How to successfully involve parents in children's
Today's parents. They're a rare breed-a hard-to-understand
breed. They're returning to the church, but they're reluctant to
join. They're unfamiliar with how to teach their children God's
truths, but they know the church can help. They want to help out at
church, but they don't have a lot of time.
And you need parents for your ministry, but you're perplexed
about how to get commitments from them.
Getting them involved is not as big a mystery as you might
think. Children's ministers who've been successful at involving
parents in their ministries share these six secrets to get parents
to commit to ministry.
1. Foster an investment mentality. Parents
today need help teaching values to their kids, and they're looking
to the church for help. Many parents have rejected their parents'
values for so long that they don't know how to communicate values
to their children. Use your program to train parents in parenting
skills and in how to communicate God's truths.
Mark Savage, a children's pastor in Illinois, says, "If parents
aren't comfortable discussing religious things with their children,
then they can do that in the format of ministry. They may not know
the Bible stories, so the ministry is a good opportunity for them
to relearn those stories and apply them and help the children apply
2. Serve parents. Don't be shocked by what
parents don't know. One parent volunteer who hadn't grown up in the
church called her children's church coordinator and asked, "Where
can I buy manna for Sunday's lesson?"
Make sure parents have the resources and training they need.
Because many parents feel inadequate or inferior in a teaching
situation, they need to know you're on their side. Susan Grover, a
director of children's ministry in California, says, "[The parents]
are here to serve us, but primarily we're here to serve them. So
the staff has an attitude of 'How can I support you? How can I
serve you while you serve?' We're helping people grow and mature in
their walk with the Lord."
3. Be relational. Because many parents are
single or have relocated several times, they crave companionship
through church. So a crucial key to recruiting parents is
developing personal relationships. Network with parents at all
times-before and after worship services, in the new members class,
at brunches, after prayer meetings, or during any social gathering.
Let them know that you want to be their friend.
Make it easy for parents to approach you and teachers. Some
parents don't sense that you're open to "new blood." Identify
teachers in a positive way by using badges or T-shirts to make them
more approachable. Let parents know that if they volunteer they're
joining a team. No parent wants to be stuck in a room with no hope
of adult contact ever again.
4. Let parents do what they like. Kurt Jarvis,
a director of children and family ministries in New Jersey, says,
"You really have to custom tailor your recruitment according to
your demographics. Rather than say, 'We can only do children's
ministry if we have 100 people who will commit 52 weeks out of the
year,' we say, 'What will you do? We'll use you no matter what you
want to do.' " If you don't have enough people to run your
ministry, cut programs.
Customize your program by matching people's gifts to the needs.
George Pritchard, a pastor of family ministries in Oregon, has a
volunteer whose sole responsibility is "matchmaking." She gets to
know people and, after discovering their strengths and talents,
places them where they can best serve the Lord and kids.
Your program will thrive with this approach. If parents are
where they want to be and doing what they like, you'll have
excited, enthusiastic people on your staff-which is the only way to
convey to children the excitement of what it means to love Jesus.
Your kids will benefit from people who are having a blast at what
they're doing. By letting parents do what they want, they'll accept
your invitation more readily, have greater satisfaction, and stay
5. Offer different levels of commitment. Susan
Bunch, a children's pastor in California, uses parents' talents and
skills in the summer for her "Sunday School Electives." Regular
teachers get two months off, and parents sign up to teach four-week
classes on subjects such as veterinary medicine, cooking,
carpentry, and sign language. Parents relate these subjects to
Scripture and God's character.
Start teachers out as substitutes so they can grow into the
position. Or offer short, closed-ended opportunities-if they want
more, let them recommit. Have parents teach using a month on/month
off rotation. Give them the summer off. Offer 10-week commitments.
Or develop a pool of parents who'd be willing to help in a class
once a month. See the "What Parents Can Do" box for
6. Innovate! Today's parents thrive on
diversity. If changing the structure of a program means
parents can be involved, then do it! If parents are too busy to
help during the day, hold evening activities (how about an evening
VBS?). You'll get more working parents to help out! Move to team
teaching or family teaching where family units teach a Sunday
school class together. Everyone's involved-the children might hand
out papers or lead a game. This way the family is involved in
But most of all, remember to let God play a major role in who
takes part in your ministry. You won't be disappointed! As Susan
Grover says, "I always go first in prayer because God knows more
than I do who he wants involved in the program. So he helps lead me
to the people."
Janice Long is a former editorial assistant for Children's
What Parents Can Do
Try these ideas with parents:
- Specialty teams -- (drama, singing, crafts, storytelling,
recreation, puppetry) Travel to different classrooms for 10 to 15
minutes, do their specialty, then move on.
- Disciplers -- Get to know kids and help them out in areas.
- Artists -- Design bulletin boards, create publicity posters, or
- Musicians -- Be part of a traveling troupe or lead
- Photographers -- Chronicle events with pictures of kids.
- Baby cuddlers -- Help out in the nursery.
- Clerical helpers -- File or compile your newsletter.
- Prayers -- Pray any time, anywhere.
- Snack providers -- Bake fun, theme-related snacks.
- Greeters -- Make kids feel special.
- Shoppers -- Shop for anything you need.
- Facilities helpers -- Help with setup and cleanup.
- Party hosts -- Host parties at their home.
- Resource people -- Keep the resource room stocked and help
teachers find resources.
- Junk collectors -- Collect everything you'll ever need for
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