Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” (HCSB) The NIV says, “to equip his people for works of service.” As children’s ministry leaders we often work to equip the people that we lead, but we forget that parents are God’s people too.
They need to be equipped. There was a time; long ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Ok, maybe not, but there was a time in the past when parents knew how to disciple their kids. Well, I’m assuming there was. Either way the truth is that most parents today don’t know how to disciple their children. We now have a generation of parents that were not discipled by their parents. This is not a knock on their parents. When I was a child most families were becoming dual income. This helped pay the bills, but left less time for discipleship in the home. The result that we are left with now is that many parents have never seen what home discipleship looks like. So, they need our help.
It’s our job. The passage above clearly tells us that “equipping God’s people” is part of our job. I can’t think of much better “works of ministry” or a better way “to build up the body of Christ” than parents discipling their kids. This being true, it IS part of our job to equip them.
The kids will benefit. If you’re in children’s ministry I assume you love kids and want what is best for them. It cannot be argued that parents spend more time to with their children that we do. As a result they ARE the biggest influence in the lives of their children. This can be good, or bad. We can TALK about how important Bible reading or prayer is, but if the kids never SEE their parents doing it, then the impact of our words will be greatly diminished. This is not to say that our words are without value, but they will have much more impact if we will take the time to give parents tools to help them disciple the children in their home.
But most don’t use it. Many curriculums these days come with send home papers for parents. These are designed to help parents talk with their kids about what was taught in children’s church, small group, or Sunday school. I have heard many children’s ministry leaders complain that so few parents actually use them. I have experienced this as well. I have gotten so frustrated at times that I stopped sending them home. But, I think there are some things that you can do to help parents make the most of these.
- Inform them: Do your parents know what this strange sheet you give out each week is and what it’s for? Do they know what to do with it? Take some time to teach them how to use this tool to reinforce what was taught the past Sunday.
- Give it to the parents: I know that ANYTHING I give to the kids is going to end up on the floor, or in the trashcan in the bathroom, or in the floorboard of their parent’s car. Giving it to the parents may give the same results, but there is a little more chance that it will get used if you give it to the parents. I know that it can be tricky to find a way to get it in the hands of the parents, but it will be worth it.
- Consider going digital: In my ministry not many of the kids are on Facebook, but most of the parents are. Consider posting your take home pages on there. If they want to print it, they can. If they want to view it on their computer, phone, or tablet they can. Be sure to check with your curriculum publisher to see if this is allowed before you do it. They may not allow you to post it publicly, but may allow you to if you created a closed Facebook group that is only available to the parents in your church.
- Ask them: Talk to some parents and see what they need and how you can help.
At the end of the day, when I got frustrated and stopped providing take home sheets I realized that I was hurting the ones that would use it for the sake of the ones that didn’t. You will never get ALL of the parents to take advantage of the tools you provide. That’s not your problem. For the ones that do take advantage of it the value will be great. For the ones that don’t, you can work to find ways to encourage them to take advantage. It might help to have some of the parents that are using it talk to the ones that aren’t.
Just do something. If you are like me, which I hope your not, then you may have a hard time starting stuff because you want everything to be perfect. The problem with this is that it can keep you from ever starting anything. You certainly need to work and do all you can to be prepared, but there comes a point when you just have to do something. From there you can work to improve it, but you have to start somewhere. Reach out to a few families and start with them. Seek their feedback. Help them learn, and learn from them.