Using a parent newsletter to impact teens [interview]

The ParentLinkIf you’ve ever tried using a parent newsletter to communicate with the parents in your youth group, chances are it’s either very successful or almost a waste of time to create.

Thankfully, the people at The ParentLink do a great job of creating a great customizable ready-to-go parent newsletter. I used them for several years and loved it! So when I got an opportunity to interview the editor of The ParentLink, Stephanie Martin, I had to take it.

I asked her about how we can use parent newsletters effectively to connect with parents in our ministry.

TIM: With all the other things that demand time and attention in a youth ministry, how important is a regular, parent newsletter and why?

Stephanie MartinStephanie: Communicating in a predictable, reliable way not only conveys professionalism but also shows that you’re on the same team as parents. It lets moms, dads, and guardians know what’s happening in your ministry and that you’re willing to partner together to raise up young people who love Jesus. Plus, newsletter communication sends the message that you’re available and approachable. So when issues arise, parents will feel comfortable talking to you about their kids and families.

TIM: Based on your experience, how effective is a parent newsletter in engaging parents and helping them become the spiritual leaders in their homes?

During the three years I’ve been editing The ParentLink, the value of a regular parent newsletter has really become evident. Subscribers tell us that parents are eager for knowledge about raising kids who will own their faith. Parents are also hungry for advice about handling developmental issues that are common during adolescence. A newsletter not only keeps parents informed about youth meetings and activities but also can provide a faith boost for parents — and energize them for the important task (and privilege) of nurturing their teenagers spiritually.

TIM: I’ve used parent newsletters before and it worked great with some parents. With others, not so much. The parents who read it and used the information in it were the parents who were already owning their responsibility to nurture their kids spiritually. The parents who didn’t use it didn’t change their value system and become spiritually influential parents just because I gave them a newsletter. How can youth workers use a newsletter effectively for the parents who aren’t engaging with their kids spiritually?

Good question! Obviously, a newsletter won’t be the answer to every parent’s needs. It won’t always suffice to just send the publication home or to e-mail it to busy or uninterested parents. So interaction is key. That may come in the form of chatting with a parent in the hallway on Sunday, (“Hey, be sure to check out the article on page 3; I thought it was especially helpful,”) to using newsletter content to launch discussions at a parent meeting (“What ideas in this issue worked and didn’t work for you? What are some other things you need help with in this particular area?”) Persistence will pay off, as parents notice newsletter topics that are particularly relevant to their teenagers and families.

TIM: What elements should be included in every parent newsletter?

Each newsletter should have Bible-based content that’s inspirational, encouraging, and educational. Practical tips and ideas are a must so parents can apply them to their own situations. A newsletter should also encourage discussions and interaction between parents and their teenagers. The ParentLink includes expert advice and relevant resources for further reading. We also devote space to statistics and media (musicians, movies, and video games) so parents can stay updated about what’s happening in youth culture. Finally, it’s helpful to have eye-catching graphics, a calendar of upcoming events, and a personalized note from the youth leader.

TIM: What’s a good length for a parent newsletter? You want it to be long enough to be worth their time, but not too long that they toss it aside for when they have more time (which is never).

With The ParentLink, we’ve found that four to six pages is ideal. You need enough room to provide “meaty” content and practical tips, yet you don’t want to overwhelm parents with too much material. If length is a problem, try combining some of your pages (such as the calendar and personalized note to parents). Another option is to cut down on the photos or graphics, especially if you’re e-mailing the newsletter.

TIM: Any other tips and advice you have for youth workers who are thinking about starting a parent newsletter or are already doing one?

The time you invest in regular communication with parents will definitely pay off. They’ll feel appreciated and informed, and they’ll be reminded of the importance of nurturing their teenagers spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

If launching your own newsletter seems too overwhelming, consider trying a service such as The ParentLink. It’s an affordable, professional way to provide valuable material to parents that you can customize as needed. They provide ways to distribute the newsletter in both printed and electronic form and, as I mentioned earlier, I used it for years and definitely recommend it.

Posted on March 22, 2011

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