Here is a great post from my friend, Dan Colwin, sharing about “Parent Ministry and Mission Trips”…
The past few weeks have presented us, once again with a lot of unknowns as we look to the future. We are all wondering about what the days and weeks ahead will look like. This question is especially pressing as we look at our summer calendars, particularly summer mission trips.
I’m sure you’ve already fielded plenty of calls from parents wondering what “the plan” is for the summer and the mission trip, and even beyond. Everyone wants to know what’s going to happen, and while you don’t have a crystal ball, you can still listen and provide guidance.
In spite of the often unknowns ahead, let’s make sure to take advantage of this key time when it comes to our ministry to parents. Yes, parents are bound to have a lot of questions that, if we’re honest, we’d probably rather avoid, but now’s a great time to lean into a deeper partnership with parents.
Follow these five steps to connect with parents in a positive way as you share thoughts and updates about your summer trip.
1. LISTEN FIRST
Before you jump into trying to communicate the details about your situation, take a moment to listen. It may appear that parents are frustrated or just looking for a quick answer, but try to listen to their hearts and hear their fears. Remember, you’re the pastor of their students, but you’re also their pastor.
Ask them how their family has been affected. Try to understand what their deepest concerns are during this time. Discover ways that they need your help and offer your support. It’s important that parents see how much you care about them.
2. LEAD THEM TO GOD’S WORD
After you’ve listened, point them back to God’s Word. Our families need to be reminded on a daily basis that God is with us during this time. Psalm 23 states that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of you death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Take a moment to encourage parents with that reminder or another truth from God’s Word that’s on your heart.
3. ACKNOWLEDGE THE UNKNOWN
Acknowledging the unknown can seem a bit intimidating, but it’s an honest response that’s likely to grow parents’ confidence in your leadership. Be clear about what you know, and be willing to share what you don’t know yet.
Encourage parents that you and the church leadership are working to make the best decisions for the summer trip based on the information that you currently have. Tell parents that you’re considering everything from kingdom impact to students’ safety and even families’ finances as you make or adjust plans for the summer.
Remind parents that you’re assessing the situation on a regular basis, and be clear about when they should expect to hear from you next.
4. HELP THEM DISCIPLE THEIR CHILDREN RIGHT NOW
Even as you plan for the future, don’t forget that many families are living day-to-day. Take the opportunity to help parents disciple their children in the here and now.
Ask parents what they think their students’ greatest need is during this time, and work together to try and meet the need.
If the need is community, make sure Zoom calls are happening so students can get together. (Even my six year old has needed time to connect with his friends in an online format! It’s been funny, but also so encouraging to see him giggling and making faces at each other.)
If the need is structure, brainstorm with parents about how to put together a meaningful schedule for their students so they aren’t just lying around the whole day.
Keep in mind that more than anything, students need Christ, so helping parents disciple their students during this time is the best thing we can do. Are families praying together or studying scripture together regularly? Maybe now is the best time for this to happen, and you can provide them with a helpful resource.
Need ideas? Take a look these free resources.
5. CAST A VISION FOR SERVICE AT HOME
One of the greatest things about a summer mission trip is that it activates our students for service, unleashing them to do good in this world. We all love how a mission trip enables our students to pour out.
Our normal preparation process would probably include some pre-trip service days or service-based fundraisers to help get students in the right mindset. While that may be hard to do right now, we can still connect students to service by helping families serve together.
One of the best ways to serve right now is through encouragement. Give our Care Cards resource to parents and encourage them to serve alongside their students. Ask parents for needs that they’ve noticed, and develop a plan for families in the youth group to meet those needs.
Navigating this season of questions and unknowns, won’t be easy, but now is the perfect time to keep the spirit of the mission trip alive by serving parents well. Take the time to listen and provide encouragement. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t have a definitive plan yet, but here’s what our team is doing as we evaluate.” Provide resources to help parents disciple their children at home, and encourage families to pursue service opportunities at home. You might even find that, at the end of the day, you’ve grown your partnership with parents by leaps and bounds.
Dan Colwin is director of trips at LeaderTreks. He and his wife, Clare, live in West Chicago with their sons, Everett and Oliver, and little puggle, Roxy. They love their church family at Life Church in Wheaton, where they volunteer together in the youth group. He enjoys spending time outdoors, taking walks, having fires, reading, building Legos, working in the garden, and watching movies.
He believes student leadership development is amazing because it challenges students not only to own their faith but also to live out the mission God has placed on their lives. When students know and understand their potential to create lasting, positive change through the power of Christ, they are truly unstoppable.
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