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Parents can be your biggest asset—or the biggest voices of dissent you must work with in ministry. Regardless of where on the spectrum they fall, all parents are a huge part of what you do in children’s ministry. Your ministry impacts them. You want open communication and real-time engagement with them. But despite all the work you do to that end, there will always be some parents who just won’t tell you their opinions, fears, or concerns. Maybe they’re scared to offend you, worried you’ll judge them, or fearful of the ramifications of what they tell you.
We asked parents across the country to anonymously tell us the secrets they say they’ll never tell their children’s ministers. These hidden secrets may give you a jolt—but they may also be something you’ve suspected but couldn’t confirm.
Read on to uncover five secrets you need to know—and discover pointers on how you can approach and partner with these parents.
Secret 1: “I don’t buy into your ministry.”
Ouch. This is a tough one and something no children’s minister wants to hear. As counterintuitive as it seems, some parents just don’t buy into the value of children’s ministry. Maybe it’s that they don’t see that your ministry goes beyond decorations, slimy crafts, or loud music. Or maybe they disagree with the entire concept of children’s ministry or they don’t like your ministry approach.
“I wish our children’s ministry would bring back teaching the Word; to include the 10 Commandments, the Beattitudes, and so on. Train the children to operate in the gifts of the Spirit. Teach them how to pray. Talk about the Fruit of the Spirit and the promises of obedience and curses of disobedience. But mostly, I wish they’d to get back to the Bible.”
—Joe, father of two, Madison, Wisconsin
“I secretly think children’s ministry is a terrible thing because it gives parents a way out of their spiritual responsibility to point their kids to Jesus. But I let my daughter attend because it brings her so much joy.”
—Frank, father of one, Washington, D.C.
“You’re entertaining too much. It’s not a circus. We want substance. Meat.”
—Mary, mother of five, Boston, Massachusetts
TRUTH: If parent buy-in is an issue you feel you’re dealing with, at the root you may have a communication issue. It’s time to over-share with parents what their children are learning. Communicate through email, take-home pages, and face-to-face conversation. Advertise the spiritual wins that are coming out of your ministry. Shout from the rooftops the Scriptures kids are learning, the biblical “meat” they devour every week and the lifelong commitments they’re making. Show parents week in and week out that real, life-changing ministry is happening.
Secret 2: “I disagree with you.”
This is one many of us have heard in some way before. One of the first lessons we learn in ministry is that we’ll never please everyone—so we grow thicker skin. Parents are often more willing to say so when they disagree with you, but these parents’ comments show the issues may go deeper than curriculum depth or discipline policies.
“The children’s pastor’s children are out of control.”
—Clayte, mother of two, Boston, Massachusetts
“I don’t care for our children’s pastor in general, so I’d have my husband talk to him if something arose. I would give a general prayer request to all the pastors so he was aware, but I wouldn’t talk to him personally.”
—Tricia, pregnant mom, Boston, Massachusetts
“I really dislike that our adult volunteers are allowed to have their 7-, 8-, or 9-year-olds in the nursery ‘helping’ with the infants and 1-year-olds. I think that’s
extremely unsafe and uncalled for. Kids this age are not suited to ‘help’ with young children who are so dependent for so much from an adult.”
—Elizabeth, mother of one, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“Special needs children are still children. If you don’t put the same effort into them as you do the rest, you lose them and their whole family. For some families, church can be elemental to a parent’s sanity. It may be the only chance we have to hear the Word and get a break all in one service.”
—Monica, mother of five, Boston, Massachusetts
“I don’t agree with our children’s pastor’s methods. Because 3-year-olds won’t do a craft or sit for long periods of time doesn’t mean they need to be in a nursery and play with toys and have no curriculum or lessons. Our children’s pastor believes they won’t get anything from it, and I completely disagree.”
—Heather, mother of four, Des Moines, Iowa
TRUTH: This kind of criticism is usually the kind reserved for private venting sessions. It can hurt, but these comments are great reminders that we can all do a regular heart-check to ensure we’re giving the best to all families and modeling what we expect from them. Some parents may not know you well. They may not know your heart for ministry, for your family, or for their family. Spend time with them, get to know them, and let them see how much you care and are always looking for ways to improve.
And remember this: Parents aren’t your enemy because they disagree with you. They know your job is tough, but they also have a different perspective and specific needs. Some are advocating for their own families’ needs while others may have a passion for an area you don’t. Listen to parents, learn their perspective, and add it to the knowledge you already have. If it all matches up with where God is leading your ministry, run with it—and invite those parents to run with you.[end of article preview]
Thanks for checking out this special sneak peek of a featured article in the May/June 2016 issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine.
Subscribe today and get more great articles like this one—delivered to your mailbox and tablet—all year long!