Blog/CYM Blog Engaging Parents in Youth Ministry by Amanda Montoya Getting parents involved in your ministry is either really difficult or really easy. For most of us, it’s probably a combination of the two. Perhaps you have parents who’ve been begging to be part of ministry since your first kick-off. Maybe you feel like pulling teeth from a horse would be easier than getting parents involved. Wherever you are let me encourage you. Getting parents involved in your ministry is beneficial and fruitful, but you must do it the correct way. Not every parent is called to be that rock star Core Member, but every parent is called to be part of their child’s life, especially when it comes to their faith formation. When I first started in ministry, it was hard to interact with parents. Let’s be honest; I was hired because I’m good at hanging out with teenagers and teaching them about the Lord! I was not hired because I communicated well with adults; in fact, I was rather intimidated by that part of my job. In my first year of ministry, I learned a lesson that would forever change how I served. If parents realized we were doing more than playing games and eating snacks, if they knew I also wanted what was best for their child and that my job was to support their role as primary catechist things in my world would be so much easier. So how do we get to that point where parents have your back and support your ministry? Be Present First, be present. At the end of a Life Night, it is easy to sit around and chat with teenagers or Core Members. In fact, it can be an excellent time for relational ministry as teens are waiting to be picked up. However, make sure to be aware of what is happening around you. Instead of clinging to your comfort zone make it a point to interact with some of the parents as they pick up students. Ask them how their week has been and how you can pray for them. Tell them about something great you noticed in their teen recently. When parents know that you care about them and their family, they will support you in whatever you need. Be Transparent Fourth, be transparent. Parents want to know what is happening in the life of their teen and it’s your job to help them understand what is happening at Life Teen or Edge. You can send e-mails out with weekly updates, send home the parent letters (already created for you on the USB drive in your Life and Edge Support Box), send a quick text, or update them on Facebook. One tool we will be taking advantage of this year in ministry is Flocknote. With this resource, we will update parents in Life Teen, Edge, or our other parish groups about what is happening, any changes to the week, or talking points they can use with their teenagers. Another thing we are doing this year is inviting parents to our next Life Night. Instead of the typical parent meeting with boring details and information, they will experience the Life Night just as their teens do. Accept Invitations Second, be ready for invitations and receive them with joy. I was shopping at Wal-Mart one afternoon and ran into a dad of one of the teens. He was picking up stuff for a family birthday party for his son. He invited me to join them. While I could have said that I had other plans (probably enjoying a quiet evening at home) I agreed to come to their house that night to celebrate his son. I mainly sat with the adults and interacted with the teens just briefly. I was slightly uncomfortable because everyone around me was speaking Spanish and I speak very little, but that night forever changed the dynamic between those parents and me. Now, when the mom or the dad comes to register their teen for a retreat or even pick them up, we sit and chat. We step outside of the language barriers, and we interact. At least once a month these parents check in with me to see if I need anything, and I know without a doubt I could call them for help with something in ministry. Invite Third, be prepared to invite! If you notice a parent you haven’t chatted with in a while invite them out to coffee or simply tell them you’d like to catch up soon. Sometimes they’ll pop in the office, or maybe they’ll invite you out to a meal. Either way, they know that you care not just about their teen, but about their whole family. Parents usually expect your call when you are in need of something for the ministry. Take time and let them know that by being part of the life of their teen you are part of their life too. Remember that getting parents involved in ministry is important, but building a relationship with them is even more important. You can coordinate a ministry that leaves parents on the outskirts, and you can still reach teenagers. But when you choose to invite parents in and be part of their lives your ministry will be transformed. When parents become part of those you minister to they in turn minister to you. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt like my life was falling apart around me and I got a call from a parent who could tell in my voice that I needed support. Or I was on the brink of collapsing in the midst of graduate school assignments and ministry when a parent saw me flustered running around town and offered a listening ear. Regardless of what is happening in your life and your ministry, getting to know parents and inviting them to be part of the ministry is going to help things be more successful. As this semester begins, make it a point to put parents as a priority in your ministry. Get to know them and grow in relationship with them just as you do with their teens.