If you are a leader in student or children’s ministry, do you remember the first time it dawned on you that you needed to figure out how to relate well to parents of kids in your ministry? I do.
A kid was acting up and I needed to go get his dad to help motivate the child toward better behavior. The child was a pastor’s kid. And the dad? Yea, you guessed it. He was one of the staff pastors.
That incident early in my leadership journey commenced a long road toward learning how to engage parents in conversation, learning how to connect with them with a fully orbed relational perspective. I recognized intuitively that if the only time I approach parents is in the context of their child’s alleged misdeeds, then I was sowing the seeds of destruction in my relationship with them, not to mention ignoring the majority of parents whose children got along just fine.
I didn’t want to be one of those children’s pastors. I wanted to do all that I could to love and pastor both the children and their parents in proactively positive ways. I would go to ball games and concerts. I visited families in their homes. On one occasion I acted as a surrogate father for an young girl whose single mom asked me to attend an awards ceremony honoring the girl (and other children) since the mother could not afford to miss work to attend. The girl beamed with pride as she came off the stage before the cheering crowd and ran into my arms for a hug.
I shared my life with families. Introvert that I am, I strived to overcome my preference for seclusion in order to be faithful in my responsibility to love in the way of Jesus and influence parents to do the same for each other and their children.
There is no secret elixir that will miraculously transform you into a guru of relating to parents. It’s hard work. It means swallowing your pride, ditching some of your ambitions, and choosing to let certain debates revert to the loss column, because you know what? It’s not about you, leaders. It’s about being faithful to the call God has placed on your life. It’s about modeling the way of Jesus.
Don’t worry. God has your back. He will deal with the gossipy parents and kids. He will also deal with senior leadership when they choose sides before gaining an understanding of the whole story. Just be faithful. Be kind. Be consistent in your love for all the kids, all the parents, and all of the church’s leadership.
Respect from parents is earned over the long-term through consistent, daily, credible fulfillment of your responsibilities to the church, the parents, the kids, and especially to the Lord God.
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