The following post was written by Chris Swain, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry Publishing
From Disciple Now to camp to mission projects to Sunday morning snacks, the programming and details in our student ministries never seem to end. If it feels daunting to us as student ministry leaders, it certainly has an impact on the parents of our students. One of the best ways to help navigate through the challenges and schedules and business in the lives of the families we minister to is by helping parents plan for the ministry. When we are able to communicate well with parents we will be much more effective and we will set them up to win as they disciple their student. But what are the best ways we can help parents plan for student ministry? I’m glad you asked. Here are three key ways we can help parents when it comes to ministry details:
- Financial planning. Camps, retreats, mission projects, and trips to the local bowling alley all cost money. This is money that is most often coming from parents. Helping parents prepare for the financial elements of the ministry programming is crucial. When you know your camp price, send an email or postcard to parents letting them know – even if it is a year in advance! Some families will need that much lead time to prepare to pay for events. Give plenty of time to parents when it comes to events that cost money. More students may be able to attend as parents are able to make decisions on these expenses early. Additionally, parents can help students pay their own way by helping them save and earn money themselves. This is a great stewardship lesson for the students and a great example set by the ministry. Parents will know that you understand the financial burden that comes with the events and programming at times.
- Involvement. You will need volunteers to help throughout the year. You need group leaders, drivers, greeters, host homes, snack makers, mission trip drivers, etc. Parents are perfect for these roles and should always be considered. But allowing parents to know when they are needed should never be left until the last minute. I have broken this cardinal rule many times in my own student ministry and it never delivers as well as it could. With a map of the year parents can see where they might best serve. Allowing them to know when camp sponsors will be needed is key in recruiting enough people for the task. As early and often as possible, send out schedules of when you might need help and prepare your parents well for engaging through involvement in student ministry.
- Prayer & Encouragement. Student ministry is tough. Being a parent is tougher. Parents can never get enough encouragement, and they can never be prayed over enough. Make a list of names of key parents that you can pray over regularly. Let them know from time to time that you are praying for them. When you can, call, email, or text parents and encourage them. If you hear of a challenging situation like a job loss or a death in the family, take time to pray for and encourage parents as well. But mainly let them know that you are focused on ministering to the whole family – not just the students in your ministry. It is amazing how this will strengthen your relationships and help the health of your ministry grow.
Parents often get a bad rap when it comes to student ministry, but what they really need is a gospel-centered leader who cares enough about their student to also care for them. Take opportunities to get parents involved, communicate with them about the ministry, and pray for and encourage them as a they disciple their child. These are some of the best ways to help your parents prepare for the ministry year to come and empower your ministry to a greater impact on families.