Priority #7 – Equipping parents to disciple their own children.
Entire books are being written about this priority, and the “family ministry” movement has been gaining momentum for some time now. Why is that? Primarily because many are realizing that the church should not be primarily responsible for the spiritual formation of children. Though the church gladly took on that responsibility, and though parents willingly abdicated it, the truth is, we can’t impact children like their parents can. We are to be partners, and we are to offer programming & teaching which impacts the lives of children, but we can’t replace parents as the primary spiritual influencers.
Consider this quote by Reggie Joiner, founder of the Orange movement:
No one has more potential to influence a child’s relationship with God than a parent…The most awkward attempt of a parent to pray with a son or daughter is a thousand times more powerful than the most seasoned believer who’s not their parent.
I believe that equipping parents is the most important role the church can have in this process. Again, that is far too large a topic for a single blog post, but here are a few ideas to get this started:
- There must be an intentional commitment to the parent equipping process. Ideally this is from “the top down”, meaning it is with the backing of your churches senior leadership. It doesn’t mean they have to be fully engaged, but supportive. As part of the commitment, your internal processes, structures, staffing, programming, etc. need to be designed to enable this commitment.
- There must be a vision cast for the equipping process. Parents need to understand that you are there to help & assist them, but they are the ones primarily responsible for spiritually investing in the lives of their children.
- There must be practical equipping opportunities offered to parents. More and more resources are becoming available to help equip parents. Some you might consider include: Spiritual Parenting, The Legacy Path, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, Faith Begins At Home & Revolutionary Parenting. Resources to help you understand how to implement family equipping in your children’s or family ministry might include: Church + Home, Shift, Family Ministry Field Guide, Think Orange & Collaborate.
Priority #8 – Creating engaging program with the goal of life-change.
While parents hold the primary responsibility for the spiritual formation of their children, that doesn’t let us in the church off the hook. When kids arrive at our doors, we need to do whatever is necessary to engage them in the spiritual formation process. My definition of children’s ministry (besides “controlled chaos”) is: partnering with parents to guide kids toward a HEART for God. The HEART part of that includes 5 elements that I believe must be part of our programming structure and include (click on the link for further explanation of each):
I believe these five elements allow for us to create engaging program with the goal of life-change. Within these five elements, to break it down further, I believe these components must be present in every program offered…it must be:
- Child-centered. Safe attractive & age-appropriate.
- Application-oriented. Easily understood & applied in practical ways in the child’s everyday life.
- Relational. Built on strong, positive & on-going adult/child relationships.
- Creative. Dynamic & attractive to children and incorporating many different forms of communication.
- Fun. A place the child wants to come to.
One final thought on programming: always remember that people come before programming. Program should provide the inviting environment to promote relationships for the purpose of spiritual understanding.