Parent meetings may find themselves on top of your ‘necessary evils’ in ministry list. However, these meetings are your biggest opportunity and one of your most important ministry events. You can inspire, empower, enliven and equip parents at these gatherings. You can win their hearts over for Jesus and lead them to champion their primary role as faith sharers for their children. To get it right you must be intentional. Additionally, you should avoid these 5 Dangerous Don’ts of a Parent Meeting.
Don’t make parents feel guilty.
Parents love their kiddos. They want what’s best for them even if some of their actions seem to show otherwise when it comes to a matter of the faith. Remember, we cannot give what we do not have. Catechesis has come a long way in the last 30 years and many of the parents we encounter simply haven’t received quality catechesis. It is fine to share statistics about the realities of church participation and faith retention, but do so in a way that raises concern for their children, not guilt for their actions.
Instead, acknowledge the parent’s desire for their children to know Jesus. Empower them with resources on how to share the faith with their children. Promote opportunities in your community for adult faith formation.
Don’t get into logistics right away.
Avoid diving into the requirements or logistical items right away. Start with a prayer and then share the vision of why faith formation is important. Spend some time talking about the positive impact a parent has in their child’s life (indeed parents are the strongest influencers). Then minister to them a bit. Consider a testimony by another parent whose child had a powerful experience through the formation program or the pastor sharing a bit on forming a personal relationship with Jesus. You can even give a 10 minute presentation on how to start a family prayer routine.
The logistics can be covered in a handout. You don’t need to read to them, so logistics can be a minor part of the meeting where you clarify common questions or concerns. Use your time gathered to empower, equip and inspire parents.
Don’t start Late.
I’ve been to meetings that have started 20 minutes late before simply because the leader was certain that more people were going to show up. Start the meeting on time, even if it is a soft start like taking the first few minutes to meet the parents around you and share what grade your child is in. Once you open in prayer, stage a volunteer at the entrance and have them hand out the info and invite them to take a seat. If there is a sign in table, shut it down until the end of the meeting so there is nothing distracting the presentation.
Starting late can set a bad precedent. Ending late can be just as devastating. Be passionate, concise and engaging. Don’t promise to make this a ‘short meeting’ as this can give the impression that what is being shared is not valuable enough to invest real time in. Instead, share that you will honor everyone’s time as you know it is valuable.
Don’t be the only one speaking.
I’ve heard that a person’s attention span is equal to their age in minutes. During a meeting if you are the only one speaking, then you are going to lose members of your audience at some point. Change up your meeting a bit: Insert a video here, shift the focus of the room there, and have someone else share on a given topic.
We offer discipleship groups for teenagers at our parish. Last year we invited 2 of the teens to share their experience during the parent meeting. For many it was the highlight. Not only did it promote the discipleship program, but it gave the parents an example of what a teen who owns their faith looks like (as in they actually exist!).
Whether it’s your pastor, a volunteer, or someone who is just down right hilarious, make sure that you farm out certain pieces of the parent meeting. An added bonus is that is shows that the ministry is not just a you thing, but an initiative supported by the community.
Don’t forget the hospitality
For parents, life can be pretty crazy and most parents meetings fall around the same time. They’ve been to the school orientation, 2 extracurricular parent meetings, and now this church thing. Make your parent meeting like a retreat for them. Offer amazing hospitality: food, drinks, and an atmosphere with music and friendly conversation. Have plenty of volunteers present to give the parents instruction on where to sit or how to register. Find yourself as a floater greeting parents and introducing them to each other.
- Save questions until specific times. Share this at the beginning of the meeting. Often I mention that if there is a question specific to a certain family situation or scenario to ask me after the meeting. This keeps the questions during the meeting focused on clarifying the content for all.
- Share a bit about your real self. Yes, share about your qualifications and vision, but share some personal items to become more real to the parents. Often I can just be a person at the other end of a phone or email address.
- Break the invisible barrier. Often the distance between where the chairs are set up and there the presenter stands can seem like a canyon. Do something to break this invisible barrier. Go place your hand on the shoulder of someone in the third row, walk into the audience to hand out a giveaway resource, or invite someone up from the audience. This technique can instantly reset a dazed viewers’ attention span and make the entire experience more human as opposed to something they could have viewed from a screen.
Above all, showcase God’s love for the vocation of parenthood at your meeting, and then watch it overflow into the children you serve. Share your tips on things to do or avoid at parents meetings in the comments below.