By Lindsay Goetz
Children, like adults, are spiritually formed in their day-to-day comings and goings, as they play, learn, and grow. We are formed by what we do and what we love. What a parent does at home will have a much greater and lasting impact than what we can hope to accomplish in a one hour Sunday morning class. As those who love and work with children, we can each share our own stories of joy and sadness over the ways we have witnessed the shaping power of the home in the lives of our own families and of the children in our ministries. Most Children's Ministers, agree-- if the parents aren't on your team, your ability to impact the life of the child is going to be limited. What are practical ways that we can include, and engage parents in the work of discipleship, both for the sake of their child's spiritual formation and their own?
We must continually place before parents a vision of the great responsibility and privilege that the discipleship of our families is. Those of us who have had small children at home can remember what it is like to be overwhelmed by the day-to-day tasks and unexpected circumstances that come along with raising a family. Throw in a job or two, schooling, and a few other commitments, and "church" can quickly become another item on a checklist of “Things Good Parents Do.” What are some practical ways to vision cast?
I still remember the first few weeks after we brought our first child home from the hospital. Just as I was feeling like I had gotten the hang of things, something would change--she would sleep a longer or shorter stretch, need to eat more or less than before, all because she had reached a new milestone. With the transitional nature of parenting, the needs, struggles, and joys will be different for each family-- month by month and year by year. How are you keeping tabs on the families in your congregation to ensure that they are encouraged, equipped, and prepared for the next bend in the road?
As a Children's Minister, I have found that I am often "in the right place at the right time" as it relates to children and the resources available to parents who are seeking to disciple their children faithfully. In fact, many companies will send us free copies or samples of resources simply because of our job title. My husband and I see it as an important part of our role to vet these resources and to pass the quality ones along to the families in our congregation. There are so many more high-quality resources available to parents and families than there were even just 5 years ago. How do you connect parents with these resources?
To be honest, this is the area where I struggle the most. I highly value communicating with parents, but I am also tired and often fall short of my grandest plans for excellent parental communication. I would love to hear what it looks like for you to communicate clearly with the families in your church regarding the material and experiences their children are having. All too often I fear my "take-home sheet" is trampled on the floor before a parent ever lays eyes on it.
Obviously, communicating with parents in a culture where all of us are overworking and under sabbathing is difficult. It takes counter-cultural persistence and effort. But the responsibility we have to children and families to faithfully serve, equip, and walk alongside them in the journey of discipleship is well worth the effort. How do you keep families in the loop? What are you planning to try after reading this article? Are any ideas stirring in you?
Lindsey is a Hearts Alive writer and curriculum specialist. She and her husband are the Children's Directors for First Presbyterian Church of Aurora, IL.
Hearts Alive Children's Curriculum
Hearts Alive Sunday School and Children's Church provide liturgical congregations a highly-anticipated children’s curriculum that combines captivating content, lectionary alignment, and Gospel focus for children ages 3-12. For those seeking to engage children in a fun, age-appropriate application to the Revised Common Lectionary, Hearts Alive is a three-year course of study to give children a strong overview of the story of salvation and how it ties to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Hearts Alive supports and elevates liturgical traditions and the church calendar while using clear, contemporary learning techniques to present the Word of God. Learn more in our online community.
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