Whiny Parent Meeting
Dear Jonathan –
I'm just over a year into my first youth ministry position. I've tried a few parents meeting and they've just turned into complaint fests. The parents who really like me and will agree if I lead their kids off a cliff vs. the parents either who aren't sure or who don't like me, or I'm not like or don't do things like “the other guy”. I want to do something what will bring us all together and get them all to listen to my goals and visions objectively and ultimately have them leave feeling better about things. “Can't we all just get a long!” Please help.
– John Doe, Indiana
First- is your name really John Doe? That would be cool! Imagine the confusion if you died and got sent to the morgue.
“I got a John Doe here.”
“Okay, put him with the others.”
“No, I mean I really got a John Doe!”
“I heard you and I can see the body right there . . . now put him over there!”
“I'm trying to tell you . . . “
All of a sudden a normal day at the morgue turns into an Abbott and Costello sketch!
Sorry- I got a little distracted. Anyway, parent meetings are hard. But the key is how they're lead. If a parent meeting is lead with little agenda and a huge question and answer time- then the atmosphere can quickly change to petty issues, voiced from the minority, who just stir up trouble in areas of little importance. “Why don't the kids use the blah blah blah room instead of the blah blah blah room? It should be switched!” “How come you're doing your program on Wednesday, when it always was on Tuesday?!!!! It should be switched!!” etc. etc.
In a parent meeting- have a full agenda where you lay out your purpose, talk about what you're doing to:
- reach kids for Christ
- provide growth for Christians
- provide opportunities for student leadership
Have students share testimonies and have key parents (pre-arranged) stand up and give testimonies of their students changed lives, etc.
Another great thing to do (I only would do one parent meeting a year) is have the senior pastor there. You could have him stand up and give a few words.
Then, at the end of the meeting, you can ask if anyone has any questions about the vision or direction of this ministry. If someone asks about the night they meet, or some other petty issue: 1.) make them feel heard and 2.) try to encourage them to talk to you about it later (because you're not going to change it right then). For example- if they ask you that, you could say, “I didn't realize Tuesday was a problem for some people. That's good to know- we want to try to plan our activities on nights that work the best for everyone. Why don't you come by my office this week and look at the calendar with me- and if I find that Tuesday night is a problem for most people we could look for another alternative. (now change the subject) Other questions?”
Also- talk with your pastor about this a little. I'm sure he's done his share of meetings and knows your church well. He probably could cast some good insight into this- and you can get on the same page.
Hope that helps.
The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.