Recently our community experienced a great tragedy in which it was revealed that an individual who was highly respected and trusted had been living a life of unbelievable sin for decades. Yet again, a trusted leader who claimed to be a believer in Jesus had broken trust with an entire town.
Our world hears these stories over and over. In this case, it was a highly esteemed teacher. In many cases it is a pastor, a youth pastor, a government official, or some other high level leader who messes up big time and causes many to wonder who can truly be trusted.
We live in a world where cynicism and distrust are prevalent. Gone are the days where it is people’s first instinct to trust church leaders, and honestly, who can blame them?
So, how can we build trust with parents in such an untrusting culture? Here are seven ways I’ve been thinking about. You can leave a comment below to add your own thoughts.
1. Have very strict safety procedures in place. Make sure you have a very specific plan for how children are kept safe in your environments. Do background checks of everyone who is around kids. Restrict who has access to children. Be clear about diapering and restroom procedures. Don’t ever allow one adult to be alone with children. Have a system that ensures that the right child goes with the right parent.
2. Communicate your procedures. Procedures are great, but parents need to know what they are. Build trust by communicating what you are doing to keep their children safe.
3. Be consistent. Procedures to keep kids safe do no good unless they are followed consistently. Whatever your systems are, do your best to enforce them and to be uniform. God forbid that the one time we forget to check a tag it is and adult who does not have authority to pick up a child. Yes, parents may grumble about some of the policies, but in the long run it builds trust to be consistent.
4. Build relationship. Put yourself in a position where at some point each week you can connect with parents. It might be greeting them as they come in, or saying good-bye as they leave. It may be visiting grown-up Sunday school classes. It might be greeting outside of the worship center. Occasionally consider teaching classes for grown-ups or investigate other ways that you can connect with them. Look for opportunities for your teachers and workers to connect with parents. Help parents know who they are leaving their kids with.
5. When you mess up, admit it. Sometimes in ministry we don’t want to admit when we blow it. But we will. We will put a kid in a wrong room or a kid will get hurt from a goofy activity or lose someone’s permission slip. We can either be defensive and full of excuses, or we can just say we are sorry and make it better. We build trust with parents when we just say we are sorry.
6. Look for ways to serve. Matthew 20:28 reminds us that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. When we focus alot on what parents should be doing to make our lives better (i.e., they should serve more, they should show up on time, they should do our take-home sheets), we often end up communicating that feeling unintentionally. That does not build trust. Instead, let us focus on serving parents. Look for ways, big and small, to make their lives better.
7. Pray hard. Pray for the kids and families in your ministry. Pray for God to give you favor with them. Pray for Him to help them trust. Pray for Him to show you opportunities to build trust and to reveal ways that you might be losing trust.