A few weeks ago, we looked at 3 types of parents that you’ll work with as a youth pastor. Today, we’ll continue looking at strategies for dealing with each type of parent. Here are 7 strategies for working with airplane parents, those parents who circle their teens at a respectable distance, giving them an appropriate amount of autonomy.
- Give them information as soon as possible. Because they give their children appropriate amounts of autonomy, airplane parents are the parents who are most likely to trust teens with their own schedule. This sometimes results in scheduling mishaps, where teens are double or triple booked. To help prevent this, airplane parents appreciate getting events onto their family calendar as early as possible so they can help their teen plan and prioritize their schedule.
- Limit the frequency of your communications. Airplane parents are typically circling several of their teen’s arenas at once. On any given day or week, they’re not only receiving communication from you but also from their teen’s school and extracurricular activities. Don’t swamp their inbox with daily messages. Instead, limit your communication to once a week. To help insure that your information gets read, be consistent in when you send it to parents. When you send information the same day each week, parents know when to expect it.
- Make information scannable. Airplane parents are masters of multi-tasking. Because they’ve given their teens appropriate autonomy, they also have time for a life of their own. This means they’re exceptionally busy and on the go. So, whenever you send them information, make sure it’s scannable. Use headings and different size fonts to create headlines with the most important information. Save details for a smaller font underneath those headlines. This allows busy parents to skim an e-mail, quickly get an accurate sense of what’s happening in your ministry, and only read the details regarding the information that pertains directly to their family.
- Equip them with questions. Since airplane parents care deeply about the lives of their teens, they actively and regularly engage them in conversation. Build upon this by getting families talking about faith. Through e-mail or social media, give parents 2-3 questions each week that they can ask their teen in order to help them continue the conversation you start in your youth ministry at home.
- Resource them. Airplane parents are too busy to attend parenting programs, classes, or seminars offered by the church; They’re already attending the ones offered by the school. So partner with schools to sponsor those programs. Additionally, find ways to resource parents in other ways. For example, establish a library filled with resources on parenting and faith formation that parents can check out and read whenever their schedule allows.
- Host events that connect them with their teens. While airplane parents don’t generally have time to attend parenting programs offered by your church, they will often prioritize events that connect them with their teens in healthy ways. Once a year, invite them to attend one of your youth ministry’s gatherings. Specifically gear the night for families. This will help parents and teens connect over their faith while also giving parents a glimpse of your youth ministry. Additionally, hold events surrounding milestones like graduation that give families the space to say things that might otherwise get left unsaid due to how hectic their schedule is.
- Invite them to serve. Since airplane parents give their teens appropriate autonomy, these are the best parents to have serving in your youth ministry. Still, check with their teen before asking them to serve. (This shows teens that you’ve got their back.) If a teen is OK with their parent being involved, invite them to serve on mission trips, as a small group leader (preferably not the one their teen is in), or during special events.
Investing in parents is always worthwhile. This is especially true of airplane parents. When you take the time to invest in them, they can become your ministry’s biggest supporters.
More in this series:
Image credit: http://autismmythbusters.com/parents/