On Tuesday, we started talking about reaching out to parents who do not attend our church. You guys had some great additions! Here are a few other ‘field tested’ tricks I use to begin building friendships with parents who may not be part of our faith community…
6. Brag on their student. Most parents only see the ugly underbelly of raising a teenager. Any encouragement you can send their way is like using the lifeline on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. And to most parents, it feels like there’s that much at stake!
7. Don’t forget them when the kids are gone. When kids graduate and go to college, stay connected to mom and dad. Ask how they are doing in the transition. Send them an ’empty nester’ care package. (I don’t know what you should put in it – what do you think??!)
8. Offer tangible parenting help. True – some parents (maybe most) will not take advantage of workshops, conferences, or retreats. But that does not absolve us from the responsibility to provide them. Throw a book, website, or podcast their direction when you think of it (and not just when they’re asking for it.)
9. Walk their kid to the door. When you are playing church taxi cab, walk the student to the door. It may be a 4-second ‘Texas-nod-of-hello-that-speaks-we’re-friendly-folks-down-here’ through a half cracked entry because mom doesn’t want you to see how dirty the living room is – but you made eye contact on their turf with their kid in tow!
10. Never, ever let them sit in church alone! When you get an unchurched parent in the doors of your church, make sure you (or someone on your team) greets them (and not with the ‘OHMYGOD! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU ACTUALLY CAME!! surprised greeting), sits with them, and introduces them to some folks after service is over.
Parents are the greatest faith influencers teenagers have…even the parents who do not attend church. Make sure you create connection with them – it’s an investment in your student ministry — and the Kingdom of God.
How do you impact that part of God’s Kingdom in your sphere of influence?
All of us have students in our ministry whose parents don’t attend our church. It takes a little more forethought than usual, but we CAN connect with those parents and begin to build relationships with them!!
1. Get in the parking lot after Bible study. If parents are picking their kids up after Bible study, it’s prime time to start with a wave and end by hanging your head in the window with a well placed compliment about their kid! Always have a flyer or something tangible to hand them (I find cookies are always a winner!) — it forces them to roll down the window. If it’s bad weather, escort their kid under an umbrella…you get like triple points for that! (Even though it probably feels like senior adult ministry.)
2. Friend them on social media. Whether you do that through your personal page or your student ministry page, they have a window to you and vice versa. Create a calendar note to remind you to drop them a personal line occasionally so it’s not just creeping…or another faceless, nameless person you don’t really know or have any connection with.
3. Utilize the ‘required parent meeting’ to your advantage. I do a few things – a) I always decide on a ‘target’ before the meeting – one or two unchurched parents I want to engage in a conversation if at all possible. Occasionally that gets sidetracked by questions, people, fire alarms (that’s another story for another day), but I can usually get in a few good conversations, and b) if I can NOT speak from the stage, I don’t. I roam the theater using a headset mic and intentionally stop at tables (or sections) where there are parents I want to build community with.
4. Food. Hello?? It’s the Christian way. Invite them for dinner, dessert, sushi, Starbucks, a viewing of the premier of The Next Iron Chef. If you cook it, they will come.
5. Be present in a crisis. If you hear Great Uncle George passed away six states away…even though the family doesn’t seem too broken up about it and aren’t going to the funeral – send a condolence card. And if trouble really hits home – be the first person on their porch. (Yes, they may turn you away and it may seem awkward, but it will not be forgotten.)
…five more tips coming on Thursday – but what do YOU do to build connections with unchurched parents?