Every parent—whether that person is the mother, father, stepfather, stepmother, grandparent-raising-grandkids, aunt-or-uncle-raising-niece-or-nephew, adopted or foster—wants to be the best parent. At least, that is what we choose to believe! Being pro-family requires that we are pro-parent, and that requires that we believe the best about every parent and what they want for their kid. After all, that is one commonality that too many parents share for us to believe otherwise. Being pro-parent is more than just an ideal. Being pro-parent is an ideal that shows up in our actions that shows our parents that we are not just for our kids and students, but we are for them being the best parent they can be to those kids and students, and we want to journey with them along the way. Being pro-parent requires development of a culture that acknowledges every parent where they are, and leverages a place to help them have spiritual and moral influence in their kids’ lives.
Your ministry’s attitude toward your parents will determine how you approach family ministry. Do you see parents as a partner or a nuisance? An ally or an enemy? The key to changing the lives of the next generation or a hurdle? When we see parents as partners, allies, and keys, we give them the tools to actively participate in the spiritual formation of their own children. These keys provide programming and opportunities that support the family unit and move the parents from bystanders to partners. When parents are partners, we approach every parent in our community—including those outside of our church—like they are aware of their kids’ need for spiritual development. And since we automatically assume every parent is aware, we look for opportunities to connect with them so that the church and the parent can be involved in the child’s spiritual development and growth.
As parents become involved in their kid’s spiritual development, we take that opportunity to help them connect with their own child through opportunities for engagement. This engagement happens through everything from volunteerism at church to praying at home to engaging in tough faith discussions with their teenagers. And as we help parents become engaged in their child’s faith, our prayer is that a lot of them will become more engaged over time, and some of them might eventually become invested. Invested parents are engaged in their kid’s spiritual development, but they are also engaged with the strategy your church is using to develop the faith of other kids and students as well. These are your ministry champions that volunteer, recruit, support, and show up to support week in and week out. Your pro-family culture provides a clear plan, steps, and opportunities to help parents get from one stage to the next.
If aware parents are going to become involved parents, and involved parents become engaged parents, and engaged parents might become invested parents, we have to give them a vision or a plan on how we are developing a kid or student’s faith. After all, a desire will never happen if you don’t have a plan on how to get there. A plan for parents shows up in our communication with them. We communicate the plan through casting the vision in multiple ways and places. Every parent is different. One parent might see your vision through a weekly printed Parent Cue. Another parent might view it in the décor on your wall, while still another parent picks up on it when they read your weekly email. Use as many methods as possible to give parents the plan for how your ministry wants to partner with them to develop their child. And while information is great, give parents an opportunity to use that information to get involved. Send home suggestions of things they can do and discussions they can have throughout the week with each age group in their home. These activities and discussions reinforce whatever was taught at church that is moving the next generation along in the vision for their spiritual development. We are pro-parent and pro-family when we show them how to do at home what we are doing at church. After all, a kid will have 3,000 hours with their parent in a year while they will only have 40 with us. Pro-parent ministries show parents how to use those hours as opportunities to capitalize on their child’s spiritual and moral development and take the lead in the home.
The hours we get every week are too few to influence the faith of the next generation by ourselves. It is essential for us to influence those who influence the faith of the next generation by partnering with parents to make a combined impact. In order to do that, parents must believe that we are for their family, which means we are for them. Parents must be shown that we are not trying to replace them but want to partner with them to help them influence the spiritual and moral development of their kids and students.