In today’s world, surrounded by social media and technology, parents have never been so connected, yet so alone at the same time.
Parents have less people in their community that can support them on their journey of parenthood. Churches often do not support parents well.
For many ministry leaders, our focus is often on children and youth. Most churches have some sort of children’s ministry. Many churches have a ministry to middle school and high school youth. Very few churches seem to have a ministry to young adults. Less have a ministry directly to parents.
In this series, The How-To Guide To Engaging Our Parents in Ministry, I am exploring different avenues and opportunities to engage our parents in light of the data that shows the parents play a vital role in the faith life of children.
Having a ministry to parents does not need to be complicated. The most important piece of any parent ministry is this:
Connect parents with other parents.
I suggest two strategies that can help a church find opportunities to connect parents with other parents.
1. Small group ministry for parents.
As the father of a toddler myself, the adults I find myself wanting to spend time with are those with toddlers. Only parents with toddlers talk about terrible two’s and potty training and which pre-school to send their child to. Most other adults have no desire to talk about that. That’s why I like to spend time with parents who have toddlers.
A church could effectively create a small group of interested parents that have similar age children. This does not have to be rolled out into the entire church at one time.
Target one type of parents, say, parents with toddlers. Find about 4 to 5 couples that have toddlers and give them an opportunity to meet together. Invite one couple to be the facilitator who would be willing to gather the parents together on a monthly basis.
Keep it social at first and allow them to talk about best practices of raising toddlers. Eventually, as they get more comfortable with each other, they will begin to talk faith and how to pass faith on to their children.
Once you have this one group started, repeat with another group of parents with similar age children.
2. Create a database of child-raising experiences.
Every parent has experienced challenges raising their children. Maybe the challenge is a child with cancer or depression. Maybe it’s a child trying to cope with the idea that their parents are getting divorced.
When you meet parents that have dealt with s special situation with their children, like the ones mentioned above, make a note of it. Create a list parents and what type of child-raising experience they have dealt with in the past.
When another parent shares with you a situation with their child, say, a child dealing with depression, look at your database for other parents that have dealt with the exact same situation. Then connect them together so that the parent dealing with the current crisis can get guidance and support from the parent that has already gone through the situation.
This is really valuable and let’s parents know that your church supports them, while getting the guidance they need from a parent who has “been there, done that.” Some examples might be parents dealing with their children going through these experiences:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Sexual relationships
- Driving for the first time
- Going off to college
- Mean girls
- Entering puberty
The opportunity to encourage parents’ connection with other parents is a valuable resource that a church can provide. Parents need a support network to help them raise their children.
As it’s been said, it takes a village to raise up a child.
Question: What strategies would you recommend to connect parents with other parents in your church?