Parents are a vital part of children’s ministry, and it is important to engage them from the very start since they have the primary responsibility of discipling their children.
A Barna Group report on parents found that almost 90% of parents of children under age 13 believe they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual matters. The report concluded that parents are willing to provide spiritual leadership for their children, but are often ill-equipped to lead them in this way.
With that in mind, it is crucial that as church leaders, we come alongside parents to engage and equip them for this important role. Here are four ways we can help:
1. The church must be intentional about the task of engaging parents on a regular basis.
It is important to accomplish this in ways that will meet the needs of both the parents and the children. For example, parents are usually not interested in weekly printed materials but may welcome things digitally.
2. It is important to share relevant and current information with the parents.
Information can be critical in helping parents disciple their children. We should be giving them snippets of what their children learned during Bible classes, as well as easy and effective tools they can use to reinforce these lessons in a variety of settings during the week. This could be something like a fun activity or a reading that may lead to a spiritual conversation. Giving information that is simple and practical goes a long way.
3. Next, the church needs to inspire parents through some of the important milestones in spiritual life, like baby dedications and baptisms.
These special events can be great ways to engage parents in a deeper understanding of church and faith. These events are also a natural stepping stone to get parents more involved by allowing them to have hands-on experiences with their children’s spiritual lives. Church leaders have a great opportunity here to build stronger relationships with parents and give them some coaching and support.
4. Finally, the ministry should have some interactive ways to engage parents and their children.
Ann Cox, children’s minister at South Shore Baptist Church in Hingham, MA, recently shared a five-week Gospel Class that she facilitated for both parents and their children. The class took the Gospel tool: “God’s Plan for Me” and integrated hands-on activities and fun questions that allowed parents to interact with their children as they learned about each step of the Gospel plan. This interactive class gave eight families the opportunity to see and understand where their children are in their spiritual journey plus valuable tools to use in future Gospel conversations.
As leaders and volunteers working with kids, we can’t overlook miss crucial ways to provide much-needed support and care for the families of the church. Let’s seek to be partners with parents as they seek to disciple their children.
Sandy Coelho serves as lay leadership development coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.