Friday, March 4, 2011

The Other Part of Effective Children's Ministry . . . Part Two!

So what can and should the church do to help parents in these areas? Equipping parents involves training them and this is a vital – sadly often ignored – area of critical ministry the church is in the unique place to offer to parents, both from the church as well as the community. The church can impact church families by offering classes to help parents in the following areas:
  1. Understanding and communicating how to live God’s Word - I highly recommend The Joshua Basket and  Celebrations of Faith as these resources would be easy to develop a parent training and are sure to significantly impact families who implement these celebrations. I also recommend utilizing a curriculum with a unified scope and sequence - check out kidz Connection
  2. How to parent children and help them learn to make wise choices - I recommend Parenting with Love and Logic
  3. How to be a steward of their time and resources, check out Financial Parenting 
The church can impact and equip church and community parents by offering classes in these areas as well:
  1. How to discipline their children – all parents need help with this vital area, I recommend Parenting with Love and Logic 
  2. Marriage – both to strengthen and help when it is struggling - check out Marriage Love and Logic, The Five Love Languages: the Secret to Love that Lasts,
  3. Divorce recovery - check out Love Must Be Tough, The Smart Step-Family, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage
  4. Finances,  check out Financial Parenting and Financial Peace University
I had the opportunity to talk with Children's Pastors from churches across the country to see what they are doing to equip parents and how they get church and community parents to attend their training opportunities. Most of the churches I spoke with told me while they wanted to provide opportunities to equip and train parents and knew this had to be a vital component of effective ministry to their kids, they were not really doing so. The churches that were providing any equipping and training opportunities were mostly implementing them through their small group ministry. These opportunities were successful because to begin with, the invitations to attend – especially to community parents – were delivered personally, by a church parent and the class began with a relationship in place to build from. In fact, one large church told me 90% of community parents were brought into their church by relationships with those who attended the church. People in and out of the church are looking for real relationships and if we provide opportunities for people to find these relationships and at the same time strengthen their parenting skills, their marriages, their families, we will not only find parents attending our training classes, but will find ourselves successful at the other part of effective ministry to children – building, equipping and encouraging the family as well!

We only see kids for a few hours a week. If parents understood their roll as primary trainers/teachers for their children and felt equipped and confident to do so, these families would be strengthened and our ministry would be many times more effective. We need to evaluate and include in our written ministry statement measurable goals relating to equipping and encouraging parents to train their children as many parents will step into and fill their role if they feel equipped and are encouraged to follow-through.

Along with equipping and encouraging parents we do have a role to fill in coming alongside and building on what parents are teaching their children. We need to evaluate our Sunday school, mid-week ministry and other opportunities for children to be involved in our ministries to be certain these opportunities are genuinely effective. We want children whose parents do train them to be further challenged to continue to understand and live God’s Word as they participate in the opportunities we develop and provide at church. We also need to be aware, while many parents will fill their role when they understand and are equipped to do so, there will be parents who – for whatever reason – will not accept this role. In these cases, we in the church have a “surrogate” role to fill with these kids. We can have a truly effective ministry which impacts lives in real and lasting ways and while we strive to pass a legacy of faith to these kids, we need to also continue to try and reach the parents so they will put their faith in Christ and then be equipped and encouraged to train their children.

Ministry to children is too important for us to ignore building, equipping and strengthening families. If we have a ministry to children we also have to have a ministry to parents and the family as well. When we commit to the whole ministry we will see families in the church strengthened and families from the community reached for Christ making a real, lasting and measurable impact on the community!

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