As restrictions lift, people are slowly stepping outside their homes for shopping, eating, worship, and more. Church staffs are working endlessly to figure out how to gather together while honoring social distance guidelines. So…during this in-between time, what can you offer parents as they re-engage each other? This month, Ministry to Parents helps leaders encourage parents through conversations about COMMUNITY! To kick off the month, here are 10 reasons parents avoid community and what you can do to help.
10 REASONS PARENTS AVOID COMMUNITY AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
As a ministry leader, you encourage families to connect with your church so they can grow closer with the Lord and others. What happens when parents can’t find–or even avoid–the community they need with other adults?
Some parents are quick to understand the importance of helping their child find a peer group. Over the years, I’ve had several parents tell me the #1 determining factor in choosing a church home for their family is finding one where their children can develop friendships and deepen their faith.
But what happens when parents don’t see the same need for themselves?
As leaders, we try to address this issue. We host events, provide counsel, and invite parents to join others in a similar life stage so they can find the same encouragement they desire for their children.
But still, some resist. Why? Do they just enjoy being chased? Are they blatantly hurting themselves by parenting on an island? Or do they simply enjoy telling you ‘No!’ every time you attempt to make contact?
There could be any number of reasons why parents resist finding community. However, below are the ten most common reasons (in no particular order) why parents avoid community and how you can help them overcome each one.
Reason #1: Fear of Judgment
The voice of shame is loud for this parent. No doubt, this is true for all of us, but this mom or dad may feel particularly insufficient and less than when comparing themselves to their peers. It should not be a surprise that they resist help, avoid vulnerability, and remain altogether disconnected from others.
Mom and dad guilt is real. We all struggle with it at times. Some can’t overcome it until they understand that perfection is a lie, and they aren’t alone in the struggle.
- How can you help? Be mindful of this parent’s sensitivity. Instead of inviting them to a group setting, introduce them to another couple to start the conversation. Perhaps a mentor couple could discern the most significant pain points and serve as a bridge to connecting this parent to the hope and help found in Christ and His church.
Reason #2: Unsure Where to Start
This parent may have the desire to connect with others, but he or she simply lacks the knowledge of how and where to begin. Maybe this mom or dad has heard other parents discuss the benefit of their close-knit group. They understand the value but are unclear on how to find the right fit. Fear of the unknown could also play a part in this situation.
- How can you help? Ask good questions. Seek to learn all you can about their story and their current life stage. Then find the group that most closely fits their needs and provide introductions and connection. This strategy keeps this mom or dad from feeling out of place or slipping through the cracks. It also strengthens the likelihood they make quick and meaningful connections within the group.
Reason #3: Overwhelmed by Present Needs
These parents insist they are already overcommitted. If they are active in church, they might believe worship attendance is enough for their family. Joining a small group isn’t necessary. This parent could also be blinded to their own needs because they are so focused on the daily needs of others. Since the grind never stops, they can’t consider jumping into friendships that could lead to even more despair or demands.
- How can you help? Listen to them. It will require both patience and compassion to establish a meaningful connection with this parent. Take time to process what they say before jumping in to help. Prayerfully evaluate what is shared and carefully consider how best to respond.
Reason #4: Kids’ Extracurricular Activities
If this list were organized “Family Feud” style, this would likely serve as the #1 answer for most parents. Whether it’s sports, love of the arts, or merely the insatiable need to fill up the family calendar, this mom or dad takes pride in the number of activities their family can juggle at once. Who has time for community when you’re always on the go? After all, their kids are only young once!
- How can you help? Take an interest in one of the family’s activities. If possible, attend one of their kids’ games or performances. Crucify your frustration and pray for eyes to be opened and hearts softened. In doing so, you gain credibility with the family, who could increase their willingness to take one step closer to community.
Reason #5: Work Demands
Whether it be the number of hours or the nature of his or her occupation, this parent may struggle to maintain meaningful friendships due to their job. Some take pride in choosing their field of work over friendships, while others wish they had the opportunity to be with those they love. Either way, parents on both ends of this spectrum suffer the same fate – isolation over intimacy.
- How can you help? Find creative ways to contact this mom or dad. Learn their schedule and preferred mode of communication. Does their job have rhythms or seasons when you might have the best chance to establish a personal connection? You can affirm their work ethic while still encouraging him or her to pursue community.
Reason #6: Marriage Issues
This couple resists building relationships with others because they have struggles in their marriage. No one enjoys living in a glasshouse. Even the act of being around other couples adds greater tension for these parents. These parents may have been part of a small group at one time. But division within the home has since caused them to pull away from friends and mentors.
- How can you help? If you know this couple well, ask to meet for a meal to reconnect. If you don’t know them well, enlist a trusted couple to reach out for the same purpose. Are they open to professional counseling? Have one or two recommendations ready to share. Don’t get discouraged if they reject your attempts to connect multiple times. Your persistence will encourage this couple to reach out to you once they realize they can’t make it on their own. In the meantime, pray faithfully for this couple!
Reason #7: Unequally Yoked
In this family, one spouse is a believer and is pursuing community. The other spouse wants nothing to do with faith or a small group. While some non-believing husbands or wives may support their spouse’s faith, they draw the line when it comes to connecting with anyone from the church.
- How can you help? Take advantage of every opportunity you have to speak to them. Is the whole family present for Christmas Eve or Easter services? Be sure to greet them. Run into them at the store? Don’t be a stranger! Check in occasionally and ask the believing spouse about their husband/wife. Stay updated and prayerful for an opportunity to encourage him/her personally.
Reason #8: Financial Woes
The current global pandemic has impacted our towns, churches, and households, unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. This mom and dad may be doing all they can to keep their house and livelihood intact due to an unforeseen and unprecedented financial crisis. As a result, their ability to maintain regular connections and communication with others has dramatically decreased.
- How can you help? Establish ways to collect and communicate the needs of families in your church or community. Partner with local community organizations that meet specific needs in your area. God will provide you an opportunity. Keep your eyes open and prayerfully pursue each one.
Reason #9: Special Needs
This household may include a parent or child with special needs, or the family could be facing a particular crisis that has turned their world upside down. Either of these scenarios can make it a challenge to find or maintain community. Members of this family possess a strong bond. It can be difficult for others to understand just how close and dependent this mom and dad are on each other.
- How can you help? Ask your ministry team how your church can encourage this couple. Often this husband and wife haven’t had a date night in a long time. Could you arrange childcare so they can get out and reconnect? Evaluate how well equipped your facilities and your ministries are to minister to families with special needs or those in crisis.
Reason #10: Resistance from Kids/Teens
This mom and dad are longing for a church home, but their children are struggling to find a good connection. The reasons could include the structure of the church, poor previous experiences, rebellious children, or disagreement on which church to attend.
- How can you help? Ask questions about past church experiences, if any. Learn all you can about the children’s background, behavior, and experiences in school. Champion the parents’ efforts and encourage them every chance you get. They are likely discouraged and desperate for help. See if you can facilitate one friend connection for their child/teen. Enlist a peer or a trusted student leader to come alongside them, as well.
No family or marriage is perfect. We all need God’s grace to know how best to love others as we are commanded. When you meet and seek to minister to any of the parents listed above, remember:
- The Word of God and your prayers are your most powerful resources.
- Sow seeds every chance you get.
- Trust the Lord to bring the harvest.
- What you do matters now more than ever.
- Don’t give up!
Nick Mobley has served in student ministry for 20 years and currently serves as Family Pastor at Northside Baptist in middle TN. His passion is helping families show and share their faith from house to house. He and his wife Courtney have 3 children, Samuel, Sophia, & Asa. They love ice cream, the outdoors, and think that Dauphin Island, Alabama, is one of the coolest places to spend a vacation.
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