This morning I was one of several speakers at Super Saturday, a 1/2 day children’s ministry training event which took place in Lake Oswego, Oregon, just south of Portland. My friends Joel Smith, Children’s Pastor of Lake Bible Church, and Ron Imig, Director of Child Evangelism Fellowship in Portland, collaborated to put this conference together. About 200 church leaders, sunday school teachers, children’s directors, and parents attended. Keith Ferrin of “That You May Know” ministries was the keynote, and several others led the breakout sessions.
I led one 45 minute workshop on the topic of partnering with parents: very intentional parenting. What follows is a sketch of my workshop notes for this session.
My introduction into the world of partnering with parents intentionally was more an outcome of the church’s need and (honestly) my reluctant cooperation with God’s plans, than any desire on my part to be the family ministry guy at my church. Indeed, I still am not the family ministry guy there. I am simply a local volunteer children’s pastor who is trying to help families navigate the opportunities and perils of raising children in an individualistic, secularized culture. Yet, I am learning some things along the way.
There are several notable models of family ministry. Much of the recent literature in evangelical circles focuses on the home-centered/church supported variety. For my part, I am partial to this, plus adding a mixture of missional ethos and opportunities for excellent campus experiences, both for children and parents in particular, and for families in general.
Given that most people tend to resist change when it personally affects them (more so in traditional contexts with long-term devotion to a certain way of doing things), I suggest a few steps in the process of initiating change.
- Discover your current situation in your church.
- Start small, but decisively.
- Communicate widely with multiple methods. Never underestimate the power of a personal invitation face-to-face.
- Be positive.
- Reproduce and decentralize in terms of the initiative.
I utilize parent coaching in my context. Borrowing from the insights of Karl Bastian of Kidology, I call it VIP, or Very Intentional Parenting. In fact I have a blog specifically set up for it at viparents.wordpress.com. My approach is just a beginning, since I am starting small. I invite parents into a weekly conversation via email, phone, or in person as necessary. I ask them to identify one area they would like to work on as a family for a ten week period. I also ask them to attempt to disciple their children intentionally. Each week I try to resource them, and also I ask open-ended questions intended to help steer them toward realization of their goals. In a sense, they set the agenda and own the process. I merely come alongside them to cheer them on, encourage them, resource them, and network them with others for more assistance if necessary.
It is a conversation. Ideally, the initiative to move forward will migrate to them so that they no longer need me, or they become motivated to help others in the same way. I am seeing early signs of that in at least one of the families I am working with.
There are three basic characteristics I notice in most parents I work with.
- They want to do the right thing. They want what is best for their children.
- They are not always sure what to do.
- They want help, but are sometimes hesitant to ask for it.
Here are some suggestion about how the church can respond.
- We need to communicate that we are for parents, not against them.
- We need to walk alongside parents in their journey. Consider the risk to sheep who are isolated from the herd and from their shepherd.
- The center of gravity needs to shift from the church campus to the home, but this does not lesson the importance of what happens in community, whether on campus or elsewhere.
- We need alignment of vision which offers a seamless generational pipeline from birth to adulthood (thank you to Benny Perez for this insight).
- In CM, we need to produce high impact weekend experiences which honor Christ as well as parents and their role.
- We need to become conversant with the Biblical Basis for Parental Responsibility.
- We need to help families navigate the normal routines of life in preparation for their milestones (referred to Brian Haynes’ book “Shift”).
Suggested a few websites: kidology.org, toyboxtales.com, lifechurch.tv