Parent Meetings & Piracy: How to Get Parents On Board Without Getting Thrown Overboard

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The Meeting

It was my first parent meeting at the new church.  I had spent hours planning…

Detailed Agenda for Parents to Follow Along – Check

Information Packet for Parents to Take Home – Check

Statistics and Research on Youth Culture – Check

Prayerful Vision & Intentional Strategy – Check

Moving Speech about Partnering with Parents – Check

The stage was set.  I had high hopes for this meeting ushering in a new era of ministry, not just with youth, but with families at the church to which I had been called.  It went off without a hitch…until the very end of the meeting when I uttered these closing words: “Are there any questions?”

The Hostage Situation

Immediately, a mom shot up.  Not just her hand.  Her whole body.  She almost sprung from her seat and said: “What are you going to do about the food situation?”.

Was she talking about the part of my vision statement that had to do with reaching out to the poor in our community?  Was she so moved by my speech that she wanted to start a feeding program in our community?  I thought: “instant impact!”.  Boy, was I wrong.

The next 20 minutes was filled with heated debate about how the youth ministry handled meals on Sunday night.  This parent was upset because she felt like she was one of the only ones who ever contributed to helping or covering costs for the youth dinner.  As others parents chimed in on both sides of the issue, I became painfully aware that I was no longer in control of this ship.  There was a full-scale mutiny being carried out by a few individuals with an “axe to grind”.  I had gone from captain to cabin boy quicker than you could say “shiver me timbers”!

Finally, I was able to manage a closing prayer to stop the verbal cannon balls from flying through the Fellowship Hall.  Although the meeting consisted mostly of a collective excitement and hope for the future, I believe most parents left the meeting frustrated.  I went home completely deflated.  The meeting I had worked so hard to orchestrate had been taken over!  Has this ever happened to you?

The Challenge

The challenge for youth ministers is to create opportunities for meaningful conversations and interactions with parents without allowing individuals with private agendas to derail those interactions.  This is why I believe that Parent Meetings are for information; not conversation.  I know, sounds harsh.  Saying this out loud will not go over well with parents…unless you give them an viable opportunity to let their voices be heard.

The Alternative

By the time my next parent meeting rolled around,  I had developed some creative counter-measures to balance the need for parents to ask questions and voice their concerns with the need for my parent meeting to be positive and productive.

I began the meeting as usual…

Detailed Agenda for Parents to Follow Along – Check

Information Packet for Parent to Take Home – Check

Statistics and Research on Youth Culture – Check

Prayerful Vision & Intentional Strategy – Check

Moving Speech about Partnering with Parents – Check

However, at the very beginning of the meeting, I explained to them the purpose for this meeting.  “The purpose of this meeting is for me to make sure that you all are informed about all of the things that are going on our youth ministry and are aware of opportunities for you to be involved”.  I continued, “I realize that many of you will have questions and things that you would like to discuss with me.  I want you to know that I will be the last person to leave this room if you would like to talk with me.  Out of respect for each person here and their time and busy schedules, I will not be taking questions at the end of the meeting.  However, I would love to have an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with each of you.  That’s why I have started a new program called Six @ Six Dinners (an idea I adapted from a friend and mentor)”.

The Dinners

The Six @ Six Dinners were opportunities on each Tuesday night in the Fall for six parents to sign up for a dinner with me at 6:00PM at a local restaurant or host home.  The response was incredible.  I guess you could say they are, in a sense, mini-parent meetings.  However, the environment is much less formal and the conversation is much more…conversational.  Instead of debate and parliamentary procedure, there is laughter and sharing around the table as we break bread and get to know one another – not just as parent and youth minister – as people.  From that day on, my relationships with parents have been greatly enhanced, and my parent meetings have been mostly “safe waters” for everyone.

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Trey has been in full-time ministry for almost 20 years and is currently serving as Pastor of Discipleship and Lead Pastor of Modern Worship at First UMC in his hometown of Murfreesboro, TN. He is married to Abbey, and they have two kids: Lilly Broox and William. Trey is also an ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church, has a Master of Divinity from Asbury Seminary, and is finishing up a Doctorate of Ministry in Youth, Family, and Culture from Fuller Seminary. His passions are encouraging and equipping people to grow in their relationship with Christ and with others.

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