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!
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!
(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.