A couple weeks ago I was honored to speak to the amazing preschool ministry volunteers at Park Valley Church. The topic I was asked to speak on was How to Partner With Preschool Parents as a Small Group Leader. Here are the 5 points I shared, that I believe apply to partnering with all parents regardless of their kid's ages.

Show Up Every Week

I think the first step in partnering with parents is to show up every week. Imagine what it's like to be a new family coming to church. You don't know where to go. You don't know if you'll fit in. You don't know if it will be weird. You don't know what “children's ministry” is. You don't know if you should trust them with your kids.

Now, imagine your church does everything right. You make that family feel welcome. You instantly build trust with the parent and help them check their children in. They attend the service and their preschooler does well in your kid's ministry. It's a big win. But, what if they come back next week and… there's a totally different group of people there to welcome their child to the room. Most of the trust that was built up is gone instantly.

It's a big win. But, what if they come back next week and… there's a totally different group of people there to welcome their child. Most of the trust that was built up is gone instantly.

Showing up every week allows us to establish the trust that preschool parents are looking for. Showing up every week gives us more opportunities to connect. The caveat here is if you have one service. With one service, you can't expect people to serve every week. In that case, build a rotation and put more effort into the rest of this list. 

Initiate Contact

Showing up every week is a great start, but it's just the beginning. At some point, we must initiate contact with the parents. I don't mean the simple hello and exchange that happens as they drop off and pick up. I mean the type of contact that can be the first step toward a relationship. That may happen when parents are there to drop off and pick up, or that time might be too crazy for anything meaningful to happen.

Instead of using that time, start by sending then an email. Get a list of families and their contact information from your point leader and send an email to introduce yourself. Brag on their child and ask how you can pray for their family.

A partnership is just a relationship and a relationship starts with an initial contact.

Say Something Encouraging

Parenting is hard.

Like, real hard. Most parents feel like failures most of the time. There are many reasons why, but unrealistic expectations and a false idea of what it's like for other parents is part of it. As a small group leader, and overall as a church, we should be the chief encouragers to parents. Make it a point to notice something about a kid each week. Then, tell the parent when they pick their child up. Praise the parent for anything you can think of. Be genuine, though.

Barbara Graves wrote a great post on the Lead Small blog with specific ideas about this.

Help Their Kids LOVE Church

FUN is the language of kids. When we make church fun, we partner with parents by helping them lead their kids to love being part of the local church. Our son, Isaac (3yrs old), loves our church. He loves his preschool room too. He talks about it during the week and is excited to go each weekend. However, like many kids, sometimes he gets in a mood where he doesn't like anything. He was in one of those moods a few Sundays ago. He didn't want go in his room.

You know what? The leaders in that room instantly recognized what was going on and engaged with him. They know what he likes and they invited him to join in and play. Before I knew it, he went from clinging to me to pretending like I was never there.

Help kids love church by knowing their name, making them feel welcome, and leaving them wanting more each week.

Meet A Felt Need

This isn't something you can do early on. In fact, you probably have no idea what needs families have until you've known them for some time. Think of the previous four ideas as prerequisites for this one. If you have initiated contact and established a relationship, at some point there's a good chance that you'll discover something the family needs.

It could be prayers for something specific, meals when a newborn comes along, a hospital visit, or a number of other opportunities. Don't miss the chance to serve them in their time of need and don't miss the chance to develop the kind of partnership that affords you that opportunity.

What has worked for your Small Group Leaders?

What are some ways your small group leaders have successfully partnered with parents? Share them in the comments section below.