The obvious goal is to engage parents in your ministry. Sometimes, however, we do just the opposite. Here are a few ways I’ve experienced and observed parents being disengaged from ministry:
Overcommunicate trivial information
I used to believe you couldn’t communicate enough. Wrong! In our information-saturated world, people receive literally thousands of messages a day. Focus on communicating what matters, when it matters.
Make your ministry all about your ministry
When I work with churches to help them create healthy children’s ministry, I’ll often ask them something like: Why are you offering this program—who does it benefit? Inevitably the answer is all about something someone in the ministry envisioned rather than about meeting a need for families. It’s pretty easy for us (church staff) to get excited about something—we live and breath this stuff!—but if it’s not meeting a need and being relevant to the families in your church, good luck getting them to buy in.
Assume responsibility for the spiritual formation of their kids
Parents completely understand they are responsible. However, churches often present ministry in such a way that communicates the church is responsible, never making an attempt to equip or partner with parents. Unfortunately, because parents often don’t know how to invest spiritually in their children, they often will simply step back and allow the church to take over.
Place unrealistic expectations on them
A couple of weeks ago at a conference I spoke at, I was asked a question I’m often asked: Should we require parents to serve in children’s ministry? My answer: an emphatic “NO!”
- I have no idea if their giftedness and passions align with our vision (some parents I actually don’t want serving … but if it’s a requirement, it’s hard to pick and choose!).
- I don’t know what challenges they are facing right now that this requirement might exacerbate. I and my ministry are here to serve families, not make life more challenging for them.
- I do know the typical family is incredibly over-scheduled, and requiring service may just cause them to reconsider being part of the church, or not to get connected in the first place. That’s the last thing I want to happen.
So instead of requiring service, I see it as my responsibility to create an environment they want to serve in—something that ranks higher than other areas they might give their time to—and then invite them to serve by sharing a clear and compelling vision for what we are doing.