One of the more insightful and challenging breakout sessions on student ministry that I attended at the 2014 Orange Conference was on the topic of 'Parent Partnerships,' a topic that I've discussed numerous times on my blog and writings. I posted my notes below for you to read.
Two esteemed and respected Pastors in the field - Doug Fields and Will Hutcherson - offered two different sides of the topic. Will started with the practical applications for why all student pastors should strive to build bridges toward parents. Then, Doug closed the session by discussing the importance of maintaining a healthy rhythm of life with your own family. Both of the presenters shared insightful, challenging - both personally and professionally, encouraging, and compelling information on the topic.
As you work through my notes, feel free to comment at the bottom with your insights and questions on this topic. Think on this question: What kind of practical steps have you taken during this last year to make your student ministry accessible to parents and families of teenagers?
Practical Ways to Partner with Parents - Will Hutcherson:
What if ministering to students were more family oriented? What would it look like to partner with parents?
After enough poor experiences with families, we being to push back against them in our heart. In the process, we risk reinforcing to students that the family system is broken. We must show and tell that families are essential to human life and the Christian community.
We begin by believing in parents because the overwhelming majority of them sincerely love their children. We must believe that every parent wants to grow and invest in their kids - because it matters!
3 Ways to Partner with Parents
1. Understand what parents are facing. This diffuses judgment and allows for bridges to be built. Have a a conversation with a tough parent and seek to learn the differences between them and you. Remember, it’s often hardly ever about you. It's typically always something else - usually some sort of transition and the affect of their student’s relationship on them.
2. Help parents understand what their child is facing. Students are still facing the age old question of identity. Every teenager is in a psycho-social crisis. They are asking who am I? What do i do? And where do i belong? The greatest gift that we can give a parent is a consistent adult and a group of peers in the life of their student.
3. Give practical steps. What does it mean to tell a parent to be a spiritual leader? Give steps for what this looks like. Here are some ideas to give practical steps:
a. Encourage a parent to lead a small group for parents of teens to discuss these issues. For Parents Only - a great resource for parents to understand what their teens are going through.
b. Host a parent night during our student ministry. 2 goals during this meeting: get parents to meet their kid’s small group leader, and 2, teach them what it look likes for them to lead their student spiritually.
c. Find opportunities for parents to lead trips and events.
d. Keep trying new things.
How to Maintain a Healthy, Personal Family-Life While Being in Ministry - Doug Fields
1. Your primary ministry is to your family, not your vocational ministry, because for some of your student ministry kids, you are the only model of family that they will ever see. Thus, show them what being a healthy dad and husband looks like.
2. Maintain a high level of emotional energy to your family, not to the ministry. Who is getting your emotional table scraps.
3. Develop your ‘no’ muscle. To be a good leader, people will not always like you. Every yes you make is a no to someone or something else.
4. Move from to-do lists to roles-goals. We believe in a misnomer of efficiency when we should be thinking about effectiveness. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
a. Pastor - with people, relational side
b. Teacher - reading, prep
c. Administrator - plans, emails, budgets
d. Leader - need to lead people and develop leaders to lead kids.
e. Developer - create, write,
Take items from your to-do lists and transfer them under my roles. You should spend 10 hours in each of these roles.
5. Find neutral ears outside of your church. Every leader needs a safe person with whom to share life and voice thoughts, complaints, frustrations, and joys! You need safe people in your life. If you want to last long term in ministry, then you must learn to run for the marathon, not the sprint. And p.s., don’t share everything with your spouse! Save him or her from the nitty-gritty of the church.
6. Facilitate church and family perks. We want our kids to say, what a privilege for my parents to be in ministry! Assign them to be with the best small group leader, best cabins, and best babysitting. Give them the keys to the church for parties. Make sure that they have great people and community around them all the time.
7. Model unplug hours. We can’t just slip out of this. We have to declare war on this! Turn off your electronic devices and dedicate certain hours to your family.
8. Protect your day off. This is not a biblical suggestion. Take it off.
a. Relaxation. Take it easy.
b. Recreation. Hike, run.
e. Reflection. Journal. Ask: Holy Spirit, did i miss anything this week? Was I too busy to be the man that you created me to be?
8. Control your time, or others will. Block out your calendar. You control your time. Not everyone’s emergency is your emergency. Find alternatives. Be creative. Stay in control.
9. Follow Jesus and lead your family. Be connected. Stay yoked. Follow Jesus, not your Pastor. Follow your Pastor’s lead, but make the decision always to lead your family, as you follow Jesus.
10. Don’t work yourself out of a job, work yourself into your sweet spot. Try to focus on doing 80% of what’s in your sweet spot, and only 20% of what sucks in your ministry.
QUESTION: What kind of practical steps have you taken during this last year to make your student ministry accessible to parents and families of teenagers? What do you need to do right now to care for your soul in order for you to better care for your family?