Partnering with Parents: What are you doing to help?

Last night I spoke at an Understanding Your Teenager event in Palm Desert, CA. It was a great evening and one of those where I left thinking, “Okay, I think people are walking away with some real solid help.”

The youth pastor did a great job hosting, promoting and casting vision for the parents in his community. Parents responding big! They were so thankful toward him and asked, “Can we do something like this every month?”

After the event I had a line of parents who were looking to dig a little more into their specific issues. I looked into the eyes of wounded, hurting, and desperate men and women in need to hope. Their desire for help was obvious!

It got me thinking…
1. Youth ministry is most effective when it’s connected with parents
2. Research points to the reality of the influence of parents on a teenager’s life
3. We’re told that we need to partner with parents in ministry


Would love your input. Don’t need theory (most of us get it)… need your specific and practical ideas. What are you doing to partner with parents? Let’s make a list in the comment section and I’ll pull them all out and compile them (similar to what I did with the question: what makes you most discouraged?)

So, what are you doing? Let’s help one another out with your ideas…let’s start a list and see where it leads. Leave a comment HERE

  • Mike Dolce

    I have been meeting one one one with parents of teens since January seeing how I and my team can better partner with them. It has been a great blessing for me and the parents as well. They are so appreciative of me doing this. It is well worth the many hours.

    • doug

      Wow! How often are you doing this and in what format? (i.e. one parent a week for an hour, etc..)

      • Mike Dolce

        I try to have one meeting a week for about an hour. Many have gone up to two hours as they have been so productive.

        And I ask a lot of questions.

        What are your dreams for you teens?
        Where do you want to see them Spiritually 1 year from now? 5 years?
        What is your plan? How will you help them get there?

        • What are your strengths?
        • What are your core values?
        • What’s going on in your family and your kid’s life right now that would help me and the youth leaders know how to best work with your teen?
        • How can I support you and your family better?
        • How are YOU doing spiritually right now?
        • What are some non-negotiable values you want your teen to embrace?

  • Jeremy Lee

    We have developed a Rite of Passage for each grade from 6th-12th grade for parents to lead their students through. It is based on felt need and we focus on making it easy to pull off so it won’t overwhelm the parent. We tried to focus on the “awkward conversations” that parents struggle with having and worked to help them go for it!

    It’s all online and free. I would love to share it…

    Dr. Jim Burns is preaching in my church this Sunday to help us promote it to our parents!

    • J. Cops

      Love it Jeremy let’s do lunch!

    • Matt

      Thank you for sharing this… I look forward to exploring it!

  • Tim Severson

    Connect with parents on facebook.
    A great way to let them see you and what your doing in life and ministry

    • Laura

      I completely agree with this one! Parents on facebook has made connecting with them so much easier!

  • Nick Steinloski

    We invite parents to lead areas of the youth ministry. For example, fundraising, we have a couple parents that coordinate and lead all the fundraisers.

  • Chuck Aden

    I try to keep an open line of communication with all parents by sending out a weekly email that includes any upcoming events or information that they need to know for the week. I also include 1 parenting tip each week–I have received so many positive responses of how timely some of those tips have been. I am also in the process of evaluating The Parent Link as a monthly resource to parents. We have offered Parenting classes and Marriage classes on a monthly basis that have been well received as well.

    • Kevin Libick

      We also do a weekly email that includes important info, parent training as well as a summary of our lesson with questions to ask at home. It’s gotten a huge response from our parents.

  • Gerad Hall

    We’re trying a few thing as the Youth Ministry has recently come under a Family Ministry umbrella:
    Blog site that has current teaching series, who the communicator is, and questions unique from sg time that parents can ask their students.

    We have a parent night at the beginning of the year to help make them aware of what we’re going to be teaching, what events we’re doing (plus costs), and ways we’ll be asking students to serve. That starts and ends with vision casting.

    We have special meetings with parents at the end of the year of 5th grade & 8th grade parents to help prepare them for the transition into the next ministry.

    For Middle School we’re starting a weekly email that has more specifics for the night.

    5th grade parents are invited with their soon to be 6th grade student to an event called Armor of God. That’s to help create a bond between the parent & student for the next three years as well as put them into community with other parents & students who are in the same boat.

    This summer we’re starting what we call “Legacy” for 7th graders going into 8th grade which is essentially what Carey Nieuwhof outlines in Widen the Circle in Parenting Beyond Your Capacity.

    We’ve also added a sgl/parent breakfast event to this upcoming year so that way parents have a starting point for their relationship with their students small group leaders.

  • Adam Roberson

    We try our best to partner with parents from all angles, but don’t have it figured out. Here’s what we do:

    -weekly email/facebook called “Continuing the Conversation. The email has the bottom line from what we talked about on Sunday, the Scripture reference, and a talking point for the parent to engage in a meaningful conversation with their student.

    -Also, we try to capitalize on promotion time for middle school and hisgh school students. We do a big event where students come to meet their small group leader, and parents will get some time to hear our vision for students ministry and how we want to partner with them. We give them all a copy of a book and journal to their student for them to focus on for that particular year. For example: we give Wired: A life of worship to 6th grade students and parents. For high school we give the seven checkpoints.

    -We also do a yearly shared experience for middle school and high school. We take the students on a mission trip, and at least one parent has to join the student on the trip. We partner with an organization who plans the logistical side of the trip, and then we provide the shared xp part such as fun activities, quiet times, parent sharing their salvation story with their student, prayer times, etc.

    – We do three big retreats every year and at those times, we bring parents together to share vision with them around us partnering with the family, and usually we give them some sort of resource focusing on them being the primary spiritual leader to their student.

    I hope this helps. Doug, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed hearing you at Orange 2011. Being a spotlight leader is the foundation of our student ministry team, but I just never knew how to put it so plainly. Thanks for your leadership and willingness to pur into the next generation of student ministry leaders.

  • Laura

    I have family meetings where at least 3 times a month I spend time with a different family in their home, getting to know them and letting them get to know me. I also think communication is huge. I am constantly sending letters, calling, emailing, updating facebook. At times I feel like I am overdoing it, but I have found it helps parents feel that I (and my ministry) am a part of their everyday (or at least every few days) so they are more comfortable reaching out when they need help.

  • Mike McGarry

    I send out regular newsletters through MailChimp (which is a great, free service like Constant Contact) and send out CPYU’s Parent Page each month. On the Youth Group’s website/blog I post lesson summaries of what we’re talking about and discussing in youth group.

    Lately I’ve been hosting occasional Parenting Seminars on various topics (Adolescent Development, Postmodernism, Media’s Influence, etc.). I’ve scheduled these Seminars for parents to attend while their kids are at youth group (which was being led by my awesome youth leadership team).

  • Tucker

    We are a small rural church. We will begin a quarterly parent potluck discussion time. Brand new idea, and a little nervous. We’ll see after this Sunday! 30 minutes to eat, 30-45 minutes for my encouragement and discussion. We will try to break into groups and discuss several questions and have them report back things from each group. The topic teaser for them is “Teenagers and Facebook”. But the thing they don’t realize that I am most excited about is the three-month calendar complete with how to talk about the Jesus stuff at home, all tied in to the topics covered in this quarter’s Bible study material.

  • Grant van Boeschoten

    So far we are keeping it pretty simple. We have a blog for our youth parents that has themes, calendar, teaching materials and discussion points for family conversation. That information is also emailed out and put into a news letter. The part I need some help with is personal interaction with parents. So far all I do is systematically phone through our list on rotation. However, as simple as the strategy is our parents our giving positive feedback and discussions are taking place in families.

  • Danny


    We do a monthly parent meeting to help provide resources, conversation pieces for felt need issues as well as specific hurts that can be chaos related (drugs, alcohol, sexuality concerns, etc.) the other subtle thing we do is do a bi-monthly email of pure info that relates to student ministry calendar. I try to meet with parents as often as possible to give them a listening ear or encourage them in the role they have.

  • pj wong

    how about asking them how we can help them directly?

    having parents as sunday school teachers is also a great way to give them a glimpse of what it means to work with kids who aren’t your own kids as well as how it is like to be a part of a youth min team.

  • Mike

    We hold a “ParentConnect” night about three times a year for mostly calendar sharing and some insight into why we do what we do. These have been very successful so far and we have received great feedback from our parents. They truly want to know what is happening.

    Beginning in the fall, my wife and I will be hosting parents in our home on a monthly basis while their students are in Thursday night small groups. We will have 3-4 parents at a time just to share, encourage and build relationship.

    On a tech level, we send out a monthly parent newsletter, regular text updates and many of our parents have “liked” our facebook page and I use that for events and teaching topics as well.

  • Todd Szymczak

    Couple things we do:

    –10 week Parenting Course on Sunday morning (Sept-Jan).
    –Parent Coffee Meetings (1-2 times a year) to talk and interact about our ministry.
    –Weekly E-Blast (constant contact) communicating information
    –Parents serving on periphery (Sunday am breakfast, welcome table for parents, helping at our Friday night outreach)
    — Shut down programming at various times during the year in order for families to be together (in worship, weeknights, etc.).

  • Karl D Peterson

    We are just begining to put more of a focus on helping parents. a couple of our plans are:

    Parents small groups (been effective previously)

    Connecting with “been there and made it out positively” mentors.

    Letters on what we are doing

    Questions to talk about with your teens

    Calls to be involved in little ways (making cookies, using their yard, just hanging out)

  • brad

    We do weekly emails and such, but I have found the most affective thing has early morning breakfasts with Dad’s before they go to work. We also have a policy you should never just pick up a student at their house. Always try to make some parental connection before or after.

  • Jeremy Smith

    How timely is this? This week, over at we are talking about how we can empower, encourage, and equip parents. Here are the first two articles we have written already:

    Ideas for Empowering Parents

    10 Encouraging Words To Parents About Your Students

    More to come!

  • Daniel Coutinho

    I do a few things to keep parents involved in my ministy.

    I send out a weekly e-mail called “teachable moments” containing the gist, and someimes the entire outline from thee lesson I taught at youth group that week. I also include discussion questions for parents to ask their kids in casual situations.

    Not only do I send the e-mail, but I always make sure parents know they are welcome to sit in on youth group. Many parents began attending since and it has been acepted well by the students.

    On Sunday evenings we have a small group for parents where we go over a Biblical book that deals with parenting.

    I give students discounts on trips if a parent or legal guardian comes with them on the trip. And when we have a fun event like bowling, laser tag, or game night, I require a parent or legal guardian to be present in order for the student to participate.

  • Phil Caporale

    We host an annual Parent’s Conference (January) to communicate with parents and resource them, provide small groups just for parents through 3 semesters of the year, monthly e-mails to stay in the loop and invite them to check out a youth service or two.

  • Todd Cramer

    We have a Bible Study/small group with parents of junior high & high school students on Sunday mornings, led by members of our Student Ministries staff. This has been a productive time for parents to talk with each other about issues as we have walked through books like “Real World Parents” & “Parenting beyond your capacity.” This has been a great start to deepening relationships with parents and providing them an outlet to discuss issues. We also bring in different student ministry volunteers to provide them an opportunity to meet parents.

    This has been a catalyst for stronger relationships between parents and student ministry staff members and we have seen increased involvement from parents in the student ministry since the group began meeting.

  • John Campbell

    Well, we’ve been doing a number of things recently as we’re in the middle of a huge shift in thinking in our church.

    We’ve developed what we call ‘The Trail’. It’s a spiritual development plan aimed at growing passionate followers of Jesus as it’s end goal. We have 7 stages that cooraspond to the various develpmental stages from birth to Emerging adults. Each has it’s own spiritual goals set out for people in that age group.

    Each section of ‘The Trail’ has real practical ways we support parents in being the primary spiritual directors of their children’s life. We are no longer looking to have parents partner with us, but actually trying to have the church partner with the parents…

    So, practically,
    We have intergenerational sunday school classes where parents go through stations with their kids and actually do the teaching. It also has the side effect of training parent show to do this at home.

    We do little things like keeping parents informed and what not, but we alos plan events specifically where parents can participate in the ministry to their children.

    We’re also aiming to have a parenting night aimed at each of these 7 segments each year. Tomorrow while our youth and young adults are at a retreat, we’re feeind their parents supper and talking about parenting young adults.

    We are also developing a section in our small library that will have age approprate books/devotions for each segment of the trail. Also things like book baggies that parents can grab to read with their children when they’re younger (much like what is done in libraries and schools here in Canada).

    • John Campbell

      Oh..I forgot to mention we have an average attendance of 175 people…so smaller churches can do this well too!

    • Andy Lawrenson

      that’s awesome

  • Ryan Cook

    We’ve developed a dual class for parents and teens that focuses on topical issues of uth, families, and parenting. The parents get the lesson from their angle in Sunday School, while the students get the lesson in their language at uth group! It’s been working out quite nicely. We encourage both to discuss what they’ve learned Sunday evenings. Topics have included the theology of facebook, smart phones, hurting kids, relationships, and the classic drug/ alcohol discussions. Our goal is to share our ideas in a grace filled environment, in order to empower one another to build up healthy christian families! Go ORANGE! Go Jesus!

    • Ryan Cook

      PS. The second phase of this class will be coming together with parents and uth for a family discussion forum. Should be interesting.

  • Thomas Paukovitz

    I would to try and connect with my parents more, but struggle with the how. My wife and I are still young and don’t have children, and I feel like trying to give advice to parents would be ridiculous. But I would love to be able to have resources of individuals with articles, and other resources to encourage, communicate, and teach my parents. Any advice?

    • Micah Gilmore

      Hey Thomas,

      I was in your shoes a few years back. Find some parents(“mentor parents”) who have kids that have gone through the youth group already. Maybe their kids are in college/post-college now. Give them some resources (Age of Opportunity, Real World Parents, etc.) and work together to put together some sort of meeting/training/class that can allow parents to have open conversations with your mentor parents.

      You have to choose the mentor parents wisely. For example, you might want to choose parents whose kids are still walking with the Lord. It might be interesting to have another set of parents whose kids decided to walk away from the church to have them share, but just make sure there’s balance to it.

      The key is to invest in the mentor parents so they can invest in your youth parents. Hope that helps!


  • Andy Lawrenson

    We accidentally started the Parent POD. A group of parents of teens who meet together while their kids are in the youth group worship gathering. The POD is led by a parent of a teen. I usually drop in and say “Hi” and chat with parents. This has been a great ministry. Sometimes they do parenting studies and sometimes they do small group curriculum to help them in their own spiritual growth. I love the Parent POD!

  • Brad Daniel

    Great stuff here already! Thanks for starting this conversation (or at least having a landing place for it) Doug!
    We post video of all our messages to students on our website so parents see what we teach. We also provide a weekly “Parent Connection” via BombBomb that is video driven as it seems much more personable than just a regular email. We just started this and have gotten a lot of positive feedback.
    At the end of our summer camp, I drive back to our church to meet with parents about an hour or so before students get back to let them know what their kids have experienced at camp, how to help them process their next spiritual step, and to also encourage/challenge the parents to own that responsibility of being the spiritual champions for their kids.

    We also are doing some of what has already been mentioned such as a synopsis of each series being taught sent home via email with ideas on parental engagement (we use xp3/Orange strategy). When our home groups kick off in the fall, the first week is an open house where the host home for a group has parents come with their student for a bbq to build a relationship with the parents. The philosophy is that the time investment into getting to know parents also helps us minister to their kids more effectively.

  • Drew

    We are doing a few things that seem to be working:

    Parent Connect: Parent connect is a weekly meeting of parents for one hour led by our adult minister (who has raised 3 kids) and other parents. It is not so much class as it is a gathering of parents to talk about and give advice on issues that parents of teenagers face.

    Post Trip Videos: We invite kids and parents to video a highlight video on the Sunday morning after a trip or retreat. The kids (and parents) always want to see themselves in the video, so we usually have a big crowd. After the video we have students share testimonies and give parents resources pertaining to what we did on the trip. This has been helpful in connecting unchurched parents and students to the church and not just a retreat.

    Resources: You can hand out as many “resources” as you’d like, although I think parents may be “resourced” out. We hand out stuff in print w/ our teaching series, upcoming events, etc. We do the same thing on facebook by updating our fanpage with teaching series, pictures, videos, event registrations, parent devotions, weekly program summaries to provoke discussion, etc.

    The HARD WORK of getting to know parents: This, I believe, is the most important thing, but one of the things that most youth workers avoid because it is hard, messy work. I have found that simply talking to parents and showing that you care is the most effective way to minister to families. When you talk to parents you get to hear their story – which will give you many insights as to why their kids act the way they do. When you talk to parents, you find out what resources parents actually need. When you talk to parents, they become a partner and a part of your team, not an enemy.

    ** I love the idea of personally meeting with every parent in your ministry once a year. A “parent teacher conference of sorts.”

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