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Helping People Understand

Over the past few months we have experienced a new dynamic in our student ministry.  We have started to see the need to spend even more time helping people understand what we are about and why we do what we do.  A few things have caused this to be the case.

  1. The honeymoon has faded.  I was blessed to have people excited that I was coming to BBC to serve as student minister.  I worked hard to have a plan for the student ministry and wanted people to see me as both professional and relational.  This worked to essentially give me free reign as I started shaping a student ministry that had experienced some challenges and decline.  I had a great deal of support, and I was given freedom to grow as a minister.  Three years later, we have to continue to keep our vision and values in front of people.  Our parents need to be reminded that we still have a plan and a purpose for what we do.
  2. New people showed up.  Again, this is a huge blessing.  Whether it has been the new students coming to our church or the students moving up from the children’s ministry, we have a ton of new faces who have parents who did not get to hear all of my fun ideas and hear my heart for students three years ago.  These parents don’t automatically have trust or understanding of what the student ministry is all about simply because it is new to them.
  3. Student ministry is always changing shapes.  As we grow and develop our strategy in the student ministry, there are always areas where we are tweaking and improving things.  This means that programs have changed over time or have been replaced based on the needs of the students.  While our core values are the same, some of our events or programs now meet different needs in our student ministry.

So what do you do if you need people to buy into your ministry and the difference that it can make in the lives of the students?  I have found a few things that have really worked for us.

  • Over-communicate as much as possible.  Have information in the hands of the parents as often as possible.  We send multiple reminders about programs and events to the point that I assume people are sick of hearing from me.
  • Make the entry easy.  When someone enters our student ministry, we go heavy on the introductions to what we do and why we do it.  I typically touch base with new student ministry parents about three times in the first couple of weeks.  When students are entering middle school, I try to touch base individually with each set of parents to let them know a little about what to expect.
  • Get questioning parents involved.  We have some great stories of parents who were not sold on our ministry becoming total advocates for us once they plugged in began serving alongside us.  Sometimes there are simple misunderstandings.  Sometimes parents have not considered all of the angles to why we do things the way we do them.
  • Cast vision regularly and be available.  These two things have made a huge impact.  Most of the time people just want to know that you know what you are doing and have a reason for doing it.  When parents hear the vision, often they are impressed that we have spent time thinking about their student’s growth to the degree that we have.  Similarly, when parents know that they can ask questions, they have a much greater chance of coming to you with a problem before it grows into a ministry problem.
While it may seem exhausting to continually put the vision of the ministry before people, I have found that it is actually energizing and opens the doors to some great conversation.  If we really want parents to partner with us, we will also need them to trust us.
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