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What Parents Need Most From You

Debbie Trafton O'Neal

Baby boomer parents are flocking back to the church. And the children's ministry is one of the first things they check out when they visit a new church.

Doug Murren writes in The Baby Boomerang, "We boomer parents want to know if your churches are ready to invest in our kids. If we boomers are going to stick around, we are really going to need your help with our children."

But many parents are sorely disappointed in what they're finding.

"Many of the baby boomers who returned to church after an extended period of -- i.e., for the sake of their children -- are now leaving the church again, disappointed that they did not receive greater benefits for their investment," writes George Barna in his book What Americans Believe.

What do parents today really need or expect from your Christian education program? Here are questions parents have of your program but don't often ask.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

Answer these questions to determine if your program meets parents' expectations. Get parents to complete the "Parent Survey." Then use the teacher training meeting to determine any changes that need to be made.

1. Does your commitment to children shine through everything you do?
2. Is it obvious that your senior pastor really loves kids?
3. Does your program teach children in appropriate age groups?
4. Is your children's program more than just a baby-sitting service?
5. Are lessons tailored to different learning styles?
6. Do activities and events conflict with or complement the family activities common to your community, such as soccer or school events?
7. Will your program support parents in their parenting?
8. Will children be safe in your program?
9. Are teachers motivated to be there, or are they just putting in their time?
10. Do teachers make the Bible come alive for kids?
11. Are kids learning basic biblical content?
12. Does your curriculum make the Bible relevant to kids' lives?
13. Do teachers know more about each child in their class than just his or her name?
14. Do teachers regularly let parents know what their child is learning?
15. Do teachers give parents insight into how their child is developing spiritually?
16. Does the children's minister effectively communicate with parents on a regular basis?

PROGRAMMING THAT'LL MAKE PARENTS HAPPY

If you want to please baby boomer parents with your children's ministry, implement these ideas from The Baby Boomerang.

  • Make your facilities appealing to kids. Show parents that kids are a priority in your church by having kid-friendly, colorful, clean rooms.
  • Be visitor-friendly. Make it easy for visiting families to find where to take their children. Post greeters at key areas to help bewildered visitors.
  • Train teachers. Choose gifted teachers and then equip them to be their very best. Help them understand what'll bring the Bible to life for their students.
  • Plan innovative activities. Baby boomers love innovation. Have your greeters wear creative outfits. Plan creative ways to do old activities. Brainstorm creative new activities. Let your mind go wild!
  • Encourage positive pastoral comments. Murren never mentions the children's ministry in his church when they need workers. He waits until the ministry is well-stocked and then asks the church to show teachers their appreciation. His church gives out several plaques a year to honor workers.

Debbie Trafton O'Neal is an educator and parenting specialist in Washington state.


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