I remember when I first heard the term “partnering with parents.” It was at a family ministry conference in 2009. It was revolutionary for me as I saw parents as what the Scripture had always described them as. Parents are the primary means God uses in the life of a child to come to an understanding of the gospel in the context of relationship. Jump forward several years, and I am still personally wrestling with what does that look like for me as a dad and for the church I serve? It was just two weeks ago I had this conversation with several other kids pastors and we were discussing how to make this commonly shared understanding a reality. The fact we could have that conversation about how to practically partner with parents only happened because we all assume it’s necessary.
Rather than me telling you partnering with parents is necessary, because I assume that we both agree it is, let me ask you a question.
What does partnering with parents mean to you? In your church, what do you do to leverage the influence parents have in the lives of their kids?
For me partnering with parents used to mean tools and information. Today it means discipleship. The longer I serve in the same church, and the more I follow Christ, what I become aware of more keenly is my need to follow and to lead others to do the same. To partner with parents isn’t about programs and tools, although it uses those means from time to time. To help parents spiritually lead their kids and families, parents need to be disciples and know how to make disciples. We can lower the bar and hope for any sign of life. We must challenge parents to follow Jesus so they will be willing and able to lead their kids into a relationship with Christ. As kids and youth pastors, we need to take a collective step backward and figure out how we can equip, disciple and train parents so they understand and can use the tools we are so eager to hand out.
What does that mean for us?
- Model – I don’t think handouts are enough (this isn’t a hate on handouts). I don’t think apps are enough. We have to model in person to parents what Christian discipleship looks like. This is done through conversations after church, phone calls, personal home visits, coffee and dinner. You can’t model though means; you have to model through life.
- Equip – I am becoming more and more convinced that you can’t equip parents by only giving them answers and tools. You have to give them the answers to the questions they are asking when they are ready to hear an answer. There is no program or easy way to do this. It requires you knowing your church, knowing your families and knowing your God. At Redeemer when kids have questions about God I often point their parents to age appropriate systematic theology books, so parents learn with their kids and to reinforce the home over the expert. We are also working on a series of resources based on questions parents are asking and not just answers we feel parents need to know. Equipment is listening as much as or more than you talk.
- Repeat – Discipleship is not a class, event or moment in time. It is as Eugene Peterson says a “long walk in the same direction.” Once you have done this with a family do it with another, then another. Keep walking, Pastor. Keep walking with your families in the same direction for years and decades, not just months and weeks.
That’s what we are striving to do at Redeemer. I pray that you join me in partnering with parents by disciplining parents. What every kid needs are more people in their life intentionally pointing them to Christ. What every parent needs is someone showing them what that looks like.
So let me ask you again. What does partnering with parents mean to you?
This article originally appeared here.