About 7 years ago, my son started his first year in the middle school ministry. I remember receiving emails from his small group leader with quick updates on their group events. This communication was awesome! I was then pleasantly surprised at getting emails with the current message discussion, how the boys were responding to it, and how we as parents could engage in conversation at home about what they were learning. As a parent, I felt so engaged with what my son was experiencing at church. . . AND that I was NOT alone in this daunting transitional time. Someone was there to help me champion my son! What an unbelievable feeling!!
The love and intentionality that I saw from my son’s middle school ministry was far different from the church I grew up in, or at other churches my family and I have attended. This stamped in my mind the impact a small group leader’s influence had on my son AND me. . . because as crazy as it is, whatever gets a hold of our kids will affect us as a parent. THIS sparked my passion to explore the opportunity to become a small group leader, myself.
I applied, went through the volunteer process, and finally got a group of 13 girls all my own. I now have my own set of parents that I partner with as a “third voice” and walk with them through the years of hormones, pimples, heartbreaks, and insecurities that their daughters experience, as well as through the fears, worries, doubts, and confusion that the parent experience. I have been blessed to lead, love, and learn with my amazing small group of 13 girls for the past 3 years. This is my group now—I’m on the other side—and on the other end of it, I can see how much work it can be to partner with parents. Here’s how I’ve made it work:
- Email a Monthly Newsletter or Email — quick read with current news, the current message topic, and highlight a student from your group each month (hobby, food, favorite song, etc…).
- Annual Partner with Parent Event – because not every church creates this time for you, but you can still make it happen! Meet right after church with parents or go somewhere cool like a coffee shop and go over the upcoming year, important dates (weekend retreats, etc.), what to expect and what to plan for. Leave a little time at the end for Q&As. Allow parents to share any challenges their teen is currently going through so you know how to partner with them on it. Because if there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that parents want to be heard and they want specific help from their church. You get to be the church to these parents and their kids.
- Schedule a service project — Either Quarterly or Annually (depending on your time) schedule a service project with the students AND their parents. Usually churches provide many ideas and ways to do this—so just ask! Parents, Students, and Leaders that SERVE together GROW together.
How do you think partnering with a parent would make a difference in families?
By Jennifer Nolan