Kamis, 24 Desember 2015

How to Get Parents to Pick Their Kids Up on Time

How to Get Parents to Pick Their Kids Up on Time

It’s an annoying and all too common problem. Here’s how to at least get parents to pick up their kids CLOSE to on time.
When I started Smarter Youth Ministry, it was because I wanted to help youth workers deal with their biggest frustrations.
Usually, this meant the BIG stuff.
Fundraisers, volunteer recruiting and management, burnout and stress, out-of-control time management; you know, that stuff.
But when I ask youth workers what’s frustrating them, sometimes they say unexpected things …
… and lately, they’ve all been saying the same thing over and over again:
“It drives me nuts when I get to the end of a very long Sunday and a parent is an hour late to pick up their kid!”

First things first: It is totally OK to be frustrated by this. I’ve read pieces before that say we should celebrate when this happens because it’s extra time to connect with a student and to be in ministry with them. When you put it that way, it seems almost sinful to be frustrated when a mom is 45 minutes late.
But those 45 minutes might mean you don’t get home in time to tuck your own kids in. It might mean making you late for whatever’s next on your schedule.
In our ministry, our child protection guidelines are clear about the fact that I’m not supposed to be alone in the building with a teenager. So if it’s just one student who’s waiting on a ride, I’m either grabbing a volunteer to make them hang around with me …
… or I’m waiting in a compromised situation.
That was reason enough for us to address our problem of late pickup, and imagine my surprise when I learned that the primary problem was me.
Why late parents were kind of my fault
Imagine yourself in this scenario: It’s 8:45. Youth group ended at 8:00. Dylan’s mom finally rolls into the parking lot. She is so apologetic.
I am so sorry, she says.
What do you say next?
Here were my lines:
“Oh, it’s no problem. Have a great night.”
“That’s OK. We had a good time hanging out and playing Exploding Kittens.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m glad I had the time to get to know Dylan a little better.”
I mean, that’s what you’re supposed to say, right? The church is a grace-filled organization, and it’s not like you can just start ranting:
You know what? You should feel sorry! Because of YOU I missed bedtime with my kids. Because of YOU I’m going to have to stop to pick up fast food on the way home because I missed dinner and when the inevitable affects of all that processed junk finally catch up with me, I’ll send YOU my medical bills.

So, because we know grace, and because we’re kind people, we tend to brush off the need for an apology. The problem is this:
If we tell parents it’s “OK” for them to pick their kids up late, they’ll pick their kids up late.

That’s why, before you implement any of these other strategies, the first thing you’ve got to do is find a polite and grace-filled way to tell parents to pick their kids up on time from now on.
Four (easier) ways to get kids home on time

End your programs on time
Here’s why: If your program regularly runs late, parents will start showing up late. It’s hard to be upset with a parent who doesn’t show up at 8:00 if the last three times he showed up at 8:00, he sat in the parking lot and waited.
Post a large sign with the end-time at student drop-off
Parents need this not-so-subtle reminder, especially if your events have irregular end times. In my first year of ministry, I ran a calendar with random events that happened at random times and at random places. Expecting parents to always remember when an event ends at 6:30 versus 7:00 or 7:30 is impossible.
Make it (a little) boring for students who are left late
You don’t need to make them sit in silence until they’re picked up, but if you let them play in the gym until their parents get there, then your students will be the ones encouraging their parents to arrive later and later.
(When we posted our large sign with the 8:00 end time, I heard from at least one mom who was sure it ended at 8:30. Why? Because her son told her it ended at 8:30 simply because he didn’t want to go home yet.)
Give students a 10-minute warning
Ten minutes before your program ends, sound a bell, play a video clip, make an announcement or do something that instructs ALL of your students to text their parents that we’re almost done. Even if your program ends at the same time every week, there are some parents who are waiting for the text from their teenager that says, “Done. Come get me.”
Having students send that text preemptively instead of waiting until they’re done saying goodbye to all of their friends 10 minutes after our posted end-time helped more than anything else.
What else do you do to make sure students get picked up on time? Leave a comment below.  

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