Running a parents meeting that no one shows up to is almost seems to be a right of passage for youth workers. What’s your response when you have a poorly attended meeting for your parents?
“I’m done running these meetings.”
“These parents don’t give a rip.”
“I had the info ready. If they don’t want to know what’s happening that’s their issue.”
There is a better way. Rather than throwing our hands up in despair, we may need to start rethinking our approach.
Here are four ways to run a parents meeting that parents actually want to attend. (full disclosure, several of these ideas have been borrowed from Jeff Brodie at Connexus Church…you should definitely check out their stuff. But since you’re already here…let’s dive in!)
Focus on the stuff that cannot be captured in an email.
Most of the information parents need can be captured in an email or newsletter. Program times, registration, retreat dates, etc. Don’t waste your meeting time covering information that they can read on their iPhone… because there is a lot that cannot be captured in an email.
→ The VISION for your youth ministry
→ STORIES of transformation
→ WHY you believe the retreat could be a life changing experience
→ The PASSION your leaders have for investing in young people
Try this approach…
Use emails to get parents the information they need. Use meetings to capture their heart and imagination. This is important for the content of your meetings, but this should also impact the way you promote your meetings. I’ve often used a simple line to lure parents in:
“We have a parents meeting coming up that we’d love to have you attend. Why? Well, because there are just some things that can’t be captured in an email.”
It will take some time to get your parents used to this, but stick with it. The real test will come when a parent emails you looking for a summary of a meeting they missed. That’s when you need to be disciplined and let them know, “I wish I could send you the info, but there are just some things that can’t be captured in an email :)”
Timing is Everything
Being thoughtful with the timing of your meetings can have a major impact on parent’s engagement.
First, honour the parents in your group by asking for a modest window of time (20-30 minutes should be enough), and being diligent to follow through. We all know how precious time is and if parents get the feeling that your meetings could drag on, they are likely to check out. You can change their expectations by setting a clear time frame and consistently sticking to it.
Also, do everything you can to make the timing of the meetings accessible and convenient. Right before your youth program or right after a Sunday service are optimal times. Parents are already doing enough traveling, so finding a way to save a trip will go a long way.
Finally, be strategic and selective with the frequency of your meetings. Trying to pull parents together too often will only make them tune you out over time. Instead, schedule your meetings strategically to maximize key moments in your calendar when you want to boost your parent engagement. Fall kick-off and leading into a major event like a retreat are optimal times to capture their attention
This one is obvious (I hope) but don’t ever forget the power of food. It doesn’t need to be much, but at least show them that you thought ahead. If you can establish a reputation for having awesome munchies at your meetings, parents will remember and learn to look forward to it.
Celebrate these fine folks!
Parents often feel like they are not measuring up. They are tired, they are unsure how their kids are going to turn out, they are feeling inadequate. Take some time to affirm them. Remind them of the significant role they play in the lives of their kids. Encourage them to take hold of the opportunities they have to build into their relationships. Let them know that you are on their team, and that your youth ministry exists to support them in the good work that they are already doing.
When parents feel valued and affirmed by your youth ministry, they are going to take an increasing interest in what the ministry is all about… and THAT is a huge win!
Maybe parents meetings have always driven you crazy in the past. I don’t believe that needs to be the way it is moving forward.
Praying for you and the opportunities for deeper connection with your parents this ministry season!