Are you a children’s pastor? A family pastor? Do you lead a typical children’s ministry? Do you live and breath family ministry? NextGen ministry?
Here’s what I’ve learned from 25 years in children’s and family ministry: It doesn’t matter what your title is or what your ministry is called, supporting parents in your ministry is the key to the success of your ministry. In other words, children’s ministry is family ministry and family ministry is children’s ministry.
But how do we support parents in our ministries, whether children’s or family ministry? Here are four important essentials.
- Be PRO-PARENT
“Pro-parent? Of course I’m pro-parent!” After all, I’m a children’s pastor (or family pastor), right?
But sometimes in our ministries we don’t act like we are pro-parent. We don’t lead with parents in mind. We don’t create our ministries in the best interest of parents. Sometimes we don’t even consider the interests of parents.
Let’s consider just one area of the ministry: program scheduling. Early in my ministry I would become annoyed with parents who couldn’t seem to get their kids to what we offered at church (which included weekend services, midweek services, special events, serving opportunities, classes for baptism, etc.). “How hard can that really be?” I would think to myself.
And then I became a parent. As my kids got in to my own children’s ministry, I began to understand the challenge. I realized I was scheduling parents right out of my ministry! I was trying to do too much. I wasn’t coordinating with youth ministry. I expected every kid to participate every time the doors were open. In other words, it was all about me and my program, not what might be convenient or beneficial to parents.
Scheduling in our ministries is just one example, but there are many areas to consider when we ask the question, “Are we pro-parent in our ministry?”
- Be PROTECTIVE
Parents are entrusting you with what is the most precious, valuable and all consuming thing in their lives. They want to know their kids are physically safe when they leave them with you.
Make sure the systems and processes you have in place are sufficient to keep kids safe. Make sure everyone understands them. Make sure they are being followed.
Also, make safety obvious. Communicate safety when families first engage with your ministry. Post safety-oriented signage—“Your child will not be released at check out without the matching tag given at check in” … or whatever is relevant to your processes. Remind parents that their child’s physical safety is important to you and your team.
But don’t stop there. Remember that it is not only physical safety that we’re responsible for when it comes to the children in our ministry. We are also responsible for the spiritual safety of our children, as well.
What is your plan for spiritual formation of the children in your ministry? If a child were to enter your ministry as a baby and remain there all the way through until they enter youth ministry, how do you know that the teaching they receive is sufficient? That it’s comprehensive? That it’s theologically correct? That it’s everything they need from church in order to have a solid spiritual and biblical foundation of faith?
And what do you do to ensure that the volunteer teachers in your ministry are teaching truth? How do you monitor them? How do you measure success when it comes to your teaching volunteers?
Spiritual safety is just as important as physical safety in ministry, yet often we’re more concerned about the structure of the program rather than the content of the teaching.
Be protective of your children, both physically and spiritually.
- Be PROACTIVE
Most parents understand and affirm that the spiritual formation of their children is primarily their responsibility. Most of them would gladly accept that responsibility.
But many parents, if not most, have little idea about how to intentionally invest in the spiritual growth of their children. Most will not ask for help. Usually, the result of this combination is that parents simply do not invest much in the spiritual lives of their children. At best they leave it to the church to influence their children in the spiritual realm.
But this is not enough. It will never be enough, because God designed parents to be the primary spiritual influence in their child’s life. For good or for bad, this is always the case.
We, as ministry leaders, need to take up the challenge to be proactive in pursuing parents and equipping them to actively engage in influencing their children spiritually. We need to offer resources, have conversations, and equip parents to spiritually invest in their children in their everyday lives (where the influence is primarily going to take place).
- Be PROGRESSIVE
We understand that Mom and Dad are going to have the most spiritual influence on their kids. However, we do have a great responsibility when they are with us at church. We can and do make a difference. For this reason, we have an obligation to make sure we’re relevant, engaging, and up to date with our ministry program.
When parents see this, it not only helps them feel better about what is happening when they leave their children with us on Sunday, but they will also be more receptive to what we’re trying to help them with during the week. An irrelevant ministry on Sunday morning greatly diminishes the relevancy of our voice in other areas. In other words, if you’re still using flannel graph, or if your children’s area is drab and boring and uninviting … or if your communications look like something out of the 70s … you might want to evaluate the relevance of your ministry.
Supporting parents in your ministry is vital to success in your ministry. Being pro-parent, protective, proactive and progressive are important, but here’s the bottom line: supporting parents in your ministry simply means to be PROFICIENT at what you do. I define children’s and family ministry as “partnering with parents to guide kids toward a heart for God.” If this is what we do, then supporting parents becomes a necessary consideration in every aspect of our prayer, our planning, and our program.
Greg Baird has over 25 years experience in children’s and family ministry. He currently serves at David C Cook as the Vice President of Global Resources. Davidccook.com