3 Keys to Building Strong Relationships with Parents

Connecting with Parents & Driving Them to Action


by Jessica Downs/ June 21, 2017

As children’s pastors our goal is not simply to point kids to Jesus. That’s part of our job, of course, but our purpose goes far beyond the weekend. If we focus solely on the kids and miss relationship with the family, we are losing out on what could be the most fruitful of our efforts. In order to make the most of our time, we must get the parents involved in the spiritual formation of their children.

I imagine this is probably old news to you, but if you’re like me, helping parents “get it” can be a struggle. How do we move them from being consumers in the pewslooking for us to raise their child spirituallyto being fully invested in the soul tending of their kids? To me, building a strong relationship with parents that will drive them to action takes three things: communication, trust, and encouragement.

COMMUNICATION

Ugh. It’s so much easier said than done, isn’t it? You’ve probably heard it said that communication is key in any relationship. That doesn’t change when it comes to the relationship between families and the church. This may look like newsletters, take home sheets, emails, posters, social media posts, phone calls, parent meetings, or a combination of them all. However we choose to communicate, we have to remember a few things:

  • Give ample notice. Don’t do things last minute.
  • Use multiple platforms. Not everyone has Facebook, and not everyone reads our emails (as much as we wish they would).
  • Explain fully. Anticipate possible questions and answer them in your publications and event reminders.
  • Repeat it.We can’t say something once and expect people to remember.

This is true for event communication, but it goes beyond that. In order for us to understand what parents need and for parents to understand why their involvement is such an integral part of the equation, we have to talk. Find out what questions parents are asking, what issues kids are dealing with, and how we can help. It could be a parenting seminar, small groups focused on families, or a collection of resources. We can’t build a relationship without communication.

(To see the list I’ve compiled for our parents, check out our website. You are welcome to use what you find.)

TRUST

Trust is an interesting thing. Some people are willing to give it based solely on our title, while others may not give it regardless of how hard we work to earn it. Trust may not come easily, but it is an essential part in building a lasting relationship with parents. Here are some factors in building trust:

  • Be wise.From safety concerns to game choices, we should make decisions with which parents would be comfortable.
  • Be faithful. If we say we’re going to do something, then we need to do it.
  • Be present. Attend baseball games, dance recitals, school plays. When we show up, they’re more likely to too. (At our church we have a “Come See Me” board where parents can post schedules of their kids’ activities.)
  • Be loving. When we interact with kids and with parents, especially in difficult situations, we should season everything with love. Reacting harshly is a quick way to lose trust.

ENCOURAGEMENT

The need for encouragement is innate in all of usand probably even more needed in parenting. In order to have a healthy relationship with the whole family, we must take the time to lift parents up. Their job is not an easy one, and discouragement runs rampant. We have the opportunity to speak life and truth over them and can do that in many ways, to include:

  • Share the positives. Verbalize good things their child did, not just the bad.
  • Acknowledge their efforts. Point out specific ways you’ve seen them help their children navigate difficult situations and life in general.
  • Thank them for making church a priority.Kids don’t just show up, so we should recognize that. This may even encourage more regular attendance.
  • Celebrate the family. If you see their social media posts or hear a child share something that happened in their family, celebrate with them.

Parents have the single most important job in the world. It can be a heavy mantle, and many parents are overwhelmed by the enormity of it allunsure of how to lead their children. That’s where we come in: It’s our mission to come alongside parents and support them in their mission. When it comes down to it, building a strong relationship with them may be the most import part of what we do.

How do you build supportive relationships with the parents in your church?