are doing with their children. This can be done by:

A. PARENT BRIEFING
Schedule yearly or quarterly parents meetings to announce upcoming events, get parent feedback about existing ministries, and simple develop parent-worker relationships. These meetings could be structured around a meal, or take parents through a simulated children’s meeting with songs, skits, Bible study and food. Let parents know why you are doing what you are doing!

B. PARENT NEWSLETTER
Once a month or quarter, send out a newsletter to the parents to spell out the calendar for the next quarter’s meeting. It could include articles on understanding children, recent events and other announcements of interest.

C. HOME VISITATION
You really do not know a child until you have been to their home, met their parents, and seen the walls of their room. Make yourself available to be invited to the homes for meals, or phone and make arrangements to stop by for an hour or two.

2. ASSISTING PARENTS
Parenting children can be a scary affair today. Workers need to sensitively assist parents in their task of nurturing their children. Here are a few suggestions on assisting parents:

A. SEMINARS
Planning parent seminars about issues relating to raising healthy children can build bridges between parents of children in the youth group as well as be an outreach into the community. Invite a well known speaker to come and address a specific topic, or show one of the video seminars that are available from christian bookshops or organisations.

B. SUPPORT GROUPS
Allowing parents to get together on a regular basis to discuss parenting issues and difficulties will help parents receive support from other parents who face the same challenge of parenting in the ‘90s.

C. GUIDED INTERACTION
Children’s workers can assume the role of facilitator at parent-children gatherings by encouraging communication across the generation gap. These could take the form of a children’s group interviewing parents to understand the world in which they live, the pressures they face and the difficulties they experience. You could allow some adults to interview children about their lives. Use role plays of children or parents in various situations and discuss the plays in groups.

D. FAMILY COUNSELLING
Despite all the efforts of children’s workers there will be occasions where they are called on to help guide the whole family through a counselling session. The role of the worker is not that of an amateur psychiatrist, but a third party who is able to listen, keep everybody honest, and act as a referee. Sometimes families just need someone around who will help them to fight fair.

3. ENCOURAGE PARENTS
Parenting children can get discouraging. Generally, no one talks to a parent about their child until they have done something wrong. Children’s workers can build strong friendships with parents by encouraging them about their children. Here are some ways to encourage parents:

A. PARENT-APPRECIATION EVENING
A parent’s day, thank-you dinner, mother-daughter occasion, etc. will help to practically affirm parents.

B. THANK YOU NOTE OR CALL
When the child does something that reflects a good character trait, drop a note off to the parent or give them a call and encourage them.

C. ATTEND SPECIAL EVENTS
Your voluntary presence at a music recital, sports game, etc. will communicate to the parents that you care and support their child.

4. INVOLVING PARENTS
There are specific areas where parents can be involved in children’s ministry:

A. PRAYER GROUP
Make plans to get parents together regularly to pray for the ministry to their children. People are not as quick to criticise a ministry they are praying for.

B. PARENT COMMITTEE
Meet with parents who are willing to serve on an advisory committee. This will ensure that the leader receives parental perspective on new projects or ideas.

C. ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS
Bring parents into the meeting in different roles, ie. helpers, guest speakers or discussion group leaders. Children will see their parents in a new light.

SUMMARY
In an age where parents suspect outsiders, and even those who are close, of causing harm to their children, leaders need to build credibility with the parents of the children in the junior youth ministry. While there are things that youth workers do that destroy their credibility there are also characteristics that will build credibility with parents.

Credibility Crushers in Children’s Leader-Parent Relations:
* A lack of respect - Parents do not appreciate disrespect from workers
* Unprofessionalism - A lack of quality planning and programming destroys credibility
* Mistakes - They are inevitable, but the way they are handled may cause problems
* Lack of communication - If parents don’t know what is happening they will be suspicious

Overcoming Barriers to Credibility with Parents:
* Act like adults - Leaders need to be mature and responsible in their children’s ministry
* Earn parents respect - Relate in a way that earn respect and not destroys it
* Get to know the parents - Let parents also get to know you and they will respect you
* Admit mistakes when they occur - If you were wrong, confess it
* Know why you do what you do - Parents want to know you philosophy of ministry
* Be available and approachable - This communicates that you care about parents
* Develop listening skills - Listen to parents as they share problems and dreams
* Keep parents informed - Let them know what is happening, when and where

Planning parent seminars about issues relating to raising healthy children can build bridges between parents of children in the youth group as well as be an outreach into the community. Invite a well known speaker to come and address a specific topic, or show one of the video seminars that are available from christian bookshops or organisations.

B. SUPPORT GROUPS
Allowing parents to get together on a regular basis to discuss parenting issues and difficulties will help parents receive support from other parents who face the same challenge of parenting in the ‘90s.

C. GUIDED INTERACTION
Children’s workers can assume the role of facilitator at parent-children gatherings by encouraging communication across the generation gap. These could take the form of a children’s group interviewing parents to understand the world in which they live, the pressures they face and the difficulties they experience. You could allow some adults to interview children about their lives. Use role plays of children or parents in various situations and discuss the plays in groups.

D. FAMILY COUNSELLING
Despite all the efforts of children’s workers there will be occasions where they are called on to help guide the whole family through a counselling session. The role of the worker is not that of an amateur psychiatrist, but a third party who is able to listen, keep everybody honest, and act as a referee. Sometimes families just need someone around who will help them to fight fair.

3. ENCOURAGE PARENTS
Parenting children can get discouraging. Generally, no one talks to a parent about their child until they have done something wrong. Children’s workers can build strong friendships with parents by encouraging them about their children. Here are some ways to encourage parents:

A. PARENT-APPRECIATION EVENING
A parent’s day, thank-you dinner, mother-daughter occasion, etc. will help to practically affirm parents.

B. THANK YOU NOTE OR CALL
When the child does something that reflects a good character trait, drop a note off to the parent or give them a call and encourage them.

C. ATTEND SPECIAL EVENTS
Your voluntary presence at a music recital, sports game, etc. will communicate to the parents that you care and support their child.

4. INVOLVING PARENTS
There are specific areas where parents can be involved in children’s ministry:

A. PRAYER GROUP
Make plans to get parents together regularly to pray for the ministry to their children. People are not as quick to criticise a ministry they are praying for.

B. PARENT COMMITTEE
Meet with parents who are willing to serve on an advisory committee. This will ensure that the leader receives parental perspective on new projects or ideas.

C. ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS
Bring parents into the meeting in different roles, ie. helpers, guest speakers or discussion group leaders. Children will see their parents in a new light.

SUMMARY
In an age where parents suspect outsiders, and even those who are close, of causing harm to their children, leaders need to build credibility with the parents of the children in the junior youth ministry. While there are things that youth workers do that destroy their credibility there are also characteristics that will build credibility with parents.

Credibility Crushers in Children’s Leader-Parent Relations:
* A lack of respect - Parents do not appreciate disrespect from workers
* Unprofessionalism - A lack of quality planning and programming destroys credibility
* Mistakes - They are inevitable, but the way they are handled may cause problems
* Lack of communication - If parents don’t know what is happening they will be suspicious

Overcoming Barriers to Credibility with Parents:
* Act like adults - Leaders need to be mature and responsible in their children’s ministry
* Earn parents respect - Relate in a way that earn respect and not destroys it
* Get to know the parents - Let parents also get to know you and they will respect you
* Admit mistakes when they occur - If you were wrong, confess it
* Know why you do what you do - Parents want to know you philosophy of ministry
* Be available and approachable - This communicates that you care about parents
* Develop listening skills - Listen to parents as they share problems and dreams
* Keep parents informed - Let them know what is happening, when and where




Go to Chapter 13

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