Consider how your family ministry events might be more effective using this TIE Test, which simply asks, “How could this activity Train, Involve, or Equip parents as primary faith influencers? How could it Train, Involve, or Equip our church to embrace our role with spiritual orphans?” Then write down how each activity might look different after the TIE Test.
TRAIN: Before or during a children’s ministry activity, train parents and how to reinforce the spiritual truths that participants are learning. Such training is not an add-on; it’s every bit as important as the event itself. Conduct the training at a time when as many parents as possible can be present. For some churches, this could mean setting aside Wednesday evening Bible study as a parent-training time during the week of children’s camp. In another context, it might mean developing a training session for moms or dads immediately after the informational meeting about the transition from preschool ministry to children’s ministry. Aim the training toward a single, very specific goal. For example, the training during children’s camp might prepare parents to lead four weeks of faith-talks-one faith-talk each week-during the month that follows camp. You might even facilitate role-playing during the session so that parents or Families-in-Faith who have never led a faith-talk have an opportunity to practice.
INVOLVE: When we invite parents, the point is typically for them to provide support and security for our event-that’s necessary at times, but it isn’t the same as involving parents. When we involve parents, we design the event so that parents are necessary for it to work. This may mean organizing teams by families for recreational times during the event, or it could include having parents lead small-group devotionals with their families to conclude the event. And what about the children whose parents won’t show up? That’s why “volunteer” families are so essential to your church’s family ministry; without families who are willing to act as spiritual families for spiritual orphans, your ministry will end up serving the children who have churched families rather than those who don’t.
EQUIP: It may be that some events can’t be shifted to train or to involve parents. If that’s the case, use those events to equip parents in your church with resources that recognize their role as faith-trainers in their children’s lives. For example, you might provide parents with a monthly resource list and some faith-talk suggestions that apply at home what you’re teaching each week in children’s church. Or you might develop a quarterly list of catechism questions and a recommended book that coordinates with the themes that children are exploring in Sunday school.
Timothy Paul Jones holds a doctorate in educational leadership. He’s the author of the bestselling books Answers to the Da Vinci Code and Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. See his complete article, “Danger: Family Ministry” in the September/October 2010 issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine.