Whether you’re new, you’ve got new families, or you just need to build some more rapport with the parents already there, when you’re a children’s leader your ministry cannot just be to children. It must include their parents! When I make suggestions to a lead pastor about hiring a new children’s pastor, I always bring up their ability to minister to whole families. Here are some ways to build trust with parents in your ministry.
1. Follow through. If you say it’s going to happen, it needs to happen. Canceling events because you don’t think enough kids are going to show, or always rescheduling events, meetings, or appointments will weaken parents’ trust in your leadership. Once you put it on the calendar, keep it. Even if you commit to something in a hallway conversation on Sunday morning, you need to come through. It may be as simple as, “Oh yeah, I’ll email that to you.” Even little things like that can weaken trust if you don’t stick with your commitment. Your smartphone is your friend. Use your reminders. Use your calendar. Always follow through.
2. Be on time. Actually, be early. People should never have to wait on you. Show that you respect their time with your punctuality. No number of “be there in 5” texts cover the credibility lost by someone who is perpetually late. Set the date in your calendar, set your reminder with plenty of lead time, and expect delays. Your punctuality is about more than this one appointment; it’s about the trust you’re building.
3. Know their kids. Get down on their level, give hugs and high fives, and show a vested interest in their lives. Talk about something you know is happening in their world (soccer season, new pet, baby brother, anything specific to that family). Parents will be glad to wait when they see an adult investing in their kids.
4. But not just their kids. I know you work with kids. That’s your wheelhouse. But, after you have squatted down and had a conversation with the three-foot-tall person, stand up and have a genuine one with the adult holding her hand. Help the parent feel like more than just the vehicle that brings the kids to church. They want to feel known and loved just like their kids, and you have a perfect inroad to provide that. Actively seek opportunities for quick, genuine conversations with both kid and parent! Don’t limit yourself to small talk. Social media is a great resource here. Follow or friend the parents in your ministry so that, even if you don’t know them well, you have a launching point to a better conversation than the weather.
5. Be a resource. Anticipate what kids might be going through and be ready with some resources before parents ever come to ask you. Some things to read up on: grief, dealing with divorce, getting a new sibling, bullying, dealing with technology, talking about sex. Own some books specifically in your library for lending out to parents. Some other resource questions that will come up: What Bible should I buy my kid? What’s a good family devotional we could do at home? What’s a good personal devotional my kid could do on their own? What’s your opinion on this movie? Anticipate these questions and more. Be ready with your answers and examples when they come!