Connecting With Families And Youth

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My last post focused on why family ministry is important. Rather than just tell you why family ministry is important, I thought it’d be helpful to share a few ways I found building relationships with families easy. If you have any ways you’ve found to be handy at building relationships with families, please share them in the comment section below.

Birthday Parties

If you’re ever invited to a birthday, don’t pass it up. This is a great way to show the kid you care. Don’t worry about being the only adult there, cause you won’t be. The kids parents will be there. And since we all know parties can be hectic, parents often don’t mind getting a little help setting and cleaning up. Being a helping hand shows the parents you care. If you’re willing to help with a party, you’re probably willing to help in other areas. This is also a great time to get to know any of the younger siblings. They’re usually hanging around bored since the party is for their sibling with all his/her friends.

School Events – music, plays, etc

Let’s face it, youth programs usually are not that great. But showing up, listening, and clapping for the kids goes a long way in both the parent’s and kid’s eyes. I have to admit that I’ve actually enjoyed many of the plays and musical events I’ve attended. It’s really cool to see when one of the youth has a great talent. And this opens up more opportunities to talk and connect with them. Depending on where you live, check with the local school or school district. Some, although it’s dwindling, offer deals for religious and non-religious youth leaders to get in cheap or free.

Sporting Events

This is the one that I miss now living in the Netherlands. It’s difficult to attend each kid’s sporting event as none or just a couple are on the same team. Sporting events are a great way to sit around and connect with the parents. They’re not going anywhere and there’s usually plenty of time to talk between plays or while their kid is on the bench. I’ve had many a great conversations with parents and sibling while sitting alongside some type of athletic field. Parents are often very candid at these type of events and will share a lot of their feelings and thoughts. While you’re spending time with the rest of the family, the kids on the field see you in the stands cheering them on and often get excited seeing you there. This builds trust and brownie points. Also depending on where you live, some schools give discounted or free entrance for youth workers.

Video Games

Now this isn’t an excuse to just sit around and play video games. This really is a good time to build relationships with the family. Going over to play video games with some of the youth means you’re able to spend time in the home with the whole family. I’ve taken breaks from playing to go up and hang out with the parents. The boys usually didn’t notice how long I was gone and it allowed great time to get to know the parents and siblings. It’s also interesting to see what happens when guys, even girls, play video games. The conversations that come up were sometimes shocking. Playing games made it less scary to bring up serious topics.

Coffee/Drinks

Meeting parents for coffee is a great way to get some face time with just them. I always enjoy meeting up with parents at some great coffee place or bar for a drink or two. Parents usually don’t mind getting away from the kids and going out. Often great conversations come up during these times. It’s often a good time for parents to get to know you. The relationship works best if both parties are interested in what’s happening in each other’s lives.

Parent Meetings

We all hate meetings. Well, most of us. But parent meetings are a great way to connect with parents on a more formal basis. Meetings are a great time to share your upcoming plans and intentions for working with the parent’s youth. The more open and prepared you can be, the more parents will appreciate you. Communication is key in any relationship.

Then there’s the…International Factor

The international factor has made some of these a bit more difficult or impossible to do. Birthday parties are a bit different here and it’s seldom that the youth leaders get invited to a birthday party, even if you know people well. School sports does not happen here, it’s all club related. So to go watch one of the youth means just that, watching one of the youth. Once in a while there will be a couple youth on the same team, but that’s a rare thing. This means finding out each kid’s schedule of when and where they will play. And school events can be a bit awkward to show up to if you don’t know the family well and aren’t invited. Back in the States I’d go to a school play and there’d be at least a handful of kids in the same concert or play from the youth group. Here, it’s probably only one, maybe two. If you’ve ever dealt with international schools from an outsider viewpoint, you’ll understand my next point. International schools are usually full of “guarded” parents who are on the lookout for “outsiders” and are very suspicious of anyone who “doesn’t belong.” School calendars, forget them being online. You better have an inside source. So I’ve stuck to meeting parents for drinks and accepting the occasional invite for dinner. Being single is great for that. Families love feeding single guys.

Well, that’s a few ways I’ve found it helpful to build relationships with parents and kids. Please feel free to share your ideas below.

[audio http://media.signalleaf.com/Life-and-Ministry-Abroad/54214291db90f30200c23949/Life-and-Ministry-Abroad-Podcast-04.mp3 ]
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