Building A Parent Ministry At Your Church
by Chris Sasser
When you think about the ministry you want to build at your church, what comes to mind? I’m guessing that you are primarily focused on leading the teenagers, but the nature of that role lends itself to having some influence on children and parents. Often, families have multiple kids in multiple phases, and the ministries to all the different members of families at your church should work together. As you seek to minister to the whole family, having a real focus on helping parents should be a key part of your strategy. As parents attempt to lead their teenagers both practically and spiritually, they need help, and the church is perfectly positioned to offer some real relief.
If you want to build a real ministry for parents, consider embracing some or all of the following principles:
Care For Parents (all the time) – Parents are dealing with all sorts of different issues all the time, and they need attention and care. Not every situation is dire with the potential for major consequences, but it is all emotional, and parents really appreciate it when you slow down, listen, and genuinely care for them. Caring doesn’t always have to equal lots of time, but it does mean paying attention and following up. Listen to what is happening with parents and families in your church and offer your sincere assistance and prayer. If you can, invite older, more seasoned parents to be “on call” to reach out to younger, less experienced parents to encourage and pray for them. When parents feel like you and your church truly care for them, they will continue to open up and allow you to have a voice into their family life.
Connect Parents To One Another – As parents move through life and hope to lead their children, they need to know that they are not alone. This feeling often comes when they realize that other parents are struggling, too. When parents have opportunities to meet and share with other parents, they create a bond and find a sense of encouragement amidst the difficulties of life. Create environments where parents can have conversations with one another, share their struggles, and pray for each other. Sit in circles rather than in rows. You may need to have someone facilitate the conversations, but give parents the time and space to talk with one another and share what is happening in their home.
Offer Opportunities For Parents To Grow And Learn – Most parents know that there are things about parenting that they do not know. They do their best to keep up with everything that is influencing their teen, but the busyness of life rarely allows them to build the knowledge they need in certain areas of life. If parents can better understand certain aspects of teenage development and have at least some knowledge of cultural influences, they will be better equipped to lead their teenagers in a variety of ways. Host classes, seminars, or community events where you cover things you know parents need help with. Bring in speakers or use different resources that resonate with parents. You don’t have to do this every month, but offering genuinely helpful content several times a year will go a long way. When you deal with a parent’s felt needs, they will lean into everything else you are doing.
Regularly Share Relevant And Helpful Resources – If you do an internet search for “Christian parenting resources,” you get a lot of suggestions. As a ministry leader, you may be familiar with different organizations and resources, but the average parent has no clue what resources are good and match up with their theological beliefs. They need help sorting through all of the different websites, books, classes, and voices. Take some time to identify some key Christian parenting organizations, resources, and leaders whom you trust and would point parents to. If you can, build a website or page (that you frequently update) where you offer suggestions to parents. You can list things by different categories and rotate what you want to highlight depending on the season. Also, consider setting up a regular way to communicate to parents JUST about parenting. An email newsletter or social media account that focuses on helping parents will let them know that you are serious about wanting them to succeed.
Know That It Takes Time – Building a practical and helpful ministry to parents does not happen overnight. Unfortunately, parents aren’t likely used to looking to the church as their “go-to” place for parenting help. There needs to be a slow drip of different things that will convince parents that you are there for them and that your church has a lot to offer. If parents consistently see that you and your church are serious about paying attention to what they are going through and you are interested in helping, they will begin to believe that they can look to the church for help. If you find yourself either just starting or needing to ramp up your ministry to parents, pick a few things to focus on, get them where you want them to be, and then consider what might be next.