What would you say in a parent / teacher conference for student ministry?

December 3, 2012 — 19 Comments

A year ago I mused about what a parent / teacher conference might look like if done within the student ministry context. I have to admit, that I didn’t have the guts to pull it off. Danny Steis, a youth pastor in North Carolina is actually doing it. He wanted a little outside help brainstorming questions, topics, and issues that would work for this sort of meeting. So, I had him write a guest post and here it is.

Danny has some questions at the bottom, and if you participate in the conversation by sharing your thoughts you will be entered in a drawing to win a free Average Youth Ministry shirt! The good people at whooptee.com are giving away three shirts. If you ever have a shirt you want made or help in the design, they make great custom shirts. Check out their sight and comment away!


parent teacher conference

My wife is an elementary school teacher and I have utilized her vocational and educational expertise many times in dealing with various issues that come up in student ministry (attention getting behaviors, angry parents, impulsive students, teaching techniques, etc…). Frankly, I don’t know how I would have made it this far without her input. Her classroom phrase “we don’t give attention to negative behaviors” has become a staple of my ministry. I never say it out loud, but I think it all the time.

The latest thing that I am borrowing from the world of teaching is the student/teacher conference. These meetings are invaluable to teachers. They provide irreplaceable face-to-face communication, insights into home life, a proactive place for parents to provide input and feedback, and many other valuable things.

Over the next few weeks I have set up times with parents to have parent/youth minister conferences (as an aside – I highly recommend Sign Up Genius if you ever have to schedule things like this) with the hope that I can have some quality face-to-face time with my ministry parents. If your ministry is anything like mine you have some parents that you talk to on a regular basis. Some you just happen to bump into when they’re picking up their student from a youth event and strike up a conversation, others may stop by the church office for non youth ministry related matters and swing by your office for a friendly chat (which almost always leads to something related to their kid), and of course there’s the parent(s) that calls or emails all the time to give you their latest critique, complaint, or concern about you or your work.

My hope with the parent/youth minister conferences is to make these informal talks more efficient and purposeful and to also give the more introverted parents a chance to talk; the parents who shyly and quietly pick their kids up after youth group or the ones who rarely speak in parent meetings. My wife has given me a couple of tips for the meetings:

  • Start with and focus on the positive. No parent wants to come in and hear all the bad things their kid has been doing.
  • Don’t assume the parent knows the things you’re going to tell them, positive or negative. When I was in school and my parents asked me “what did you do at school today?” My answer was always “nothing.” Most of our students are probably communicating similar things to their parents when asked.

I am excited about the things I am going to learn from this experience and hopefully all the parents will agree to at least try this thing once. With most parents I will have no shortage of things to talk about but for a few of my more introverted or less involved parents I need some suggestions for discussion questions if the need arises.

What are some questions or discussion topics that you would recommend?

(Thank you for those who shared, and Danny, I hope this helped.  You are a stud for loving parents and engaging them this way.  I am honored to have you as a colleague.  As far as the shirts go, Phillip Beatty, MNGeelySmells, and Jason, you win the shirts.  I will find a way to send you the code and redeem your shirt from whooptee.com.  Thanks for playing everyone!

Lets get after loving those parents!


Screen Shot 2012-11-30 at 8.41.43 AM

(The more you comment, the more likely you are to win your very own Average Youth Ministry tshirt by whooptee.com)
Danny is the “Student Minister” (Youth and College) at Yates Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Truett Seminary at Baylor and has served churches in student ministry positions in Georgia and Texas. He is married with a two-year old daughter and in his free time enjoys table tennis, playing guitar, homebrewing, cooking, and reading youth ministry publications that provide lots of “I do that too” moments.



19 responses to What would you say in a parent / teacher conference for student ministry?

  1. Communication with parents has always been tough for me. This year we are trying to send out a newsletter 2 or 3 times to parents that tells them what’s happened in youth group over the last few months: topics, guest speakers, and what happened at events.

    But on to the question. I would ask parents if there was anything I needed to know about their child that would help our youth staff minister better to them. I would ask about their child’s personality and unique abilities or talents. What would be hard in a church context is to keep it from becoming a counseling session. And unless you have teenagers of your own, I would do a lot of listening and take notes!

  2. I would listen to them and their needs, pray for them, and encourage them in their spiritual journey. I think most parents do care, but alot of them don’t know what to do as far as really developing their kids spiritual growth.

    I think this would be a valueable opportunity for parents and us as youth workers!!!

    I would also want to make sure parents feel supported personally.

    Thanks for the great blog!!!

  3. Excellent blog, Ben. Thanks for posting Danny’s idea. Some of the thoughts that cross my mind are:

    1. Have the students interact / participate in the conversation, whether the kid comes to the meeting or not. The students could write a “dear mom & dad” letter that the youth pastor could present to the parent in the meeting. The student could write about how youth ministry works from their perspective, how much they are learning, how they like their friends… that sort of thing. They could encourage their parents with all the good in youth group, and instill greater participation from their parents in church. The YP could present the letter and say, “this is what your son/daughter thinks of our group.”

    2. YP could ask what youth ministry was like for the parents back in the day, and ask what kind of things they’d like their son/daughter to experience in youth min today.

    3. YP could ask for quarterly accountability from the parents (raise the standard of what YP’s expect from parents, and what they can expect from YP’s). They could ask for like a quarterly review… giving the “negative” parents an opportunity to whine more every three months is a little bit like reverse psychology where, when given the opportunity to whine, they won’t bring much up. I’ve found that when I’m more defensive and have to prove that my ministry is the best show in town and “how dare you challenge my leadership”… blah, blah, blah… challenging parents like to fight with me. There’s always a winner/loser mentality. But, when I present the opportunity to “whine your guts out”, there’s not much that comes up.

    4. Finally, YP’s could ask for permission to hold the parents’ kid more accountable for being mature or remaining “pure” online and growing spiritually. If the parents help in the challenge to keep the young man/woman pure (Psalms 119), they might step up to family accountability in the long run.

    Have a great time and let us know how the p/yp conferences go. I’ll keep you all in prayer.

  4. btw: my wife, who’s a teacher also, says, “you want to make the parents feel that you’re all playing on the same team, not opposing teams.” Have fun.

  5. Also this idea works great if your youth group is about the size of a classroom. For larger youth groups I would bring in. Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, etc – youth staff that know the kids better.

  6. Another thing: What is the purpose or goal of these conferences? I know they are a good idea for school, but what is the goal or desired outcome for youth ministries?

  7. The goal for me is to get to know my parents better, give introverted parents who rarely speak in parents meetings a chance to talk, and to be proactive about things so that I’m meeting to discuss moving forward and not simply meeting to responding to a concern. When I talk with a youth parent, even in the most superficial or brief conversations, I almost always walk away having learned something valuable.

  8. All great comments… totally “borrowing” them to do something similar with my crew! Another goal: I want to invite the influence of the parents into my ministry in order to leverage my voice and use their platform. If the parents of a teen and I can speak a similar language to our student, then the message becomes reinforced in the two largest circles of their life. Moreover, I would hope that these conferences would give me insight into the family life of our teenagers so that our ministry team could further speak to the issues of our kids – and in doing so, bring the parents into our teaching and discipleship process as partners and conversation starters at home. Great post, Ben!

  9. Wow, this is such a great idea! I think this would be a very helpful tool to help the YP and the parents on the same page. Where do you do these “conferences”? Do you go to their homes or do you have them at church? How do you keep them positive and not get beaten up by parents? Just some questions that I have about this idea. I have been thinking of how to get meetings with parents scheduled and I think I will start doing some of this after the holidays. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Ben you are a blogging genius!

    I have so many thoughts about this amazing opportunity! But here is the main thought and avenue that I would aim to illuminate while meeting with parents/guardians and students.

    Dream with them. Have the student, parent, and yourself say what dreams they have for the student’s life. This helps the student see that they have advocates instead of judging adversaries. Shifting a students view toward seeing parents and youth pastors as advocates creates an environment of trust. It also forces parents to spiritually invest in the positive hopes for their student rather than their usual short comings. We want to treat students faith journey with uncommon care.

    From there we (as in parent, student, youth pastor) are able to communicate a “How can WE get there” plan. Clearly laying out humble steps of accountability, expectations, excitement helps make this practical and attainable!

    Lastly, make the decision to put a high priority on building a community of trust that is patient, open, and willing to listen. This is vital when we dream and hope.


  11. This would be interesting, but sounds like it could be extremely helpful for parents and the student pastor. I’d start very general and discuss the spiritual growth of the student. Talk about where they are spiritually and how they have grown (or not grown). Then I’d go more specific and discuss certain attitudes, actions, or behaviors that don’t seem to line up with God’s Word or how a follower of Christ ought to live. Then discuss with the parent how they can teach their kids and point them towards Godly living. This would be a great way for a student pastor to truly partner with parents.


  12. I like Austin’s approach. Is your purpose as a YP to shepherd youth/students in their relationship with the Lord or is it to provide big kid babysitting with fun activities so they don’t do drugs and sex stuff?

    How can you engage the parents in the spiritual growth of their children while “playing on the same team?”

    1. We want your child to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ. What is your relationship with God like? How do you communicate the reality of that relationship at home?

    2. What is life like at home, i.e., your relationship with your child, and rest of immediate family? Is home life “playing for the same team?”

    3. What are some things you think I could do differently to help guide your child closer to God?

  13. My job as a youth pastor is to disciple students, for me that means students mostly in my church. In thinking of ways to accomplish that role, I truly believe that Parents are the number one disciplers (not really a word but you get it) of their students. Like it or not students resemble their parents more than anyone else. They have a greater opportunity to shape the lives of their students than anyone else, including me. So, if my job is to disciple students I would be missing out an a great opportunity if I ignored parents and only focus on my students. The problem with parent ministry in my context is this parents only come to me if they are in crisis. When nothing is wrong I’m just the pastor at church who does announcements on Sundays and wears cardigans. That last comment was not a complaint on my part, you should see me in a cardigan! But seriously, I love that parents see me as an option when things are difficult. That they see me as a pastor they can trust with the not so pleasant stuff in their life. When I read blogs like this I get excited about the opportunity to come along side parents before crisis but when I have tried to have these types of meeting it almost never happens. I think all the comments here are great but has anyone had success in getting everyone to the table? If yes what was the game plan?

  14. might be late to the conversation, but i’d probably talk about the ‘negotiations’ that need to take place as teenagers begins to demand that they be treated like adults while we all know they are still children.

    some areas where i see this treated poorly include: finances, internet and gaming choices, dating, spirituality. there are others, but these are the first that come to mind.

    i think parents often don’t bother having this conversation or facing the reality that their son/daughter is developing an identity as an adult though they are still a child. how do parents help their child make good choices without always making the choices for him/her?

  15. For those that asked, I did these meetings in my office. I had morning slots, evening slots, and slots during on Wednesday night program when the youth are in small groups (and I’m free). There are a couple of parents that I am meeting with at “custom” times (breakfast before work, coffee, etc…).

  16. Casey Schifelbine December 11, 2012 at 8:58 am

    What is your favorite thing to do with your son/daugther?

    If you could do something different as a parent what would that one thing be?

    Is there anything that you hear about the youth ministry or me that you would like to communicate with me?

    How do you see your son/daughter?

    What kind I do as a youth pastor to encouarge you as parents or help you with your son/daughters realtionship with you and with Jesus?

  17. I think this is an idea I may steal, which is the youth pastor way of saying it’s a good idea.

    I’m normally a straight-shooter because it’s less awkward in the long run. I may ask the parents of introverts how they are at home (if they’re shy there too)? I might ask for feedback on what the teen might be relaying.

    How can our ministry (and the church in general) help them as a family?
    Are there ways they would like to be involved that they haven’t checked out yet? or thought of?

    I would probably also ask if their teen likes babysitting. Hey, I got young kids, what can I say?

What do you think?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Chowtime - 12/8 | Ministry Blackboard - December 8, 2012

    […] thought of doing a Parent/Student Minister Conference?  Here are some thoughts and a great […]