One of the things I am learning nearly 20 years into family ministry is that we often give parents good information at the wrong time. We have more tools at our disposal and bigger budgets than ever before, but we seem to be missing it. We have better looking take home papers than we did 20 years ago and amazing apps to help parents but most things I’ve tried haven’t really hit home. Our problem is that we give them amazing resources but at the wrong time.
If we really want to partner with families and most people I have talked to do want to partner with families, we have to think not in terms of what do I have to offer but more in terms of what questions do the families in my church need answers or resources to. Partnering with parents primarily requires a church that sees the value of families and provides resources and programming that make that value an experienced reality.
How does a church who values family ministry take practical steps to make sure parents and the church are on the same page? We make the idea of family ministry become a reality through community and by answering questions parents are asking when they are asking them.
- Community – One of the things we have lost in our churches and in our culture is the idea of community. When elementary schools provide more community for people than the church, we have lost something that has always made the church a compelling force in the earth. It is through parents meeting other parents that we help families in our church. Community is not just a value on a wall or an app that we download, it’s connecting the old-fashioned way. I like to call it spending time with other humans by having people over or going out. More than a small group, it’s having actual friends. As people who work with kids and youth, we need to figure out how we facilitate community with the families that call our church home.
- Answer questions parents are asking when they are asking them. One of the things I have come to realize is the fact that I can talk about internet safety till I’m blue in the face to new parents or single moms with young kids and it does some good, but when parents have 11-15 year old at home they find me. We do need to prepare parents for things they will need to know but we as family ministry leaders need to know our church family well enough to have answers ready for them when they ask. We live in a time where information is not the problem. Our problem is actually too much information. If we can provide quick, helpful, and timely information, partnering with parents will move from a good idea to reality.
How are we doing this at Redeemer? For the community aspect we are trying to create more events that involve more family interaction rather than a well-scripted slate of activities that are church-directed. We are trying to come up with activities for families that are more social where parents can meet each other and hopefully become friends. One of the most devastating side effects of interactivity through social media is we know more about each other and seem to have less time for each other.
For the questions aspect we are creating a series of questions our community asks often, we then create a short answer for each and a long answer to each. Some people just need their curiosity met while other parents need a resource they can dive into. We are working on a series we call First Steps/Next Steps. First steps are postcards with 3 quick answers to a question many of our parents have. Next Steps is a web address with a resource PDF download for those parents who want to dive deeper into that particular topic. We are starting with 7 questions and will add more and change some based on what we feel our families need. One of those questions has to do with parents helping their kids read their Bibles. Below are the front and back of the postcard we are creating and if you click on either you will be able to download the next steps PDF.
If we can provide a trusted network of real human friends and timely answers to questions they are asking, I believe we as family ministry pastors can move to provide practical solutions that will help make our desire to partner with parents a reality.