The most effective Children’s and Youth Ministries are those that have learned how to communicate effectively with the parents of their students. Why? Because great communication can make parents and ministries partners in helping kids and teens develop strong spiritual foundations.
You would think modern technology would make communicating with parents easier. Unfortunately, it has created so much noise many parents aren’t seeing or opening the communications you do send. Your ministry also needs to understand what types of information helps the parents of your students the most in their efforts in Christian parenting.
So what are our favorite tips for communicating with parents?
- Ask parents their favorite ways of accessing information. Seems intuitive, but it’s amazing how many ministries just assume they know what parents want and need in communication from their ministries. Don’t assume. Ask. Then listen to what they tell you. If you think SnapChat is amazing, but none of your parents are on it, using it for communication with parents isn’t helpful. Find out what your parents will open and read. Who knows? Some may even prefer paper! Don’t try to force parents to use an app they aren’t already using. Yes, you may have to send information in multiple ways to make sure everyone stays informed, but it’s worth it.
- Be consistent. If parents know you will always communicate with them on a particular day, they will be more likely to look for your communication and read it for the latest information. Yes, some will ignore regular communications, but at least they know where to look for it when they have a question. If you are sending communications on a varying schedule, it’s more likely your messages will get lost in the shuffle.
- Let them know what happens when you are working with their kids. What scriptures did you read? What topics did you discuss? What things seemed to spark students’ interest or cause them to ask a lot of questions? How did you encourage them to put what they learned into practice in their lives? What challenges did you give them? What scriptures are you encouraging them to read before the next class? This type of information helps parents discuss what you are trying to teach with their kids from a more knowledgable base. They don’t have to depend upon their child’s limited interpretation of what happened in class. It also cuts down on misunderstandings students sometimes communicate to parents.
- Suggest next steps for parents. Suggest they read certain scriptures with their kids to continue the discussion from class. Give them suggested topics of conversation or questions they can ask their kids about what you taught them. Suggest a couple of simple activities they can do with their kids to extend learning even more. Don’t assume parents will necessarily know how to continue Bible learning at home. Those who do may not need your helpful hints, but many will appreciate them greatly.
- Anticipate questions parents may have. It doesn’t matter how many times you have done the same thing with your students. A chaotic week can have parents forgetting everything – including what time your class meets. For new or complex events, think of every question a parent may have and include it in your communication. If you aren’t sure, ask your newest and your “oldest” parents – they will give you both ends of the spectrum.
- Give parents a way to easily communicate any concerns or questions to you. Some parents won’t take the time to call or email you. If your regular communication contains a link they can click which will allow them to communicate with you privately, they are more likely to use it. Set up regular surveys for feedback. Listen to what they say and respond to everyone – even those who complain constantly. Parents who are upset, will calm down more quickly when they feel heard rather than ignored – even if you have to say you won’t be able to change what they want changed at the moment. Try to think of your parents as “fresh eyes” on your ministry. Often your humble listening to what they share will greatly improve the effectiveness of your ministry. Remember, they are living with your students and hear feedback your students may be unwilling to share with you. Ignoring negative feedback doesn’t make it disappear. It just keeps your ministry from being as effective as it could be and often also turns up the volume of parental complaints.
Communicating regularly and in depth with parents takes extra time. It can, however, improve the effectiveness of your ministry and cut down on constant questions from parents who don’t have enough information. It’s definitely worth it!