Are we teaching parents to teach their children? Greg Baird writes, “Parents are primarily responsible for the discipleship of their children, but that does not mean the church has no responsibility in this area.” This timely article will help you build a multi-generational, God-honoring children’s ministry.
There’s a lot of talk right now about what children’s ministry and/or family ministry should look like. There are unprecedented resources available, offering so many options for programming. This is fantastic! Often times, however, we who lead in this area make the decisions about what our program will look like with little regard for what families might want.
My experience is that families have definite opinions – expressed or not – about what they want. These opinions provide a great starting point – a great connecting point – for our program (whether it’s called “children’s” ministry or “family” ministry).
Here are a few words that come time mind when I think about what families want in my ministry:
Plain & simple, they want program to be fun. That’s what kids are all about, right? Like it or not, if your program isn’t fun, it isn’t going to work.
Investment. Few parents or children will articulate this, but it’s an expectation in most families. They want and expect a spiritual investment by the church. Yes, parents are primarily responsible for the discipleship of their children, but that does not mean the church has no responsibility in this area. This may seem obvious, but it requires an intentional approach that many ministries lack.
I believe (and studies by Barna Research indicate) that most parents understand their spiritual responsibility toward their kids. Many just don’t know how to fulfill that responsibility, so they want a partnership with the church in two areas:
- At church – knowing their kids are receiving a spiritual investment when they are there;
- At home – receiving equipping and other opportunities to help guide them in their own spiritual investment in their children.
Families are busier than ever. While I don’t necessarily like it, families don’t want or need the expectation of weekly attendance, or presence at every church event. Truth is, most churches have ridiculous expectations of families when the entire calendar is combined. Men’s, Women’s, Youth, Children’s & Small Group ministries can ALL be scheduled weekly. Add that to regular services and special events and I wonder sometimes what we’re thinking! Outside activities are important, also, as is school (oh yeah!), so families want and expect flexibility when it comes to programming and expectations.
In this day and age, most families can access excellence when it comes to spending their time. If it’s not excellent in the church, many will find it elsewhere. Because of the unprecedented access we have to resources and learning, there really is no longer any excuse for anything but excellence in our ministry. I believe excellence means high standards in how we present our program, and variety in what program we present.
Maybe I should say “quality” communication. There is a tremendous amount of noise in our lives today. We are bombarded more than ever by a consistent stream of gibberish. Our communication is among that noise. Making our communication stand out, offered through a variety of channels, and making it consistent, is necessary and expected for families.
Here’s my short list of some of the things families need (in no particular order of importance):
You’ve seen me write on here before what I learned from John Maxwell & seen proven over 20 years of ministry since then: Everything rises & falls on leadership. It’s no different in our churches and with our families. Yet so many churches we work with lack this essential characteristic in their children’s and family ministry. What is leadership? Leadership is the capacity to influence others toward the pursuit of a worthy vision. Can you do that? If not, learn to. And make it your #1 priority. Develop others to do the same. You’ll be amazed at how your ministry will change. (BTW, paired with leadership is ensuring that ministry management happens, as well. Management is the ability to coordinate the efforts of those pursuing [what should be] a worthy vision.)
We mentioned this in the last post, but I’m listing it again because it is so important. We need to develop an ability to communicate many things – from the vision of our ministry to the smallest details – through a variety of ways. The burden is on us, not on them, to ensure it’s heard.
Specifically, a spiritual formation plan which partners with parents on behalf of their children. If a child proceeds through our ministry from birth through 5th or 6th grade, how will their spiritual formation progress? What’s the plan? How do you evaluate their progress? How do you equip parents to participate in this plan? How do you adjust to fit into the parents discipleship processes with their children? What’s the plan??? Remember, most parents recognize the fact that they are the primary spiritual influencers in their child’s life, but most simply don’t know how to do it. Offering a plan goes a long way in helping them fulfill their obligations.
What opportunity do families need? They need opportunity to serve together. When children and families serve, the likelihood of faith ownership increases dramatically. Find ways to allow families to serve – anything and everything from cutting out crafts to participating in family missions trips. There is little you can do that will shape faith more practically than presenting opportunities to serve.
The other “bookend” to my ministry philosophy (the first being the statement on leadership mentioned above), is this: Ministry happens best in the context of relationships. Whatever you are trying to accomplish, you’re going to do it better and it’s going to impact deeper if there’s a relationship involved. Build relationships with kids and with parents (and train your team to do the same). Teaching will be better. Attendance will be better. Recruiting will be better. You get the idea.
George Barna writes, “Churches that facilitate a strong parent-church partnership have the greatest success.” Parents need support to train their kids and they’re looking to you for tools. Raising Godly Children Parenting Toolkits are a unique family of resources created to intentionally equip Christian families. We’ve also developed a series of free resources “Raising Godly Children Family Discussion Guides” for your parents.
Discipleship Begins With Our Children
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Article used with permission. Greg Baird
About Greg Baird
Greg is a Children’s Ministry veteran with over 20 years ministry experience. Greg has had the privilege of serving in four San Diego area churches, including under the leadership of both John Maxwell and David Jeremiah. He continues to fulfill his life calling through the ministry of Kidmin360, offering an experienced voice in equipping and connecting Children’s Ministry leaders around the country and around the world.