I like to think that I’m pretty good at communicating with the parents of teens in my youth ministry. I send out a weekly e-mail filled with details about upcoming events. I make sure to include announcements in our Sunday bulletin. I post updates on both Facebook and Twitter. I even write regularly for our congregation’s monthly newsletter.
Yet, in the last week, I’ve been reminded twice that I’m not always as good at this as I like to think I am.
Here’s what I mean. In last week’s e-mail to parents, I mentioned that we’d begin preparing for Youth Sunday at our next weekly gathering. I promptly got a message back from a freshman parent saying, “What’s Youth Sunday?”
I was stunned by this. Youth Sunday – the Sunday each year when our high school teens lead every aspect of worship – is a tradition that began LONG before I arrived in my congregation seven years ago. As a result, I honestly assumed everyone knows what Youth Sunday is. So I didn’t bother communicating any basic information about it.
Clearly, I was wrong.
In that same e-mail, I also included a packing list for our high school ministry’s winter retreat. I promptly got a response back from the parent of a senior saying, “You usually stop for dinner on the way to the retreat and lunch on the way home but I don’t see meal money listed. Do kids not need money this year?”
Oops. In my haste to get the information out, I failed to include this vital piece of information.
I quickly corrected both things. I sent out a packing list addendum and changed my weekly e-mail to include a brief explanation of Youth Sunday.
Because of how simple these things are to fix, it can be tempting to brush communication faux pas off as “no big deal”.
The problem is that communication failures actually are a big deal.
When communicating information about our youth ministries to parents, accuracy matters.
Because it builds trust.
While occasional mistakes and omissions happen, we have to intentionally take steps to make sure such things don’t become our ministry’s norm. After all, if parents can’t trust the accuracy of our information, how can they trust us with the safety of their teens?
Over communicating details is also important because as anyone who works with children or teens knows, no one hears (or retains) everything the first time.
What’s more, never assume everyone knows something. When you make that assumption, you inevitably create insiders – those who actually know what you’re talking about – and outsiders who are clueless. Taking the time to communicate information – even information you think everyone probably knows – creates a welcoming environment for parents and teens alike.
Take it from me. Accurate communication with parents is important – not just for the information you’re giving but for the values you’re communicating.