It’s funny how partnering with parents is a little like starting a new dating relationship. No matter how excited we may be about getting to know the new person, for them to be just as excited about getting to know us may simply take time. After all, you can’t hurry love. So, if the goal is to get to know the parents and let them know you are in their corner, it’s going to take a bit of time and intentionality to get there. Still, there are some steps we can take to get our relationship moving toward that goal.
First, introduce yourself! That seems like an obvious first step, but in the hectic minutes that surround dismissal each week, kids can be picked up and out the door before you can say Hi! So be ready! Catch a parent’s eye, and introduce yourself. A quick “So glad to meet you, I’m your child’s small group leader” is easy enough to work in as your parents are picking up their child. It’s okay that the initial conversation doesn’t result in you being invited to dinner this week. The first goal is simply that they know your name!
Next, look for something good to share about their child from that day. Everyone loves to hear that his/her child did something nice. We know that some little ones have a knack for always being in the middle of a scuffle over a favorite toy or may be a little rambunctious when playing with their classmates, but watch for those moments when they shine. Intentionally looking for a moment to affirm your little one reinforces good behavior in the class and builds the connection with his parents! Knowing that you were attentive to what their child is doing during class and that you took the time to let them know will go a long way in building a relationship.
Finally, after you have had a couple of interactions with the parents of your preschoolers, it’s time to move the relationship forward! Share your phone number first. Whether your church creates a small group leader business card, have one of your own, or simply write you number on a slip of paper, you be the one who shares your number with your parents. At dismissal, hand the parent your number, and say something like, “Here’s my number. If there is ever anything I can pray with you for Sam, I’d would love to do that.” You’ve shown them that you care about Sam beyond just when he shows up for church. The next step is in their time frame. Now you just have to wait. Some will text you right away. Others may never text. But you’ve let them know that you are there, and available, and you care. That’s a huge goal to achieve in this relationship!
All relationships take time, and all relationships develop differently. Making intentional plans to help those relationships grow will be worth the effort every time! Each step toward the goal moves you one level deeper in a relationship that will allow you to genuinely partner with the parents of your little ones. And that is a goal that is worth pursuing, no matter how long it takes!