Engaging Parents in Your Church in Conversation

Partnering with parents–wait…it’s not what you think. I’m not going to rattle off statistics, cliches and trite admonitions that we need to do better. Instead, I’m going to invite you to consider engaging parents in your church in conversation.

Kidology has graciously agreed to host my doctoral dissertation on its website. You may go directly to the download page here.

I won’t lie: it’s a dissertation, not a popular level book on church life. That said, I do define obscure terms in a brief glossary of terms within the dissertation. Also, the formatting of the work follows conventional scholarly protocols within my academic discipline. In other words, it may seem academic at some points, and downright dry at others.

Nevertheless, I happen to know there are gems contained therein. The literature review alone is worth the download. But of greater significance is where the study led me in terms of practical application: parent coaching.

Although I am no longer a Children’s Pastor or church leader of any kind, I continue to use the principles learned as I engage my neighborhood in mission. Don’t be put off by the title Praxis of Nurture in Small Churches. Praxis refers to truth discovered in action, as well as applied truth. It speaks to the necessary synthesis of theory and practical application and how they inform and impact each other in mutual process.

The reference to small churches was chosen against the advice of my primary reader. He thought I was unnecessarily limiting the impact of the work. He was probably right in some respects especially insofar as parent coaching truly can be beneficial to any size or type of church context. But I do not regret my decision because of the reasons stated in the body of the document which can be summed up as: small churches cannot always hire to their weaknesses so we need to think through how we might help families intentionally disciple their children without the aid of professionally trained specialists.

If you are a church leader who impacts parents and families, I hope you give the dissertation a read. It’s relevant for youth and children’s ministry leaders and for senior leadership, too. If you do read all or part of it, log on to the discussion forum to give me your feedback or ask questions. Thanks!

The Need for Parent Coaching

Last year I began a new initiative in my church which developed into a form of parent coaching. It is very loosely based on Karl Bastian’s VIP strategy, which can be found in the Leadership Lab 4, Partnering with Parents. This post suggests one possible scenario which can lead a family toward participating in parent coaching. Although it is fictitious and the names are not meant to represent any real person, I believe it is a plausible situation.   Continue reading

the danger of formulaic ministry solutions

I appreciate having a game plan when I execute ministry initiatives. This is especially true of my ministry with parents in the past year, and looking forward into next year. By adopting a coaching model of interacting with specific parents, I have been afforded a greater depth of interaction with them. Plus, they have owned the process. Throughout this process, I have begun to think about the many models of family ministry and parent ministry available on the market today. I wonder. Have we become formulaic in devising our solutions?

By formulaic I am referring to the expectation that if we do certain things we can expect certain results. For example, if we teach our parents to pray with their children daily, and to have family devotions and shared meals daily, then we might expect there to be an increase in spiritual vitality in their homes, right? Not so fast. Continue reading

adult singles in the family ministry jungle

Family ministry is here to stay. Publishers are adapting curriculum to account for the growing demand, while also churning out new books on a regular basis. I am pleased with these developments. I especially am delighted at the growing level of awareness that family ministry and children’s ministry ought to complement each other, rather than compete for attention. Yet, I still think we are missing some important points in the conversation, not least, how do we include adult singles? Continue reading

what I am learning from parent coaching

The parent coaching initiative which I introduced to my church is nearing the end of its first year. Three weeks remain. The last of three ten week sessions is about to conclude. I have learned a few things during this process about coaching, about some of the parents, and even about myself.

When I set out on this journey I never expected it would take the form of coaching. That is more a matter of my growing understanding of what coaching is than a change in the design of the initiative. My version of VIP, very intentional parenting, was inspired in large part by Karl Bastian’s Kidology Leadership Lab #4- Partnering with Parents. Yet it looks much different. This is mostly because my circumstances are far different in terms of my skills, life situation, church situation, and so on. Yet there is a crucial similarity which goes beyond the name of the initiative. Like Karl, I invite parents into a mutually negotiated agreement. Whereas his lasts one year, mine lasts ten weeks per agreement. And it is a coaching relationship, rather than a more intensive partnership as outlined in the leadership lab.

So, after going through this process for nearly thirty weeks, I think it is helpful to begin identifying what I am learning from it. I list them in the order they occur to me. Continue reading

Collaborate: Family + Church Ordered

I just ordered my copy of “Collaborate: Family + Church” this evening. I heard about this project a few weeks ago. I am stunned by the early rise to notoriety this book has gained in just a short time, even before its actual release. Such is the leverage of incredibly well-synched collaboration between proactively networked leaders, each with something important to add to the conversation about family ministry.

I appreciate the posture that Michael Chanley has taken in this project. He has consistently and appreciatively pointed to the contributions of the participating authors. Such is the mark of a strong leader.

I plan to review the book when it releases. Continue reading

attitude check regarding parents

I spent most of last year researching families, specifically the degree to which parents intentionally disciple their children. I listened to parents and children, observed them in their home environments, read reports from research colleagues who did likewise in their settings domestically and around the world, interviewed experts, and read many books and journal articles pertaining to the issue. A number of themes emerged. Some were encouraging. Others were troubling. One, in particular, deserves to be brought to correction.

We need to stop hammering parents with what we perceive they are doing wrong.

Not what you expected, I will warrant. But there you have it.

Yes, I understand that some parents need a wake-up call concerning their obligations to their children and to the Lord. I get that. However, there ought to be ways to do it without bludgeoning them with data and horror stories about how they have failed their families or God.

Most parents are quite aware of their struggles. And most want to do the right thing. They just are not sure how to go about doing it. The fact that some church leaders and popular authors continue to assail them with their faults is not helping matters. Especially when we are largely responsible for the problem. Indeed, together we are products of a culture in America which, by default, has assigned primary responsibility for childhood education to public institutions and primary responsibility for spiritual instruction to local churches. Oh, we say it is the primary responsibility of parents, but our behavior demonstrates otherwise. And so we go with what we have known most of our lives, as do many of today’s parents. So why be so critical of them? Why not provide solutions? Why not provide gentle encouragement, coming alongside parents with practical tools and showing them how to live out discipleship in their families by our own examples?

I am happy to point out that many voices out there are initiating solutions, both in traditional education and in the context of the church. That is an encouraging thing. I only ask my colleagues abroad to consider the tone and content of their rhetoric as they communicate with parents in their congregations. They are human, too. Like you. Like me. Full of insecurity. Prone to build walls when they sense yet another lecture or attack on their parenting ability. Let’s tear down the walls, starting with ourselves as leaders. In our vulnerability, let’s show them we know what it means to struggle with uncertainty and parenting challenges. We don’t have all the answers, but we will join with them in seeking God for his best solutions. Let’s be real. Authentic. Then we will begin to see some meaningful conversations take place about spiritual formation in our homes. Then we will see fathers taking ownership of family discipleship along with their wives. Then we will see children flourish.