A few weeks ago I was sat at a conference and the lady speaking said something which stopped me in my tracks.
‘Does your church help parents win, or do your parents help your church win?’
This quote, once again made me think about how I view parents. Let’s face it we have all had those difficult, most disengaged parents. We don’t always view them in the best light, forgetting possibly we have been the parent in the past of a pre-schooler, a teenager!
So firstly I am challenged to change my view of parents
There are 2 things that are true for every parent.
So what do WE want them to know? What message do we send and give our parents each week? Do we let them know we want them to win?
We want them to know they are welcomed, so make them feel welcome. What provision do you have for kids on Sunday? Is there a space for a toddler? Providing space gives a message they are accepted.
For the past 18 months, I’ve been wrestling with how we, as a church can better equip our parents to be the spiritual champion in their child’s life, how can we resource, how can we empower.
Attention, Israel! God, our God! God the one and only! 5 Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! 6-9 Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. – Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Moses was speaking to the whole of Israel, the 2nd generation before they entered into the Promised Land. He was reminding them about the commandments (2nd law, reminder) & the miracles God had performed to free them from captivity. He was telling them to get it in them, and then to pass it on to their children.
‘Todays parents have outsourced the spiritual development of their children. Many of them want to lead their children spiritually, but they don’t know how. So they hand it off to the children’s ministries and youth ministries at the church.’ – Article: OUTSOURCED
It goes on to say
‘Parents are not unwilling to provide spiritual leadership for their children, but they are ill-equipped to lead them in this way.’ – Article: OUTSOURCED
In a span of a generation, several cultural factors have eroded parent’s impact on their children. More marriages end in divorce, more families have both parents in the workplace, there’s more emphasis on education, sport; social media can be a deterrent to quality time, a distraction.
So, we want to give you 4 targets to help you engage your parents, we need to recognise we have limited time, but we can journey alongside our parents. We need to recognise this is more than just a Sunday emphasis too, for the parents in the room you know parenting is a 24/7 thing. So how can we help them win Monday – Saturday
Look at the bottom of his article for links to resources.
You cannot pass on what you don’t have, we know this is true. We need to enable and challenge our parents to build their own faith in community which will help them grow to be fully devoted followers of Jesus.
How can we do this?
Parents at a similar stage and those further along too in their journey. Let’s face it none of us were taught how to parent, most of us came home with a new baby and thought, oh my goodness what do we do now! No-one gave us a manual, the main resource we pull from is how we were parented. So, if you have grown up with Christian parents then maybe you have some kind of basis to come from. Others may not have been brought up in a Christian family and have no reference point.
Create a place where they can talk about the things they are doing to.
We want parents to know we want them to win, we need to back them up. I know we have all had conversations where children say, my mum, my dad didn’t let me stay over at my friends, or something like that. We have the opportunity in our conversations to be a parent champion. Saying, I’m sure there’s a good reason for their decision…your parents love you and want the best for you.
Milestones are the things that create memories in the world of our families and kids. They are actions or an event marking a significant change or stage in the children or families life. They are the moments that will help them to take the “next” step on their journey of becoming all that God has made them to be.
Milestones matter and need to be celebrated!
Much like a stepping-stone, milestones are markers that we follow to guide us to a goal, taking one step at a time. Kids grow in much the same way, one concept and accomplishment at a time even though it may feel like warp speed to us. Milestones need to be marked and celebrated!
Don’t miss a single one, show up, be present and mark it down. What do you say in the big moments? There are significant moments in the life of a child that we can have a voice to give direction to the parent. What do you do in the below moments, how can you include the parent:
Always try to BUILD in a parent connection somewhere
The parent relationship is important in the life of a child, however, it’s known that a child needs other non-parental voices in their life. One of the biggest influences is when a child sees another person outworking their faith in front of them.
“Kid’s don’t care how many sermons you preach to them. The only sermon they’ll hear is how you live your life in front of them.” – Bruce Van Horn
Research and experts suggest that kids who have other adults in their lives have better odds of winning. If you have ever read ‘sticky faith’, it’s suggested a child needs 5 other non-parental voices in their life to influence them. (The ecological model) Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.
When we as champions of children choose to build significant relationships, we remind ourselves that we are not just ‘looking after’ kids while the big church is on we are disciplining boys and girls to be fully devoted followers of Christ. This relationship can and should extend BEYOND the child and begin to impact and support families!
Encourage leaders that are responsible for a group of kids to go after a relationship with the parent it is as simple as ABC or rather ISG… that’s just not as catchy!
As a church make it a prority to invest in…
Each Wednesday, we host a discipleship programme called DK groups, we encourage parents to partner with us on this journey. But we know there are other things we could do, for instance, we are exploring the idea of giving age-appropriate teaching on topics that would help parents to have conversations with their child.
We’ve already heard how parents feel ill-equipped to lead their child, so teaching them how they can help their child to pray is appreciated. Why do we pray, how can we pray, how to pray together. There are many topics we could use, but here are a few examples.• Prayer – How do you teach your pre-school child to pray?
The idea of gathering parents and children to help them teach the topic in an age-specific way is so helpful. Giving them guidelines and discussions around a table. You facilitate this, introduce the topic, give context and imagination to the process, and remember this needs to be fun.
There’s a great example of this found in 2 Timothy 1:5 about someone who had faith passed onto him.
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.
Timothy was a 3rd generation follower of Jesus; faith had been passed on to him.
Let’s think of ways where we can equip and partner parents to enable them to pass on their faith!
Notes from the ‘Equipping Parents’ breakout led by Laura Conway & Nicola Ritchie at Elements Conference 2018