I recently received a call from a newly minted youth worker who had just made a startling discovery. She had realized that students have parents. Yes, that’s right she realized that every student in her student ministry due to mere biology has parents. Or grandparents or aunts or uncles or family members that are surveying and evaluating the student ministry on a daily and may I say minute by minute basis.
She was distraught because although she had worked tirelessly for their student the family was upset because they felt their student was handled incorrectly. We began to discuss the blessing and burden of dealing with parents. Below is a nuanced list of some of the thoughts and strategies that I gave her on the phone that may be useful to your ministry as well:
1) NEVER PUNISH THE STUDENT FOR THE PARENTS BEHAVIOR. Many times when parents bring fire towards, us it is a natural instinct for us to hide and we can unintentionally punish the student because we are trying to avoid the parents. However, your primary responsibility is to lead and nurture the students. You must continue to reach out to the student and help the student stay involved and not hold any conversations you had with their parents against the student.
2) DON’T CONTRADICT THE PARENT. In the aforementioned scenario a few weeks after there was a confrontation with the parents, this student leader asked the student to join them in the student section where they all sat together during service. The father very sternly spoke up and said, “No, my son is just fine sitting where he is!” In a situation like this you cannot contradict the parent, simply smile, say okay and try again next week.
3) GIVE THE SITUATION TIME TO HEAL. If you are in student ministry long enough you will see you supporters turn to dissenters, and dissenters turn back into supporters many, many times. I had a parent that I never agreed with the entire time his students were in our ministry. However, ten years later, he and I have a strong mutual respect for each other.
Parents will watch you and even test you, but if you continue to be fair and pour into their children you will be able to win them back over. Tomorrow we will discuss some strategies to be PROACTIVE with your parent relationships.