Early in my children’s ministry career I didn’t make enough time for parents. I thought if our programs had fun games, good volunteers, and decent teaching then my job was done. Since then I’ve learned this is only a small portion of what a great children’s ministry is all about.
Raising up a generation of world changers requires more than just great programs for kids. A big piece of the puzzle is helping parents win at home the other six days of the week. Here are seven techniques that have helped me partner with parents:
1. Begin with the belief that parents can do their job
In Deuteronomy 6:4-8 God places the responsibility of being a child’s primary faith influencer in the hands of their parents. God hasn’t asked parents to do something He hasn’t made them to do. Partnering with parents starts with this premise: parents are the single biggest influencers in their kids’ lives. We have a greater chance of success when the family and the church work together.
2. Have great stuff for their kids
A big part of our job on the weekend is to help invoke interest to the things of God in the hearts and minds of kids. I’ve noticed that stellar children’s ministry programs usually involve:
- programming with your oldest boys in mind
- plugging kids into small groups
- having fun
- using humor and kid-culture during teaching
3. Put yourself in their shoes
As a future parent, I have to work extra hard on this one. Kids aren’t as independent as junior high or high schoolers. They need their parents to drive them places and pay for everything. Make sure you’re not draining your parents’ resources when you set a calendar. How can we expect parents to live out what we’re communicating when we’ve got them out every night of the week?
4. Communicate regularly
Parents benefit from regular communication pieces from you to keep them in the loop on everything that is going on in your ministries. It doesn’t matter if you use email, blogging, Facebook, twitter, or snail mail. Just get it out to them and get it out consistently. Doug Fields did some great articles here and here about how to do this. Kurt Johnston also did a great post about “The Top 10 Things NOT to Say to Parents.” I use a blog for the parents of HDC Kids.
5. Resource the whole family
Every good trip has a roadmap and every good ministry has a plan for developing Christ-likeness. Give parents a plan, show them how to use it, and give them tools to work with during the week. There are great books, curriculums, podcasts, blog, articles, and classes out there to use and adapt so don’t feel like you need to create everything from scratch. Check out the Free Stuff and Recommended Resources pages on my blog for some great tools.
6. Get everyone together in the same room
Imagine what a family would be like if they never shared a meal together? We would never do that in our homes, but as leaders we do that with the families at our church by not having programs where kids and parents can be together. One of the things that I love about the curriculum we use at High Desert Church are the family experiences that come with it. This lets us focus more of our time on relationships and spiritual formation and less on all the hassle that comes from creating everything by yourself. Regardless of how often you do this, make time on your calendar to get everyone in the same room.
7. Stay in it for the long haul
Trust takes time. The longer you are around the more chances you have to build cred with the families in your church. Unless God is specifically calling you someplace else resist the urge to move on to “greener pastures” and work to build roots where you are at. Your longevity will allow you to pour into the lives of families and leaders, mature your leadership, and get a glimpse of the life-change that God has been up to through you.
There’s a great movement in churches around the country right now that is helping to reshape the way we minister to kids, parents, and families. Do whatever you can to help parents help their families by guiding them into meaningful worship of God, together in meaningful relationships with each other, and nurturing a meaningful role in their lives so they will be mobilized to demonstrate God’s love to a broken world.