It's a children's minister's fantasy: Every parent involved in
your ministry. You hear weekly, firsthand reports about kids'
strides in their faith. Parents have an active role in nourishing
their kids' faith development at home, and they feel connected to
and supported by your ministry. They know what's happening when --
and most importantly -- why it's all happening.
Reality is probably a little different, though. Your connection
to parents may be tenuous. You may wonder -- often -- what it would
take to build a powerful, lasting connection with parents that'll
ultimately enhance kids' faith development.
It's an age-old ministry question: How can we effectively reach
parents and connect with them? Children's Ministry
Magazine asked children's ministers like you from across the
country to share their most successful parent connection
techniques. Here are their recommendations for effectively
connecting parents, your ministry, and kids' faith growth.
Open Lines of Communication
Parents love to know what's happening and what's coming in their
kids' ministries. Newsletters -- effectively written and
well-designed -- are a great way to get the word out. Lynne
McLaughlin and Lisa Udell at Thornapple Evangelical Covenant Church
in Grand Rapids, Michigan, created the Parent Connection newsletter
to increase and manage communication with parents.
"The newsletter was born out of wanting to communicate better
with parents what was going on, what their kids were learning...and
also to give them resources they could use at home," says
McLaughlin. "We were getting questions about what we do and why, so
the newsletter provided a forum for communicating that."
Group's Emergency Response Handbook for Parents:
Pick up this rapid-response handbook and gain real-life scenarios,
practical tips, changes you can make at home, counseling advice,
relevant Scripture, and other resources for connecting with your
children--and helping them get on the right path.
Since the newsletter began, McLaughlin and Udell say they've
seen a marked increase in parents who are willing to assist in the
ministry and who take an interest in what's happening. They also
frequently get follow-up questions about something that appears in
the newsletter, which leads to more opportunities to speak
one-to-one with interested parents.
Most parents would dialogue with their kids about faith -- if
they knew what to talk about. You can equip parents to initiate
these important conversations by following the example of Bill
Walton, family pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs,
Colorado. Walton has created Road Talk, a kit for families that
includes worship CDs, interactive activities, and parent tips. Road
Talk translates into car conversations, soccer field chatter, and
grocery store banter where families talk about God.
Support Parent-Child Relationships
"We work hard to hand the ministry of family back to the
parents," says Greg Braly, children's and family pastor of New Hope
Church in New Hope, Minnesota. "We create connection points to
empower the parents to take a leadership role in their child's
Braly's ministry sponsors successful relationship-building
events for parents and children. One of the most popular is the
father-daughter relationship-building experience where dads and
daughters build memories by eating together and then visiting
several different stations such as a photo booth, prayer walk,
ballroom dancing, picture frame-making, and scrapbooking.
Become an Information Hub
Coleen Bevan, pastor of children's ministry at Canyon View
Christian Fellowship in San Diego, California, says a parent
information booth has been one of her ministry's most effective
tools for connecting with parents.
"Parent connection techniques are strategies to bring parents
and children's ministry together with the purpose of building a
strong faith in children," says Bevan. "Our information booth is up
each weekend; it's where we communicate to parents about all of our
events. All current events are announced during the service, and
the pastor urges parents to visit the booth for further information
and to register. This is a great way to connect with our leaders
The booth is located so new parents can find it easily, and
volunteers personally usher them to their children's classrooms to
introduce them to the teachers.
"We're expanding the booth to support families, too," says
Bevan. "We're adding parenting helps information, devotion books,
parenting books, and 'Faith Home' brochures (Cokesbury) that are
designed to support families."
Create a Parent Advisory Board
Lori Aadsen, associate director of Lutheran Church Missouri
Synod (LCMS) District and Congregational Services, advises
ministries to create a parent advisory board.
"The board should meet quarterly to gain input on Sunday school,
midweek, family events, and nursery programs," says Aadsen.
This shared-influence approach to your ministry will not only
boost parent involvement, but it will also generate broader support
and interest in what's happening in your ministry.
Put Parents and Children to Work
Michelle Anthony, pastor of family ministry at Rock Harbor
church in Costa Mesa, California, organized a family mission trip
to the Dominican Republic. "I saw firsthand the impact on families
as they prepared for the mission trip and then experienced how it
felt to serve together as a family," says Anthony.
Mission experiences let family members see each other through a
new lens while teaching them the value of service. These
experiences also link parents to your ministry and elevate its
value in their eyes.
As a former family ministry pastor, Ruth Pape of Colorado
Springs, Colorado, says she was constantly looking for ways to
"We offered parenting seminars and annual parenting conferences,
but ultimately our most important equipping tool was what we used
every day: our curriculum," says Pape. "We chose a curriculum,
FaithWeaver (Group), with an intentional parent-connect tool that
families could take home each week, and practical how-to
experiences to do together that were fun and easy. I'm encouraged
to see churches across the country intentionally teaching children
and equipping parents on a week-by-week basis. The tools we give to
parents need to be easy to do, with fun activities and experiences
that are relevant to everyday family life."
Let Families Minister Together
"Every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember, my family
has signed up to serve together in the 3- and 4-year-old class,"
says Pape. "What better way to spend a Christmas Eve than as a
family, giving to other families? My kids have counseled at
numerous day camps and served countless weekends in elementary
classrooms. And it gives me no greater joy than to be 'Jeremy's
mom' or 'Matt's mom' or 'Tim's mom' -- because my boys have had an
impact on the kids they've served. There's no greater legacy than
to see your children serving Jesus because of what you've
experienced serving the church together. Why not offer these kinds
of opportunities to the families in your ministry?"
Make Family Time a Priority
The sky is the limit when it comes to creating fun and
meaningful family experiences. Measure your events against this
filter: Will this opportunity create a meaningful experience for
the entire family?
Craig Swenson at Prince of Peace Lutheran in Burnsville,
Minnesota, created a program called FamFest, where intentional
ministry happens across three generations. Part of FamFest was
W.O.W. -- Worship on Wednesday Nights -- for the entire family.
Families ate a meal together and worshipped together. Then small
groups of families or households met to read the Bible and apply
what they learned to everyday life through fun, interactive
"One of the most important things your church can do for parents
is to create joyful experiences that celebrate families as they
navigate each new stage in their children's lives," says former
family ministry pastor Ruth Pape. Here are celebrations she's used
successfully to connect with parents.
• Prepare for birth days. Before a child is born, begin a
supportive partnership with parents. Provide parents-to-be with
opportunities to connect with other young couples. Offer pre-birth
counseling and seminars to help new parents learn what it'll mean
to be responsible for shaping the spiritual growth of a child.
Celebrate when babies are born. Offer support by pairing new
parents with veteran parents they can call for advice and
• Mark milestones. Dedications, baptisms, confirmations, First
Communions -- all are important times for churches to celebrate
with families. Celebration encourages parents in their roles as
their children's spiritual mentors and highlights their
• Safeguard family time. Be careful of creating programs for the
sake of programs. Many churches are reversing course and attempting
to simplify and reduce the number of programs they offer to give
families the gift of time. Decide what's best for your location,
church culture, and families' needs.
• Offer education. Create parent education opportunities for
parents of different-age children to meet, encourage one other, and
learn together. Sponsoring programs such as MOPS (Mothers of
Preschoolers) and Moms In Touch is an excellent way to encourage
parents along the way.
• Promote children's leadership. Children aren't the church of
tomorrow; they're the church of today. Model the value that Jesus
placed on children by finding meaningful ways to include them in
every aspect of church life, including worship services. Weave
children's prayers, songs, and messages into family worship
"The two most meaningful worship services I attended last year
were at Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore, California, and Copper
Hills Community Church in Glendale, Arizona, where the children and
youth led worship," says Pape. "The kids prayed, spoke, and were an
integral part of the service. Neither of these services was
perfect, nor were they performance-oriented. But they were
heartfelt expressions from Jesus' youngest followers. Imagine how
families and households could be transformed by witnessing this
kind of value placed on children and youth."
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