Over the next several weeks we’re going to talk about Parenting With Parents. This is a big topic, with big implications. We’ve all heard and would agree that every parent wants to be a good parent. Every parent wants more for their kids, whatever that “more” is for them.
As a church what are we doing to help parents? How are we intentionally equipping parents? The bigger question for me is always “why”. Why is this important for us as ministry and church leaders to spend time thinking, strategizing and spending precious energy to engage parents, especially when it seems like parents don’t seem interested? Because for every single person that is faithful and obedient, God promises to lavish unfailing love on a 1000 generations. And believe it or not, the people who are perfectly positioned to do that in the life of kids and students are parents… not you, not the church. Seems heretical, I know. But the truth is your influence as a church or leader is limited in the lifetime of a kid or student. But a parent’s influence will literally impact a kid or student for a lifetime. This seems like a no-brainer to me. So let’s dive in~
Activating parents. What is the message that parents hear from us (the church)? Do they hear an invitation to the party or do they hear something different? And what exactly is the party that we’re inviting them too? I would tell you that there are two primary reasons parents don’t engage in the spiritual influence of their kids and students. Let me start with a story…
As a kid, my best friend was a cute little red head across the street, named Paula, but her nickname was “Pog”. Her family was Catholic, which I thought was awesome. Occasionally I would go to church with them, I was in wonder and awe with all the curiosity of a nine year old about all of the tradition and the grandeur of the place. I felt awkward and oddly comforted in that big ornate space even though I didn’t understand the symbolism of anything that was said or done. Special water, kneeling, standing, beautiful statues representing people I didn’t know, but made me all the more curious.
Like most typical kids, Pog and I weren’t aware of differences or barriers in our friendship, we were just friends. It didn’t matter that she had red hair and I had dark blond hair. It didn’t occur to us that because she was the youngest and I was the oldest we were different. And it didn’t really matter to us that they regularly attended mass on Sundays and we were gone camping on Sundays. We were friends and simply accepted our differences for the uniqueness that made us who we were…this didn’t seem odd, just who we were and who our families were.
But on her 8th birthday something changed. She had a great big grand birthday party … and I wasn’t invited. My mom said because it was a party for her “school” friends (she of course attended the local Catholic school). As a kid, I was bummed, but Pog was still my friend. The story and message I adopted was, “best friend party later!”.
My mom on the other hand heard a different message… the message she heard was exclusion. She associated this with the church, and it compounded a narrative that been proved to her over and over through her life.
- [Tweet “If we want our message to activate and reactivate parents, then we need to make sure that our message doesn’t make any parent feel EXCLUDED.”]
If we want our message to activate and reactivate parents then we need to make sure that our message doesn’t make any parent feel excluded. Have we created a culture and environment where everyone feels welcomed, expected and accepted? Are we reaching out to marginalized parents who don’t feel like they fit in? What is our view of “family”? Are we embracing every family regardless of what the family looks like? Are you being thoughtful about programming so single parents, grandparents who are raising their grandkids and duel-income families can attend “parenting” events or meetings? How would you grade yourself, really?!
2.[Tweet “There’s another message parents can sometimes hear. That they are DISQUALIFIED.”]
22 years ago as mom of two, who worked at a church and single after 17 years of marriage, the message I heard was; “disqualified”. I felt disqualified from my job, from the ministry I felt I was called to, and as a parent.
I am not for a minute blaming the sweet people in either of these stories. Because I get it… leadership is hard and ministry is messy. But sometimes without a clear vision and strategic plan, we can leave people to create a story arch in their minds that might only be half true or not true at all. How are we embracing our neighbors, our volunteers and our parents when crisis hits? Ministry is messy. What kind of messages are we sending them? As messy as it can get, these are prime moments to lean into families, come alongside them, give them tools from timeless Truth and just love them. Love goes a long way.
We need to be very clear and very strategic with our ministry models, how we use our words, our platforms and our relationships so that every parent has the opportunity to engage with the church and learn to become the primary spiritual influencer of their children. Reggie Joiner has said it this way, “If we are really for parents then we won’t let them parent alone!”. It might seem like parents aren’t interested, but in reality, they just don’t know what they don’t know. They want to be great parents, they want more for their kids. It’s up to us, the church and leaders to engage them, equip them, partner with them and love them. Because when we do… the math is awesome: 1=1000.