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Exclusive Research: The State of Family Ministry

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The first rule of any good service business is to “know thy customer.” And the better a business knows the customer, the more likely it’ll have success speaking the customer’s language, meeting the customer’s needs, and having the customer return.

Wouldn’t you say those are all things we want when it comes to serving families today — and parents in particular? We want to speak their language, meet their needs, and have them return so their families can grow in their relationship with Jesus. It’s a worthy goal to partner with parents in the spiritual training of their children.

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Yet do we understand our customer — today’s parents? Are we using outdated methods that are doomed before we even begin to equip and communicate with new generations of parents? Or are we on the right path? What if we could get inside parents’ heads to discover what they think of our children’s ministry efforts? Would they tell us what works and what doesn’t? Would parents help us better understand how to partner with them?

These are the exact questions that led us to conduct a research project where we not only surveyed children’s ministers, but we also surveyed the parents they serve. In this, the State of Family Ministry release, our exclusive research will provide welcome relief-and a challenge to rethink what we’re doing. Read on to see what Children’s Ministry Magazine uncovered.

Expectations: Children’s Spiritual Training

Parents and children’s ministers agree on the #1 expectation for children’s spiritual training: “Children will enter into a relationship with Jesus.” In fact 59 percent of parents stated this as their top expectation for their church’s children’s ministry, while 43 percent of children’s ministers estimated this would be their parents’ answer. Since children’s ministers have a clear perception of what parents want, this is a strong affirmation that children’s ministries are on the right path to serve parents.

When it comes to secondary expectations, though, an interesting divergence occurs. Children’s ministers listed “children will learn good character development and become better people” as the second thing they’d expect parents to value in their children’s ministry. Parents, however, chose “children will have an understanding of biblical principles” as their second choice. Character development was a distant third for parents.

Bottom Line: From this study, it’s clear that parents want their kids to have a friendship with Jesus and an understanding of biblical principles-first and foremost. The prevalent emphasis on character development in children’s ministry circles needs re-examination.

Definition: Parent-Partnering Programs

Once again, parents and children’s ministers agree — this time on the definition of “partnering with parents to train their children spiritually.” The #1 definition ranked by 54 percent of parents and children’s ministers was “great classes and programs at church with take-home faith extensions.” This is one more strong affirmation that children’s ministries are on the right path.

When given five choices, children’s ministers’ second choice definition was “great home devotion materials with supplemental at-church experiences.” Parents’ ranked the children’s ministers’ second choice as #4 in their list of five possible choices. Parents’ second most-chosen definition was “great classes and programs at church” (28 percent) and then a distant third was “training and celebration surrounding key faith milestones in a child’s life” (8 percent).

Bottom Line: Children’s ministers’ second choice is a clear result of the home-centered, church-supported philosophy that many family ministry proponents espouse to help parents be the primary faith-developers for their children. But are parents ready for this? Would they embrace this model? The research would say “not yet.” Parents rely on children’s ministries to create an irresistible faith-growth environment for their children. Today’s parents will partner with the church that delivers this.

Partnering With Parents Here’s a side-by-side comparison of parents’ and children’s ministers’ definitions of an effective children’s ministry that partners with parents to train children spiritually.

Parent Definitions Children’s Minister Defintions
1. Great classes and programs at church with take-home faith extensions 54% 1. Great classes and programs at church with take-home faith extensions 54%
2. Great classes and programs at the church 28% 2. Great home devotion materials with supplemental at-church experiences 19%
3. Training and celebration surrounding key faith milestones in a child’s life 8% 3. Devotion materials that encourage parents to train their children at home 11%
4. Great home devotion materials with supplemental at-church experiences 8% 4. Training and celebration surrounding key faith milestones in a child’s life 10%
5. Devotion materials that encourage parents to train their children at home 3% 5. Great classes and programs at the church 7%

 

Exclusive Research: The State of Family Ministry
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About Author

Christine Yount Jones

Christine has more than 28 years of children’s ministry experience. She is the Executive Editor of Children’s Ministry Magazine, has authored many books and articles on children’s ministry, and serves as co-director of the KidMin Conference. She’s led teams in the development of leading innovative resources, including Buzz Instant Sunday School curriculum, Grapple Preteen Curriculum, and the new Dig-In Sunday School curriculum. Follow Christine on Twitter @ChristineYJones

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