Q: “How do we engage these parents, who act more like agents and personal assistants, to be the primary influence in their child’s spiritual formation?”
First of all, let me say this. this generation of kids are very family oriented. When asked, the majority of these kids will say Mom or Dad is their hero. This is a fact that can offer all of us hope for this generation. We all have to engage parents to parent.
Also, if you talk with most parents, they will all tell you with sincerity that they care. They wonder if they are really raising their kids well. I don’t know any parent who wants their kids to end up spoiled, misguided, or confused. But parenting is hard work.
Just Friday I was having a conversation with a fellow staff member at the church. He said point blank, “I never thought parenting would be as difficult as it has been.”
And he’s right. We want our kids to be safe. We want them to love Jesus. We hope they do well in school, have friends, behave in public and have great manners at the diner table. We work really hard at doing all of this, than one morning we hear something from the basement.
“When did they learn that word?!”
Somewhere between the school bus, some show on TV, and my own road rage of course they learned that word.
As parents, it’s too easy to coast. I think we’re all roller-coasters of involvement. It’s no wonder our kids are confused whether to call us friends or parents. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Parents are called to parent.
Parents have exponentially more time with their kids than we do at the church. How can we spend some of our resources helping parents be the best care-givers they can be?
Here are some principles to guide your ministry with parents:
1. Invite them along for the ride.
We often think that if parents want to know something that they’ll just ask us. Or if they don’t like something that they’ll just tell us. The truth is more like they’ll ask or tell someone else before they talk with us.
How are we inviting parents into the right conversations? We need to seek out their advice on their kids. We need to have their input. We don’t necessarily need to implement everything they suggest; we can’t. We can ask good questions and listen. Remember we partner with them, not the other way around. The more we help parents understand that we’re here to help them, the more likely they will come to us with a need.
2. Regularly communicate vision.
Take every opportunity to share your ministry goals with parents. Do this in ways parents receive information. Most likely, your church bulletin is not that place. How could use social media with parents? Maybe a weekly newsletter will work? How many face-to-face conversations are you having with parents? How about focus groups?
Whatever you choose, keep in mind that you’ll need multiple avenues to communicate the same information. We living in a information-saturated world, most people need to see or hear something at least seven times before they actually hear it.
3. Harness the power of influence.
You will always have at least one set of parents who are on board with your plan. Inspire them to influence other parents with whom they travel this journey. Many of us can’t know every single parent in our ministries, but we can know several with whom we can partner to help other parents.
Even this week, think of three sets of parents that can be part of a focus group. Share a meal with them and let them help you in this difficult task.
4. Treat parents with respect.
This sounds obvious, but I’m pretty sure we can come across as arrogant sometimes. We may have the plan and the “expertise”, but do we have the grace to deliver it in a way that doesn’t make a parent feel stupid? Truth be told, we don’t have all the answers. Many of us who work in children’s and student ministry don’t have kids in those age groups. We have theory, but we don’t always have hard evidence that what we say will work in the lives of these kids. Collectively the parents in your ministry have more intelligence than we do, let’s all approach them with humility.
5. Training Initiatives.
Many parents just don’t know where to start. Hold training events that help your parents with practical information they can use immediately. They can include content: media, pop culture awareness, Internet awareness, etc. You must also offer opportunities for parents to discuss solutions to the issues they face and give them strategies to help them transform their family for the better.
Before you can create these events, you should know what your families need. Talk to five or ten families and have them list the top five issues or questions they face as parents. Create events that answer specific needs for the families in your church and community.
6. Don’t give up.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t get discouraged. Keep investing the time into parents. It’s easy to invest into kids. They (usually) respond positively and will love you no matter what. For parents, it’s just gonna take time. Remember, we’re only responsible to be true to our calling and share vision with parents. It’s their choice whether or not they take you up on it. And while you’re not giving up, pray, pray, and pray some more. This is about the Spirit of God working in their lives. Pray that he moves in their hearts and transforms their family.
What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your ideas!