3 Surefire Ways to Lose the Trust of Parents

Written by Aaron Helman

You spend a ton of energy trying to build great programs for your students, but if you can’t gain buy-in from their parents, then none of those great programs matter.

In fact, losing the trust of parents is the fastest way to lose their students.

(It might also be the fastest way to lose your job.)

Bottom line: If a parent thinks that you or your ministry is sketchy, unsafe, or disorganized…

…then you’re going to have a remarkably difficult time reaching their teenager.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure that your actions and behaviors instill confidence in your parents, and why it’s so important to make sure you DON’T do any of these three things.

The items on this list might seem innocuous to you, but imagine you were the mother of a new sixth or seventh grader who was already concerned about introducing her daughter into a new and unfamiliar environment.

1. Your meeting area is a messy disaster.

I know, it’s a youth room; not the majestic lobby of a fancy hotel.

But your meeting space will tell people a lot about who you are; even if it’s telling them the wrong thing.

If you regularly keep a disorganized, messy, and immature-looking space; parents (and some students, too) will project those same adjectives onto your entire ministry, whether you deserve it or not.

I cannot overstate this enough. New parents believe that you’ll care for their students in the same way you care for your space. Is that an encouraging or discouraging thought for you?

DO THIS: CLEAN YOUR YOUTH ROOM.

2. You seem flustered and hurried all the time.

Parents want to see that you’re calm and composed. They want to see that you have a plan for the program. They might even want to take a minute to say hello and shake your hand.

But if you’re always finishing up your preparations even as people arrive, then they won’t see what they want to see.

Your actions communicate that you don’t have a plan yet, even if you do.

Even worse, parents might leave with the idea that you’re too preoccupied with your preparation to really notice their student.

And worst of all? If you’re scrambling to get ready and can’t spend a minute or two with a parent, you’ve just lost the best opportunity you’ll ever have to gain a little bit of their trust.

DO THIS: START YOUR PREP 30 MINUTES EARLIER.

3. You’re indistinguishable from the students.

As a young-looking 22-year-old, I fought against this for years. New parents always assumed I was another high school student, not the adult in charge of proceedings.

(Now that I’m 30 with a receding hairline, it’s not a huge problem. So, there’s one good thing about male-pattern baldness. Hooray.)

Anyway, when they found out I was the grown-up in the room, they were rarely consoled.

For a while, I tried to solve the problem by elevating my wardrobe, and while that did help me win parents, it was super-tough to play dodgeball in a shirt-and-tie.

The best solution? Facial hair, a special leader’s polo, and a bold name tag that stated my role.

DO THIS: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE APPEARANCE OF THE PERSON IN CHARGE.

Does all of this stuff really matter?

I used to think the answer was no, at least until I had kids of my own.

Then I had to live on the other side of that equation, and I’ve had to drop my son off at a new place where the people who were in charge didn’t appear to be in control.

That included at least one youth ministry event.

If you want to communicate to parents that you care about their families, then it’s worth your time to take a few small steps to communicate that you care enough to give them a little more assurance.

Like this blog post? Read another one of Aaron’s blog post – What Schools Get Right That Youth Ministry Gets Wrong

Aaron Helman is on a mission to end youth worker burnout by providing the training and resources that you haven’t been taught… until now. Smarter Youth Ministry exists to help you learn how to manage their time and resources better so that you can do more ministry with less frustration. All of that having been said, you most likely know him as the creator of “Lamentation or Taylor Swift Lyric.”

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