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Parents: More than checkbooks and chauffeurs
This curriculum sample is taken from Deep Justice Journeys: 50 Activities to Move from Mission Trips to Missional Living, co-authored by Kara Powell and Brad Griffin and released May 2009 through Youth Specialties.
If you’re like most of us in youth ministry, where do you turn when you need money to fund your service events? Your students’ parents.
Who do you assume will transport your students to and from your justice work? Their parents.
While it’s great to have the financial backing of your students’ families, and we all love those families that let us borrow their big SUVs for service events, deeper justice will come only when we view parents as more than just checkbooks and chauffeurs.
One of the best ways to partner with parents in deeper justice is to empower them through good communication. Let’s take some time to think about how we can most effectively engage with parents BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER a mission experience…
Before: The Pre-service Parent Meeting
We encourage you to schedule a 90-minute meeting with students and their parents near the very start of your pre-service events and training meetings. Make sure you set a warm and friendly tone by arranging your chairs in a circle and offering adult snacks (meaning more than a bag of crushed tortilla chips and some stale M&Ms).
There will invariably be students whose parents cannot (or don’t want to) come. Please let these students know they are welcome to invite another adult, and if that doesn’t work out, you can play the part of their parent for the evening.
At some point in this meeting, make sure you provide a thorough description of your work’s logistics, including:
Here are some other ideas to incorporate in your BEFORE meeting with parents:
1. Share Dreams
Before the meeting begins, hang four large pieces of poster paper along the walls of your meeting space. Write one of the following four headers on each piece of paper: Kids’ Dreams for Themselves, Parents’ Dreams for Themselves, Our Dreams for Those We Serve, and Our Dreams for Our Family and Our Church Family. Then as part of your meeting, incorporate an exercise where parents and kids both get to write on the sheets of paper. Close by sharing and praying about those dreams, and keep the papers for your post-trip meeting.
2. Covenant Together
Create a parent covenant handout that includes some of the following categories. Ask parents to support your team by brainstorming ways they would be willing to provide:
During: Simple but Strategic Ideas That Engage Parents
While your energy during your actual service will be focused on your kids and the locals you’re serving, don’t make the all-too-common mistake of neglecting parents. Here are a few simple but strategic ideas to engage parents during your service work:
After: The Post-Service Parent Meeting
When meetings for parents are held after a service experience, many youth workers find that few parents attend-and those who do come are usually the parents who are already committed to the type of conversations you’re hoping to facilitate. (In other words, they’re the ones who least need such a meeting.)
Given that, it’s tempting to give up trying to engage with parents after the service. Please resist that temptation.
Consider the following ideas for engaging parents after the activity:
Want to share more ideas about engaging families in justice and learn from others who are doing the same? Check out this article on the FYI site, join the discussion on the FYI Facebook Group discussion board, or leave a comment below!
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