This week Kevin Litton, Global Kids Pastor at LibertyLive Church, joins hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen discuss the WHY and the HOW of partnering with parents.

LET’S GET IN TO THE EPISODE

Welcome to the Orange Kids Podcast, where we talk about the big ideas of kids’ ministry and discuss practical solutions to our weekly challenges. This week, Kevin Litton, Global Kids Pastor at LibertyLive Church, joins hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen to discuss the WHY and the HOW of partnership with parents.

Gina and Mike provide a warm welcome. We’re still missing Kellen.

More legroom, but less ditty. We promise he’s coming back.

But today we’re thrilled to be talking with Kevin Litton!

Fun fact – Kevin and his family have been camping in the mountains. So he’s joining us from the backseat of his car!—smelling slightly of campfire.

Fun Fact 2 – Mike would like to be called the “Global Orange Kids Podcast Cohost.”

Today, we’re going to dive into one of the most difficult challenges of kids’ ministry—partnering with parents.

1. What are the most important components to have in place to partner with parents well?

Kevin: Do the simple things first – handing out Parent Cues and take-home sheets. However, while those are extremely important, they only go so far.

I love the Orange Conference 2019 theme – it’s personal. When it comes to really partnering with parents, the front lines are your small group leaders. We need to put them in a position to be able to partner with parents.

Gina: You reference Parent Cues. They are the simple way to put something in parents’ hands that tells them what their child is learning. Most curriculum provide a take-home element.

But it can’t stop there. As a ministry leader, I’ve got a printing budget, and it’s the one I want to re-evaluate. It costs so much to print something full-color and appealing that I hope a parent will read. But so many of them end up in the trash can.

Mike: When you hand a resource to a parent, it’s more “speaking at them” instead of attaching it to a relationship with a small group leader.

So putting a small group leader in the life of every child is the pivotal way of partnering with parents?

Kevin: Absolutely. As a kids’ pastor, there’s no way to form meaningful relationships with every parent. Small group leaders, on the other hand, can invest in kids and reach out to individual parents.

2. How do you equip a small group leader to connect with parents?

Kevin: They’ve got to understand the “why” behind it. If they don’t understand the significance of that partnership, then it won’t happen. We implemented a Group Leader Starter Kit. “Group Leader in a Box.” With any kind of mix, you take the ingredients and put them in the bowl. It walks you through step by step what to do to make good cookies.

With a Group Leader, we want to get down to the nitty gritty, the practical point of what they can do and how they can do it. We get frustrated as ministry leaders when we see parents not reciprocating. I’ve got three kids myself, and I know how busy we are. Our group leaders are also busy and many are parents. For us to expect them to do all these things throughout the week to reach out to other parents is difficult.

We think they don’t get it when often we’re not putting them in a position to partner with parents in the best way. So we use this kit.

“Small Group Leader in a Box” includes:

-Ministry t-shirt

-“What is Orange?” page that talks about the church partnering with the home

-Five “Lead Small” principles

-“A New Kind of Leader” book (very short read)

-“Getting Started” checklist; this gives several practical things to do to get started as a leader. Most of it is checking with parents, because that’s where the biggest impact is. Each item relates to the five principles, like setting a phone reminder to send out birthday cards once a month.

-Pack of 10 birthday cards

-“Just a Phase” trifold that gives developmental details about the age group of the kids in their group

We walk them individually through this kit instead of making it a big group training.

Gina: I love the practical nature. You’re putting tools in their hands and giving them direction and vision as to why to use it. You’re equipping them well to connect not just with kids, but parents as well.

Mike: If you’re thinking: “I can’t put all these things in a box”… Hear “I’m putting in a WHY and a HOW” – whatever that looks like for you.

We’re casting the vision and giving you the practical how, why, and go and do.

3. What are some of the specific practical things you tell Small Group leaders to do in order to partner with parents?

Kevin: We tell them to create a closed Facebook parent group. It’s a simple way for them to easily communicate.

We also tell them to read their weekly leader email! We put a brief, three-point checklist in that email, too. “Be present: send three text messages to three parents.”

One of them always says, “Make it personal: Read [that week’s passage of Scripture].”

Set calendar reminders to do these different things through the week, month, and year.

Plan one outing for your small group—some type of serving project.

These are small things to put into practice that don’t require a lot of time or planning.

4. What stories have you heard that are a direct result of this?

Kevin: Not every leader is putting all of these things into practice.

WHAT?!

I tell leaders if they were to do even half of the things on the checklist, they will be set up to win. We are seeing more and more leaders doing these things. Planning group parties and outings. More leaders going to ball games and recitals.

Kevin shares a story about his wife, who leads a small group. She attended the recital of a girl in her group, connected with the family, and ended up building a strong relationship with them. Because of this, the family later reached out to Kevin’s wife for help when the girl went through a rough patch and even when they had to tell their kids about the husband’s cancer diagnosis.

When we put these simple things into practice, it can make a huge difference in a family’s life.

Mike: It starts with the most simple and overlooked thing – you make an initial connection. That’s it. That can just be introducing yourself at drop off or pick up. “I’m your kids’ small group leader and I’m here for you.” Then give them access to you through things like a private Facebook group or offering your phone number for texts.

It all starts with the connection that grows over time. Most people can fly right by that.

Sunday mornings may not be the best time to do that since it’s like a Nascar pit stop, in and out! But as a ministry leader, you could do an open house once a year where parents can come and meet the small group leaders.

Gina: As a ministry leader, it can seem overwhelming to sit down with every small group leader and go through the WHY. But you just answered that with your story. That starter kit led to a deep impact on that family’s life.

Mike: You said – “you don’t have to do everything.” Do something. In doing something, you’ll do more than just saying, “I don’t want to do it until I can do everything.”

Gina: Just do a few things and you’re still going to win.

Mike: The best way to partner with a parent isn’t through your printable handout. It’s not through an app. It’s not through an event. It’s through a relationship with someone who knows their kid—your small group leader.

My church does a great job of trying to partner with me through emails and resources. But because I’m busy, a lot of those go in the trash. I just don’t have the time. But when my kids’ small group leader reaches out through text or email, you better believe I am fully engaged because I am for anybody who is for my child.

Kevin: One of our leaders said there have been a couple kids where they reach out to the parent and a parent doesn’t respond. We tell them, don’t let that discourage you. One in particular has three daughters. Very busy. Don’t take it personally. I promise you, if you continue to press through, eventually they are going to respond – when they need it especially.

Mike: They may never need it when things are going great. But I promise you, when things go south, they’re going to remember, there’s this person who keeps sending me things. I know who to reach out to.

Gina: Tom Shefchunas always says when you show up at a time you don’t have to, it changes the nature of the relationship. It says, “you matter.”

When it comes to parent connections and resources, it’s like Lost and Found. I’m not looking for the Lost and Found until I’ve lost something. Then it’s urgent. If you’re showing up regularly, the time I need it most, that’s the lifeline I’m reaching out to.

Mike: It may sound intimidating to a small group leader, but you don’t need the answers. It’s about being present and pointing them to other resources if needed.

Kevin: You’re also not there to parent. It’s about being present for the kid so that you can build the relationship and be there to help, pray, and reach out.

Gina: It takes the pressure off. You don’t have to have all the solutions. That’s a key to communicate to small group leaders. Just be present. Just show up.

Mike: Show them the love of God. My daughter’s small group leaders are two high school girls. They are not theologians, but they love Jesus and my daughter thinks they are everything. I am for those girls because they are for my daughter. They are amazing examples for her.

Set up the initial connection.

Leverage technology to connect.

Be there as a resource for the parents. Encourage them and let them know that you are praying.

It doesn’t require more budget dollars or much time. It’s being strategic.

Mike does our closing ditty! We are so impressed. And we need Kellen back.

THE TAKEAWAY

This week, block out a short time to consider how you’re equipping small group leaders to connect with parents. Are you sharing the WHY and the HOW?

Make a plan to help your small group leaders understand the value of:

  1. Setting up an initial connection with parents.
  2. Leveraging technology to continue connecting.
  3. Being present as a resource for parents, without needing to have all the answers.