In the last post I gave five practical thoughts on communicating with the parents in your ministry and what is most likely your biggest problem. Today I want to give you practical ways to communicate and share how we are communicating with parents in our ministry.
Before we dive in let me say this, there are tons of ways to communicate in our day and age. What works in one ministry may not work in another. The key in anything is to find what is effective in your context and do it. Below are six ways we communicate with our parents:
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Even with all the technology surrounding us we have found that used sparingly and strategically, mail-outs are still effective for us. We generally send out two kinds of mail-outs.
-We send letters to students who visit that have a voucher (nothing fancy here) for a free t-shirt is they bring it back the next time they visit.
-We send letters to parents inviting them to attend the Parent’s Retreat we host each year
-We send invitations to our graduate banquet
-We send random “prayed for you” post cards to students
-We send event promo post cards to every student in our database
-We send post card reminders for camp/events
There are few better ways to communicate than a Parent’s meeting. The trouble is, you rarely get the parents you really need to communicate to at the meetings. Nevertheless, do not “say no” for them by not having these meetings. Meeting offer you an opportunity to be more detailed than other ways of communicating with parents. They also allow you to answer questions that a parent may have in regards to your ministry. We have several meetings a year:
5th GRADE GRADUATION
we have a small meal and celebration with our upcoming 6th graders just before school starts. This is one of our better attended meetings since many parents are still a little uncertain of the fast approaching teen years.
BEGINNING OF THE SCHOOL YEAR
-We lay out the major events on our calendar and pricing
-We offer ways they can plug-in and serve in the Student Ministry (and have them sign up)
-We inform them of other ways to stay in the loop throughout the year
-I share statistics and facts on teens
-I STRONGLY encourage them to be discipling well at home.
Mailchimp (Affiliate link) is a web-based email marketing service. If helps and allows you to design email newsletters, share them on social networks, and track your results. We use Mailchimp for all of the emails to our parents. There are so many reasons you should be using Mailchimp if you are not, but here are a few I REALLY like:
Now that is budget friendly huh? There are paid packages as well that come with some pretty sweet add ons, but the free version is more than sufficient for your ministry needs. The “Free” package allows you to send 12,000 emails per month and have up to 2,000 subscribers on your list. There are no contracts and it doesn’t require a credit card.
PARENTS CAN SUBSCRIBE AND UNSUBSCRIBE ON THEIR OWN.
This is less that you have to manage and worry about. Set up your sign-up form (or not, but you can customize it), put a link on your website (more on that in a second), and send out the emails!
YOU CAN SEND EMAILS TO ONLY A SEGMENT OF YOUR LIST
-Want to just email Middle School parents…easy peasy
-Want to just email one person on the list…no prob
YOU CAN TRACK WHO OPENS AND IF THEY CLICK ON THE LINKS YOU INCLUDE
-No more, “I didn’t get that email,” because you can see who opens it and even how many times.
-I would use it for this reason alone
If you have a blog for your Student Ministry (more on that in a second) you can set up Mailchimp to automatically send out new posts (just like the subscribers to TheLongerHaul.com get) and they get your blog updates directly to their inbox.
When it comes to communicating with parents in our ministry, our Student Ministry website is crucial. WordPress allows us to do this extremely effectively. You do not have to be a web developer to build a decent website on WordPress.com. Best of all you can get a WordPress.com site for FREE. It does take a bit of time to get set up like you want it, but it is time well spent. Here is how we use our website:
-General announcements and updates
-Schedule of what is going on
-Updates while at camp or on mission trips
We do not allow our students to bring phones or electronics on most of our trips and retreats. So to make sure parents are in the know of what is going on, we try to update throughout the event as often as possible by giving a run down of what happened and some pictures from the day.
NOTE: When it comes to WordPress there are a couple of options. There is WordPress.com which is free and there is WordPress.org which is a self-hosted site (like this one). We have been using WordPress.com for the last 4 years and it has been great. There are a ton of posts out on the great World Wide Web that describe the differences and advantages to on over the other.
However, I have been really been considering going self-hosted for our student site recently. There is a lot more flexibility as to what you can do with the website on a self-hosted platform. There are a ton of plug-ins through WordPress.org that allow you to add tons of features and abilities to your blog that are not available with a WordPress.com site.
If you do decide to pursue a self-hosted option, would highly recommend BlueHost (aff. link) for a number of reasons.
-They are extremely reliable and reasonable.
-They have GREAT customer service.
-Most of all though, they were the only hosting provider I could find that did not allow pornography sites to be hosted on their servers.
The last reason was the main reason I chose BlueHost.
If you are not already leveraging a website, or are unsure about how it would work in your context, my suggestion would be to start with a free WordPress.com site. See how it goes and get familiar with everything. Once you get going you can always go self-hosted later.
There are several texting services out there that allow you to send mass texts, but for us we have decided to this point to just use twitter. As with anything there are pros and cons. Here are the most pressing ones:
-It is FREE! (always a big pro)
-If they have a twitter account they can easily follow us
-They can sign up to receive the updates on their own
-You DO NOT have to have twitter account to receive updates to your phone
-Aside from setting up multiple twitter accounts there is no way to segment your subscribers
-You really can’t know who is signing up and getting the updates
-You are limited to the 140 characters
Still for us, the Pros (FREE mainly) outweigh they Cons for us. So to this point we have stuck with only Twitter.
In our ministry we are seeing more and more students step away from Facebook. Nevertheless, when it comes to communicating with Parents, Facebook works well. We use Facebook in a number of ways:
-We have a Fan Page that we put (much of the same from the WordPress site…which gets sent through Mailchimp…and automatically posted to the FB) information, promotions, and reminders on.
-We create groups for our mission teams to be able to communicate in between training meetings.
-Some of our small groups utilize these as a means of communicating throughout the week.
Again, when it comes to communicating with Parents the possibilities of limitless. There really is not an excuse for us to not be communicating. As we said in the first post, there will still be parents who miss it. Our responsibility is to provide as many avenues as possible and be above reproach.