Communicating with Parents When You’re Not One

Written by Jody Livingston: 

Communicating with parents is essential for a successful youth ministry—it’s also one of the hardest things we do. I took my first youth pastorate when I was eighteen years old. You read that right—I was eighteen (they were nuts). Being young, single, and without children can be extremely challenging in youth ministry, and communicating with parents during this season is especially difficult. It can be done though, and it can be done well. Here are five tips for communicating with parents when you are young, single, and without children:

One of the biggest mistakes we can make when we’re young in youth ministry is to lack humility. And most of the time we may not recognize this in our lives and ministries. As we attempt to appear confident, unspoken doubts, fears, and insecurities can manifest as arrogance. Pay attention to the difference between these two. Humility means that you must listen, learn, and then lead. Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. This is especially true when you are young.

Let me free you a bit: It’s okay not to have all the answers. No one expects you to have all the answers—well except for you, that is.

I’ve often said I was an expert at marriage until I was married, and I was a parenting expert until I became a parent. No parent really knows what they’re doing. There’s no step-by-step manual given for every individual child when they leave the hospital. All parents are trying to do their best—we’re all just hoping we don’t really mess it up.

It’s easy to look at a situation from the outside and make absolute statements about what “that parent needs to do.” The bottom line is that you don’t know how to parent. Even if you are a parent, you don’t know how to parent that child. The sooner you recognize that you don’t know how to parent every (or any) student, the better off you’ll be.

Believe it or not, your youth and inexperience can benefit you. Everyone is aware that you’re young, single, and without children—it isn’t a secret. For sure some will see this as a negative, but this does present you with an opportunity older, married youth pastors don’t have.

Want to know what it is?

You can say, “I haven’t been married, and I’m not a parent, so I desperately need you, parents, to come alongside me and help in our youth ministry.” This can be a huge first step in getting parents involved in your ministry. It may be that you need them to drive because you’re not old enough to drive the rental van (I’ve been there). It may be that you just need their perspective on something you’re planning. Taking a perceived weakness and leveraging it for good is an opportunity you have right now.

Parents aren’t the enemy (see number 2). You need parents in and around your youth ministry. No one in your church has more of a vested interest in your youth ministry than the parents you serve, and every decision you make will affect them in some form or fashion. Because of this, you need to build a team of parents around you.

This can happen a couple of ways: It may be that you form a parent leadership or advisory team. It may be that you recruit a ton of parents to serve as leaders in your ministry. If you’re smart, you’ll probably do both.

No matter what, having a team of parents around you will help you immensely when it comes to communicating with all parents in your youth ministry.

You won’t be young forever and you may not be single or without children forever either. There’s amazing joy in serving parents, families, and students you have invested in over time. The trust you build by staying in a church or ministry is more valuable than you can ever imagine. Planting your life early and staying put will help you communicate better with parents than anything else you can do.

What do you think is the number one challenge you face when it comes to communicating to parents when you’re young, single, and without children?

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