Posted by: Justin Wallace | February 26, 2010

Question of the (Fri)day

I’m sure we’ve all received the phone call I received last week.

The phone call from an unhappy parent.

They don’t like what you taught, what you did on a retreat, that you didn’t chose their child for student leadership, or any other thing that you did wrong.

Here’s my question of the (Fri)day ::

What is your response when this phone call comes?

What do you say to the frustrated, over protective, hovering parent?



  1. Personally, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard about a college minister getting that kind of call. (Or, I should say this is the first time I’ve heard of that happening.) But I’m sure it’s more prevalent than I know.

    The calls from parents that I’ve heard about tend to be requests to get in touch with their students to get them to come to church or the college ministry.

    The other parent concern that seems somewhat prevalent are parents who have an overall concern with their child’s ministry involvement, often because they either think the group might be unhealthy (which may or may not be true) or they are uncomfortable with their student’s burgeoning spiritual commitment.

    On that scenario (which is kinda-sorta connected to your question), I’ve seen several ministries preclude objections by having a special page on their site for parents to get info about the ministry.

    Also, groups should consider sending a periodic newsletter (hard copy or email) to parents to keep them in the loop (and it can be a great fundraising avenue, too).

    I know that doesn’t get at your exact question, but those are a couple of ways to preclude the kind of objections you mention. I look forward to hearing how prevalent the situation you posted really is.

  2. I make it a point to communicate with parents of students that I am working directly with. Our mutual insights provide much needed united efforts at nurturing them in healthy spiritual directions. To be honest, this whole area is much easier for me to deal with since I have two college student daughters of my own. Parents generally feel very good about my involvement in their kids’ lives because I can resonate with them.

    Benson’s thought about having a newsletter for parents is an excellent idea. I can say from my own experience of being a peer with parents that the bulk of parents really want to know from a campus minister perspective what is going on, but don’t usually take the initiative in talking with a campus minister. Having parents on board with what you are doing may not be necessary, but it sure does help!

  3. Great thoughts. I feel like we do a pretty good job of communicating with the parents of our students. We send out a quarterly newsletter, we have a fan page on facebook for them and every spring we host a banquet and invite all parents.

    What I have found is this…no matter how well we communicate with them…no matter how much they know and how confident they are in what we are doing and the leadership provided…from time to time (and when I say this I mean it’s happened 2 or 3 times in the last 6 years) if a student doesn’t agree with something that happens in the community and they go home and vent about it…we end up with a phone call from a angry/concerned parent.

    Here’s another thing I’ve noticed…college students only tell their parents what they want them to hear. They tell part of the story. That’s where things go south…they tell part of the story which usually ends of leaving out their responsibility in the story.

    This is when the phone call comes from a concerned parent.

    My response is always to be polite, friendly and listen. I always challenge the parent to challenge their son or daughter to come to a staff member and discuss the issue.

    These are hard phone calls because you know that the parent doesn’t know the whole truth…but is it your place to reveal the whole truth?

    Just some thoughts. Would love to hear other thoughts and maybe stories of people who have similar experiences.

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