Partnering with Parents

I love seeing how different Churches do NextGen (Next Generation) ministry. Last Sunday, my family and I visited a Church and were very impressed with their attention to detail in how they engaged families in the kids ministry program. From the ChildSafe operations to the intentionality of the leaders connecting with families, it was refreshing to see the focus on ensuring young people were involved in a well-honed program.
One thing really caught my eye; on the back of the leaders’ t-shirts were the words ‘Partnering with Parents’. I loved this; it wasn’t just part of their DNA as a generational team, it was absolutely pivotal.

Partnering with parents is crucial when it comes to the spiritual growth of our young people. We are learning more and more the importance of empowering and equipping parents with the tools to disciple their children in an effective, united way.

But first, let’s look at some realities. Parents have far greater influence than the Church when it comes to the discipleship of their kids. Orange puts a figure around this to help us understand just how crucial the spiritual mandate of the parents is. On average, the Church has around forty hours per year to invest in the lives of kids. Not only do these forty hours need to be used extremely strategically and wisely, but it also means that we as Church leaders need to be investing in the parents’ discipleship role. Parents on average have three thousand hours to sow into their kids spiritual walk. That’s right. Forty versus three thousand hours. Parents have far greater opportunity to disciple their kids, so how are we as the Church equipping the parents?

As a parent of four children, I can honestly say that a lot of it is guesswork. The old adage of ‘parenting doesn’t come with a manual’ rings true so often, so it becomes very evident that parents need some coaching, empowering and equipping in how to disciple their children. Gone are the days of ‘just drop your kids and leave’ when it comes to Church-based programs. We need to be intentional as a partnership; Church and family coming together to lean into the same vision of seeing our young people grow in their faith.

So how do we partner with parents? In my experience, there are several ways. Some universal and some open.

Universal
Some universal ways to partner with parents is to keep them informed. This can be through email, phone call, text, newsletters, face-to-face, social media posts etc. In my experience, the more the better, as long as it’s a consistent message that includes big-picture thinking . That is, the why. Here is one example of a text message I sent out to parents.

Hey parents! It’s so good to be partnering with you! I just wanted to let you know that this week at youth, we are talking about serving, with a focus on 1 Corinthians chapter 12. It would be amazing for you to have a read through this chapter and begin to ask your youth “what gifting do you believe God has given you to serve His Church and others?”
We believe serving is crucial in spiritual growth in our young people, so what an opportunity to sow into your kids! Thanks so much for allowing us to journey with you; you’re all doing an incredible job!
Blessings, Luke 🙂

Another great way of communicating with parents is to not have a set agenda with details of events and/or lessons (as above). Instead just ask how they are doing, or how you can pray for them. This shows that you genuinely care about them and want to support them, because that’s what a partnership is; supporting each other.

If you use the Orange curriculum, I strongly recommend using ‘Parent Cue’. It’s a resource that literally cues parents in how to communicate the Biblical truths the young people are learning at Church as well as gives them strategies in general parenting.
You could also create your own ‘Parent Cue’ system where parents are informed about what their children are learning and can best position themselves to ask follow-up questions in a natural way.

Open
I use the word ‘open’ partnering because it’s crucial to understand that every parent:

1. Is at a different stage of faith investment 
2. Receive and communicate partnership differently

In the book ‘Think Orange’, Reggie Joiner goes through the varying stages of parent partnership, which helps us understand how to best engage each individual family.

  • Aware- These parents are ‘aware’ of what their child is doing in Church but is not overly invested in the discipleship process. Every parent I know genuinely wants to be a better parent, so this is a great opportunity to share with them how they can do this on a faith level. 
  • Involved- The involved parents are the ones who are doing base-level discipleship. They are bringing their kids to Church/Youth group; they care about the basic spiritual needs of their youth. 
  • Engaged- These parents are committed to partnering with your church/ministry. They are seeking to grow in their relationship with God and accept some responsibility for spiritual leadership at home
  • Invested In an ideal world, every parent would be at this stage. These parents are those that understand and grasp the vision and strategy of the Church and are taking active steps to contribute. These parents are also excellent partners with other parents as we all move toward the same goal.

Lastly, we need to acknowledge that each parent responds to partnering approaches differently. I’ve had parents who prefer to have dinner with me to discuss their child’s faith journey whereas other parents are content with a simple text message.
There is no cookie-cutter way to partner with parents, but I have learned that the more personal, the better.

The reality is that like the parents, we love our young people. And we both want to see them grow in their faith as they disciple others. The Church cannot do it alone; not can the family. But combined, an incredible synergy of discipleship is formed. And this is what will build empowerment and sustainable faith.

What are some ways you partner with your parents?

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