When it comes to communication with parents, every ministry has their own way of doing it. Some utilize social media, others use email providers. Some ministries may print out yearly calendars. And still others may manage their own websites or incorporate texting services.
Regardless of the means of communication, we must realize the importance of it. Communication with parents is paramount to helping our ministry succeed and in helping parents in disciple their students. Communication isn’t just about getting information out; it is also about helping to equip, empower, and shepherd parents as they love and guide their students.
In this post, I want to highlight aspects of communication that we should be considering as we seek to disseminate information and help to support and guide the parents of our students. I don’t want to say “this is how you must communicate” because how each ministry does this is unique based upon a litany of circumstances. Instead, I want to help us to think critically about the how and why of communication so as to best utilize the resources at our disposal.
How often should you communicate?
We may think the more information we send the better because it allows everyone to know what is going on. But sending emails, texts, or other communications haphazardly can actually be problematic. Getting more communication can often lead to people being overwhelmed or dismissive because it comes too often. Just think about how you feel when your inbox is inundated with emails. You probably delete many without opening them. That is not the response we want.
Instead of sending more communications, we should think ahead and try to communicate everything in only a few ways in a concise and clear manner. Whatever your rhythm looks like, make sure that you aren’t communicating to just communicate but there is intentionality and clarity.
What medium(s) should you use?
When thinking about communication it is important to discern who you are communicating with as that will help you decide what medium to use. For example, if you’re utilizing social media to communicate with parents, it would be most advantageous to choose a platform the majority of them use. If many are on Facebook, but only some are on Instagram, use the platform that will reach the most parents per post.
It is also important to acknowledge your unique context when sending communications. Are people in your community more apt to read emails or text messages? Would physical mail reach more people than social media? Are paper handouts like calendars better resources than a digital newsletter? Asking these types of questions will help you discern what methods will work best for you community and better allow your information to be received, understood, and acted upon.
How much should be communicated?
This is a very important point to remember: communication is about balance. A wise man once told me, “Nick, you over-communicate. You don’t need to give everyone every little piece of the story. Instead, allow them to be a part of your life and story by giving them the opportunity to ask questions and find out more.” My mentor wasn’t telling me not to communicate, but to take a breath and find a balance between overwhelming people and the place where they’re engaged and want to be a part of what I share.
The same is true for our communications to parents. While we may desire to communicate every little detail, the point of the communication may get lost. So be mindful about how much you actually communicate and work toward clear, concise, and helpful information.
What should be communicated?
In short, communication isn’t just about information. Yes, getting out concise and clear information to parents is important but your communication should be more than that. Think of how you relate to and take in information. Do you remember more things when it’s simply informative or when there are stories connected to the information? Do you engage more with emails that simply give you details or ones that are more relational? There’s a reason Jesus uses stories more often than not in His ministry. Stories connect, teach, and guide us because we are designed to connect relationally.
Take time in your communications to share stories of what is happening. Instead of simply posting photos from your trip, share stories about what happened and what you saw Jesus do in the lives of your students. Rather than just share dates of events throughout the year, share how your vision and mission impact what you do and how you’ve seen God use it. Not only are you sharing stories but you’re communicating the heart and passion of your ministry and showcasing the work and power of Jesus.
When should you communicate?
Establishing a rhythm of communication is important and beneficial in making sure what is communicated is received. It helps parents know when to expect to receive something so they will be watching for it. For some ministries monthly communication is best, but for others it may need to be more frequent. It is important to find what works best for you and your community, because if you start over-communicating, information will get lost.
Find a rhythm that works for your ministry and seek to implement it. Our rhythm is a monthly newsletter coupled with a social media rhythm that stays fairly consistent. Our social media seeks to be more interactive with some information, but our emails focus solely on communication and stories. That doesn’t mean you can’t break the rhythm or pattern for certain moments like retreat updates or special events, but the more consistent you are with your rhythm, the more parents will focus on what is shared.