- 2001 12 Jul
If youth ministry is to be successful it's important to involve parents as well as kids. Building positive, relationships with parents reduces your chances for conflict with them. In spite of your best efforts, though, conflict does arise from time to time. Since parents are an essential part of your youth group kids' lives, it's important to face conflicts and reconcile relationships as much as possible.
How to deal with parents:
- Face the conflict. Speak directly to the parent. Ask to talk and pray with the parent about the situation. If you are unable to talk right away, set up an appointment to talk as soon as possible. Don't cause the parent to "lose face" in front of kids or other parents by confronting him or her at church or when others are around.
- Listen. Scripture says, "Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger" (James 1:19). Don't try to resolve every conflict on the spot. A parent may need to vent hostility before constructive dialogue can occur. Don't interrupt. You'll get your chance.
- Avoid defensiveness. Don't get defensive or put down parents you disagree with - either to their faces or behind their backs. Instead try to understand where they're coming from.
- Take responsibility. Admit the truth about what may be wrong. For example, a parent might confront you about how you corrected his or her teenager at a youth meeting. Be honest. Were you too rough on the teenager? Did you embarrass the teenager in front of his or her friends? Do you need to talk to the parent about taking steps to improve the teenager's behavior?
- Ask for forgiveness. Face your weaknesses honestly and openly. Parents will develop deep respect for you when you admit your own vulnerability.
- Resolve conflict immediately. At times, conflicts may need to go before the pastor or a committee to get resolved. If you meet with the pastor or committee, make sure that the parent's side is as clearly presented as your own.
- Recognize that conflict can be good. Learn to view problems with parents as possibilities for deepening your relationships with them and for experiencing God's grace.
- Evaluate the criticisms. Take the time, no matter how painful the process, to discover the root cause of parents' dissatisfaction. If parents raise a specific concern or problem, think about it. Are they justified? If so, what changes could be made in your ministry? How will you make those changes?
- Avoid the temptation to play favorites. If you have conflict with a parent you may consciously, or unconsciously begin to invest less time and energy in that person's kids. The inclination is to favor kids of supportive parents. Not only is that wrong, but kids notice what's going on. Sometimes, kids from families that don't support you may be living in a negative home environment and actually need more concentrated care.
- Encourage supportive parents to reach out to unsupportive parents. Unsupportive parents will often open up when supportive parents ask them to get involved. Supportive parents' enthusiasm may be the spark an unsupportive parent needs.
- Don't lose sleep. Sometimes you do you best to resolve conflict and it doesn't work out. The solution? Just keep up the good work!
Reprinted by permission from 130 Ways To Involve Parents in Youth Ministry compiled and edited by Martin Nagy. Copyright (c) 1994 by Group Publishing, Inc., 1515 Cascade Ave., Loveland, CO 80539, 1-800-447-1070.