The Parent Trap


If parents are supposed to be
their children’s primary faith influencers, then why not require
them to serve in children’s ministry? Two different views; two
different approaches.

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I remember the first time my wife and I had to walk into our
pastor’s office and say: “We need to talk about a real challenge in
our preschool ministry. We’ve tried everything.”

With a concerned expression and no idea of the magnitude of what
we were about to drop in his lap, he said, “Okay, sit down.”

Children's Ministry Local Training

With research and numbers in hand, the picture we painted was
bleak. “Very few people are willing to serve. Our rotation system
is broken. We’ve prayed, been upbeat and positive, made personal
contacts, advertised, even changed curriculum, but nothing seems to
generate the kind of change we really need to motivate people to

How many children’s ministers have had that same conversation with
their pastors, children’s ministry teams, or other ministry leaders
recently? Most realistic children’s ministers are fully aware of
the challenges we’re up against.

For starters, we live in a convenience-driven, warp-speed world.
Everything’s fast–whether it’s food, communication, shopping, or
information. We’re a culture driven by demand, and what most people
demand is high-speed and efficiency. For many people, volunteering
is a commitment that’ll take at least some of their time–something
many are unwilling or unable to give.

Add to that the daycare dilemma. For many, children’s ministry is
perceived as a daycare situation where everyone drops off their
children for care and training and picks them up when the parents
are done with their church activities. It’s easy to forget that
most of those who serve in children’s ministry are volunteers–and
that daycare isn’t exactly what happens in our rooms.

Mega-Events: Reaching a Multitude

It was with these two factors and the reality of our sparse
volunteer roster in hand, that we sat down with our pastor and
worked on clear-cut goals and ways to achieve them for our
ministry. We also prayed–a lot.

• First Goal: We wanted to provide a ministry and
outreach to parents so they can attend Sunday school, small group
classes, and worship while their children experience Jesus’ love in
our classrooms.

Solution: To facilitate this type of specialized
care for children and include strong spiritual instruction, we
realized we needed “outside hands” to help with hands-on needs such
as changing diapers, restroom breaks, snacks, crafts, and
instruction. Our church is able to have some paid team members on
hand to offer parents this opportunity.

• Second Goal: Our greatest desire was to provide
devoted, trained teachers to teach God’s Word to children each

Solution: We implemented a new team-teaching
model for teachers. Four people team up to teach, with two teaching
one Sunday and the other two the next. Knowing that children need
consistency, this wasn’t our first choice for teaching time. But at
this juncture in our ministry, we needed major overhaul, and this
was an appealing option for most volunteers. This setup allowed
them to attend adult Sunday school twice per month, and the results
have been higher levels of enthusiasm among our volunteers and a
more positive image for our ministry to children.

• Third Goal: We sought parental involvement in
their children’s spiritual training, so that we as a church are
partnering with parents to disciple children, not attempting the
impossible: discipling their children for them.

Finding Help in Smaller Churches

Solution: We adopted a rather radical approach to
accomplish this goal. We implemented a Parent Assistant Rotation,
where all parents with children in the ministry would be required
to serve. Our pastor gave a phenomenal message from the book of
Exodus about “not leaving the children behind.” At one point during
the plagues God inflicted on Egypt, Pharaoh told Moses something
like, “Fine, go yonder and worship, but leave your children here in

Moses’ response: “We’re not leaving our children behind
spiritually. It’s our responsibility as parents to train our kids
to love God and serve God.” Our pastor then announced the new
parent rotation system to the entire church. He announced that
every parent with a child in the department would serve one hour
per month–including him! For one full year, our pastor served in
the 4-year-old class as a parent assistant.

So you ask, How does it work? When a family joins our church, they
receive a letter from the preschool ministry director stating that
they’ll be added to the parent assistant rotation. They may choose
the hour they’d like to serve, and if they strongly feel they
can’t, we make an appointment to discuss the situation. We
understand there are times when a family just needs to be
ministered to. All we ask is that parents contact us when they’re
able to serve. Each month parents receive a calendar with the
schedule and the phone numbers of all the parents. If parents need
to reschedule, they contact another parent on the schedule and
switch, then let the ministry director know.

Church Mouse Pads

It’s wonderful to see the changes that’ve taken place. God has
brought us excellent teachers who teach God’s Word faithfully each
week. Some are parents; some are grandparents. Some are church
members who heard God’s call to invest in the lives of this future
generation. The greatest reward is seeing the children run up to
their teachers and parents and talk about all they’re learning
about Jesus, With God’s blessing, this partnership is

Andrew and Tracy Orr are children’s ministers at Philadelphia
Baptist Church in Deville, Louisiana.

Opinion: “Sign ‘Em Up!”

“We now ask parents who call [our church]their home to serve in
children’s ministry…We are confident that you will have deeper and
richer conversations about faith with your kids if you learn beside
them on Sunday mornings.” -Heartland Community Church, Olathe,

“There’s a need to help out in simple chores like getting snacks
ready, helping during crafts time, storytime, etc. It’s not
necessarily about preparing to actually be a Sunday school teacher.
If all parents helped out, what would it be? Once every 3 to 6
months…Talk about support and knowing what goes on!”-Melissa, poll response


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Children's Ministry Magazine

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