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The New Deal

Karl Bastian


Getting a Partnership

A few weeks later I hosted a Parent Partnering forum. I wanted to open a conversation with parents on how our ministry--which is dynamic, energized, and a huge part of our church--could better partner with them in raising kids to know, love, and follow Jesus. I was nervous no one would show up. But they did. And so our partnership negotiations began.

I didn't offer any solutions, even as I thought I had some. That's part of the problem with our current efforts: We offer solutions before we listen. So I listened. I asked questions-even ones that made me uncomfortable.

What are your greatest struggles as a parent?

What are your fears as a parent?

Who helps you the most as a parent?

How does the church help? (Or does it?)

How does the church hinder your efforts?

What could the church do better? more of? less of? stop doing? start doing?

What are your expectations of me?

Do you appreciate the things I do for parents? Or do they miss the mark?

If you had my job, what would you do differently?


The key is to listen and not explain or defend; simply listen and take notes. And say thank you--a lot. And then it's your turn at the table, your time to negotiate the role of children's ministry. I started by opening up to the parents, probably more than they were expecting. I told them about my great love for their children. I talked about how passionately I want to see their kids live for Jesus--long after they leave our ministry. I talked about the constraints on time and influence I feel when it comes to impacting kids' lives. I confessed that sometimes I'm afraid to approach parents about a problem or concern because I'm not sure how they might react. I admitted that I wish parents would let me in on their kids' struggles at home more. I reaffirmed my support and appreciation for them as parents; I know how hard they work and how much they invest in their children. And finally, I told them that more than anything, I wanted to help them in their role as their children's spiritual teachers--but I needed them to invite me in.



Sealing the Deal

I admit, I was nervous after pouring out my heart; but the parents responded very well. With that frank conversation, we'd set the stage for a totally open, honest, constructive conversation. I had heard them--their concerns, their struggles, and their hopes. And, likewise, they heard me. Negotiated is a big word, but it's just what we did. Each party talked about its respective side of the partnership, our desires and our hardships. We had to fully understand each other to have any hope of success.

I outlined what a partnership is--a defined relationship that's mutually agreed upon. I asked these parents to join an intentional partnership with our ministry to work together in their children's spirit- ual upbringing. Our goal was the same, I noted: to give their kids the best possible foundation of faith on which to build their lives. I explained what I would expect from them and what I would offer and deliver on my side. They could do the same. Our agreement would be open to discussion and revising, and when both parties were in agreement, we'd put it in writing and both commit to our side of the partnership.

Not long after the forum, after we'd come to a suitable agreement, more and more families started signing on to partner with our ministry with the goal of engaging in their kids' spiritual upbringing. So today if asked, "How do you partner with parents?" I can finally answer, "This is what I do...," and explain our partnership without hesitation.

You're already supporting, encouraging, and blessing parents and families; don't miss the opportunity to go a step further and build a genuine partnership with them. It's a win-win deal-especially for kids.


Karl Bastian (the "Kidologist") is creator of toyboxtales.com and founder of Kidology.org. He's served in children's ministry since he was 10.

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