With small groups kicking off, we have had a couple instances of parents asking if they could “sit in” on our small group meetings. Because this is my first year supervising small groups from start to finish, I’ve never had to deal with this issue until recently. Obviously, the answer is no, but before I told the parents that (it was via email, thankfully), I had to think through why we didn’t want parents present during small group time.

After some thought, here is our “unofficial official” policy for this issue. We do not allow parents to sit in on small groups for two reasons:

  1. We have a church policy that requires all of our adults who are present during student activities to go through our volunteer application process, which includes an interview with a member of our staff and a background check. This is a non-negotiable policy that exists for the safety of our students. If you are interested in being a volunteer leader in our ministry, here is our application.
  2. We want small groups to be an environment where students are able to socialize, grow, and learn without the pressure of their parents being in the room. However, we do strongly encourage parents to discuss with their students what was learned at small group— on the car ride back from group, at home, etc. Each of our small group leaders has been instructed to keep parents in the loop about what Bible passages and topics are being discussed.

Instead of giving parents a flat-out “Negative, Ghost Rider,” I’ve found there is always an opportunity to generate a YES along with the NO. No, parents cannot sit it on small groups, but YES, you are invited to go through our volunteer application process. No, small groups are for students and their leaders only, but YES, be involved in the spiritual lives of your son or daughter during the week by reinforcing what they learned during group time.

You can never predict how parents will respond, but their response is irrelevant; what matters is upholding the ministry values that provide a safe and growth-conducive environment for your students.

Taylor Bird is the Director of Middle School Ministry at Southwest Church in Indian Wells, CA. He has been serving in youth ministry for just over four years.