HOW TO STRATEGIZE YOUR PARENT ENGAGEMENT
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN
- The 4 ways you can invest in parents.
- How to strategize a year of parent engagement and investment.
- How to earn parents’ trust.
- PLUS: What’s included in Grow Curriculum and Strategy to help you engage parents more effectively.
Engaging and supporting parents is essential, but there are two mistakes we often make when it comes to parents.
- We forget parents exist. When we try to lead kids or teenagers without ever engaging their parents, we limit our ability to connect with or support that parent’s kid.
- We get frustrated by parents. Sometimes you might disagree with a kid’s parent or wish their parent was doing more to disciple them. Sometimes you might be annoyed that parents won’t return your messages, or turn registration forms in on time, or take their kid to church, or let them go to an event.
But instead of getting frustrated because parents aren’t meeting our expectations, what if we reevaluated our expectations? What if we stopped expecting parents to trust us, or know what we know, or care about what we care about, or agree with us, or support what we’re doing? What if we tried harder to earn parents’ trust instead?
Not every parent will naturally trust our ministries, be interested in a relationship with us, or even want us or a volunteer to invest in their kid’s life. That’s okay! Instead of being frustrated by that, what if we asked the question, “How can I earn that parent’s trust?”
There is no one answer to that question, but here’s one place to start: we can earn parents’ trust by consistently and strategically investing in and engaging with them. No matter how new or how seasoned you are at engaging parents in your ministry, we hope this strategy we’re about to unpack will give you a framework for your parent strategy that you can replicate and improve year after year. With this 1-Year Parent Strategy, you’ll learn a system for investing in parents in four different ways throughout the year.
1. PARENT EVENTS
An event is any environment that gets parents connected with your ministry, with their kid, or both. This might include an Open House for new families at the beginning of the year and a Parent and Small Group Leader Breakfast to connect parents with your ministry. Or for teenagers, it might include one or two events each year to connect parents with their teenager in a fun and intentional environment. We suggest doing one Open House and one Parent and Small Group Leader Breakfast each year, as well as one or two events each year to connect parents with their teenagers. (If you’re doing kids ministry, we recommend involving parents in all of your regularly scheduled events for kids, so no need to add another event to your calendars!)
2. PARENT DISCUSSION GROUPS
A discussion group is a gathering with a small group of parents who all have kids in your ministry, but whose contexts and parenting experiences might be different. The purpose of these groups is to engage in collaborative conversation, listening, and problem-solving. That’s because parents need more than just vision and principles — they need some practical ideas! That’s where these discussion groups come in. These discussion groups are pretty different from other methods of parent training you may be used to. You see, most of the time, we train parents as though we’re the experts. Of course, we’ve got a lot of great information to share… but so do parents! So think of these discussion groups as an opportunity to get parents talking so they can actually train each other for a change. These discussion groups are an opportunity for parents to share their own specific stories, ideas, and best practices so that other parents can learn from them and steal their ideas — and they’re a great way for you to learn more about the actual experiences of parents too. We suggest doing this once in the middle of the school year, and then again at the end of the school year.
3. PARENT TOOLS
A tool is any resource you provide to help parents be better parents. Maybe it’s a parent handbook, or a volunteer business card so they know who their kids’ leaders are, or a helpful video you send each month. We suggest doing this at the beginning and midpoint of every year, and whenever you find something useful you want to pass on!
4. PARENT COMMUNICATION
Communication is anything you do to let parents know about the important stuff they need to know. It may be by email, text messages, social media posts, or phone calls, but it should be on your calendar every single week. Sometimes when we think about investing in parents, we think about in-person meetings or special events. But if we want to keep our vision in front of parents all year long, we have to think about investing in them in a bigger way. That’s where communication comes in. Whether you prefer to communicate with your parents through email, text messages, social media posts, or phone calls, the point is that you stay in touch with them regularly. We suggest doing this every week.
Maybe that seems like a lot to do, but it doesn’t have to be! Like you, we know that our time each week is limited, and no one has endless hours to spend on parent engagement. But here’s the good news: there is a way to structure your parent investment so that you do the least amount of work for the biggest impact. That’s what the Grow strategy is all about.
In case you missed it, check out this article about planning an entire year of ministry in order to see how all four of these methods for investing in parents might look on your annual calendar.
And hey, if you’re using Grow Curriculum, we’ve already done this work for you. For everything we talked about in this article, we provide you with everything you need to make it happen — supply lists (with handy links to purchase the supplies), instructions, graphics, training content, and more!
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN GROW CURRICULUM
Although the strategy stays consistent every year, each year in Grow Curriculum, we provide new resources to help you engage parents, like…
- An Open House event guide for teenagers and their families
- An Open House & Move-Up Day event guide for kids and their families
- A Parent & Small Group Leader Breakfast event guide for youth ministry
- A Parent & Small Group Leader Breakfast event guide for kids ministry
- At least one Student & Parent Connection Event for teenagers and their parents
- Editable event graphics in PSD format for every event
- Title and background slide images in horizontal, vertical, and square formats for every event
- Planning timelines in PDF and DOC formats for every event
- Suggested schedules in PDF and XLS formats for every event
- Shopping lists in PDF and DOC formats for every event
- Event flyers in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats for every event
PARENT DISCUSSION GROUPS:
- A discussion group guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
- 2 discussion guides for parents each year
- Title and background slide images in horizontal, vertical, and square format
- Invitations in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats
- A communication guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
- Monthly pre-written editable emails in HTML, MailChimp, and plain text formats
- 12 parent tip videos and scripts in case you want to film new versions on your own
- A parent tool guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
- An Annual Parent Survey in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats
- An editable Parent Handbook in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats
- Editable Volunteer Business Cards in PSD and PDF formats