If only ministering to children was just about kids. Successful children’s ministry also requires involving, and ministering to, parents and other guardians. Today, that communication may include the special challenges of mixed families, non-custodial parents, couples from differing faith backgrounds, and a variety of other communication challenges.
With all that in mind, we’ve pulled together some tips to help keep parents in the loop and build their support for your children’s ministry program.
1. Move beyond casual conversation
You can talk to parents when they drop off and pick up their children, after services, or during other church events. The trouble is, busy parents are less likely to retain information from a quick conversation. No matter how important your information, parents will have dozens of other things on their mind. A formal setting is better, whether it’s scheduling a phone call to discuss the program and its goals or inviting parents to visit and observe ministry activities and ask questions. Consider setting up an information table after services and other church events. Ministry leaders can distribute printed materials, discuss the children’s ministry’s goals and provide tips for parents to get more involved with their children’s faith development.
2. Plan and prepare
An organized communication plan can help you present a consistent message to parents. To create a plan, write out what you plan to accomplish during the months ahead. What moral issues, Bible lessons and spiritual growth opportunities do you plan to offer? Then, consider how parents can help in these efforts. Consider what Bible verses might be taught at home to supplement a lesson taught at school. Consider tips you might share with parents to help them teach at home.
3. Cover your bases with social media
It’s safe to assume your parents are busy – and that they’re already getting a lot of information sent to them about their children. In a sense, your ministry is competing with schools, daycare centers, community programs, sports programs and other organized activities. Use social media tools to make communication easy and accessible for parents. Try using Twitter to send schedule reminders, or post a list of Bible lessons to Facebook or a page on your church’s website.
A regular email update or newsletter can also help keep parents involved. To help parents feel a part of the ministry’s regular activities, try posting photos and videos to Youtube.com, Flickr.com, or other video and photo-sharing sites – but make sure parents approve ahead of time if their children will be in the images, or create a protected site online using a service like Google’s Picasa.
Bear in mind that everyone has a preferred way of getting information electronically. You will probably have to rely on multiple social media tools to reach everyone.
For advice about online communication, download our free ministry guide about online engagement, “Building Disciples Through Engagement.”
4. Serve as a resource
Parents may be the best resource for a child’s faith development, but some will show reluctance to embrace the role. They may feel they don’t have the background to effectively teach spiritual lessons, while others may consider the task better left to the church ministry. Effective communication can help bridge this gap, by providing parents with materials that will help them to guide and inspire their children. If you don’t have a Parent’s Guide for your ministry that covers what will be taught and includes home lessons that can support the message of the ministry, consider setting up a quick-response phone line or e-mail address to respond to parents when questions and concerns come up.
5. Make a group effort
There are no FAQs for parenting, so many parents love to hear how other parents handle issues. Consider ways to bring parents together to discuss issues and draw support for today’s complex family issues. Try setting up an online discussion forum with weekly chat sessions — and password protection to protect privacy may help encourage parents to be frank. Alternatively, invite parents to adults-only monthly sessions to discuss a variety family-related concerns as a group. If there is a forum for single parents or one on how to give a consistent message of faith when parents live apart, see how the children’s ministry team can offer up support. Your help may be noticed – and appreciated – by parents.
Talk back in comments: What approaches have helped you connect with the families of kids in your children’s ministry?
Learn more: Check out additional resources, like this article at ChildrensMinistry.com, or this best practices article. If you’d like to learn more about children’s security, read our recently updated, free children’s security ministry guide, “How Secure is Your Children’s Ministry.”