Here’s how to successfully get parents to genuinely commit to your children’s ministry — without making them crazy or eating up all of their spare time!
Today’s parents. They’re a rare breed, a hard-to-understand breed. They’re returning to the church, but they’re reluctant to join. Today’s parents are unfamiliar with how to teach their children God’s truths, but they know the church can help. They want to help out at church, but they don’t have a lot of time.
And you need parents for your ministry, but you’re perplexed about how to get commitments from them.
6 Secrets to Getting Parents to Commit
Getting them involved is not as big a mystery as you might think. Children’s ministers who’ve been successful at involving parents in their ministries share these six secrets to get parents to commit to ministry.
1. Foster an investment mentality.
Parents today need help teaching values to their kids, and they’re looking to the church for help. Many parents have rejected their parents’ values for so long that they don’t know how to communicate values to their children. Use your program to train parents in parenting skills and in how to communicate God’s truths.
Mark Savage, a children’s pastor in Illinois, says, “If parents aren’t comfortable discussing religious things with their children, then they can do that in the format of ministry. They may not know the Bible stories, so the ministry is a good opportunity for them to relearn those stories and apply them and help the children apply them.”
2. Serve parents.
Don’t be shocked by what parents don’t know. One parent volunteer who hadn’t grown up in the church called her children’s church coordinator and asked, “Where can I buy manna for Sunday’s lesson?”
Make sure parents have the resources and training they need. Because many parents feel inadequate or inferior in a teaching situation, they need to know you’re on their side. Susan Grover, a director of children’s ministry in California, says, “[The parents] are here to serve us, but primarily we’re here to serve them. So the staff has an attitude of ‘How can I support you? How can I serve you while you serve?’ We’re helping people grow and mature in their walk with the Lord.”
3. Be relational.
Because many parents are single or have relocated several times, they crave companionship through church. So a crucial key to recruiting parents to commit is developing personal relationships. Network with parents at all times-before and after worship services, in the new members class, at brunches, after prayer meetings, or during any social gathering. Let them know that you want to be their friend.
Make it easy for parents to approach you and teachers. Some parents don’t sense that you’re open to “new blood.” Identify teachers in a positive way by using badges or T-shirts to make them more approachable. Let parents know that if they volunteer they’re joining a team. No parent wants to be stuck in a room with no hope of adult contact ever again.
4. Let parents do what they like.
Kurt Jarvis, a director of children and family ministries in New Jersey, says, “You really have to custom tailor your recruitment according to your demographics. Rather than say, ‘We can only do children’s ministry if we have 100 people who will commit 52 weeks out of the year,’ we say, ‘What will you do? We’ll use you no matter what you want to do.’ ” If you don’t have enough people to run your ministry, cut programs.
Customize your program by matching people’s gifts to the needs. George Pritchard, a pastor of family ministries in Oregon, has a volunteer whose sole responsibility is “matchmaking.” She gets to know people and, after discovering their strengths and talents, places them where they can best serve the Lord and kids.
Your program will thrive with this approach. If parents are where they want to be and doing what they like, you’ll have excited, enthusiastic people on your staff-which is the only way to convey to children the excitement of what it means to love Jesus. Your kids will benefit from people who are having a blast at what they’re doing. By letting parents do what they want, they’ll accept your invitation more readily, have greater satisfaction, and stay longer.
5. Offer different ways to commit and different levels of commitment.
Susan Bunch, a children’s pastor in California, uses parents’ talents and skills in the summer for her “Sunday School Electives.” Regular teachers get two months off, and parents sign up to teach four-week classes on subjects such as veterinary medicine, cooking, carpentry, and sign language. Parents relate these subjects to Scripture and God’s character.
Start teachers out as substitutes so they can grow into the position. Or offer short, closed-ended opportunities-if they want more, let them recommit. Have parents teach using a month on/month off rotation. Give them the summer off. Offer 10-week commitments. Or develop a pool of parents who’d be willing to help in a class once a month. eas.
Today’s parents thrive on diversity. If changing the structure of a program means parents can commit, then do it! If parents are too busy to help during the day, hold evening activities (how about an evening VBS?). You’ll get more working parents to help out! Move to team teaching or family teaching where family units teach a Sunday school class together. Everyone’s involved-the children might hand out papers or lead a game. This way the family is involved in ministry together.
But most of all, remember to let God play a major role in who takes part in your ministry. You won’t be disappointed! As Susan Grover says, “I always go first in prayer because God knows more than I do who he wants to be involved in the program. So he helps lead me to the people.”
What Parents Can Do
Try these ideas for different things parents can commit to:
- Specialty teams: (drama, singing, crafts, storytelling, recreation, puppetry) Travel to different classrooms for 10 to 15 minutes, do their specialty, then move on.
- Disciplers: Get to know kids and help them out in areas.
- Artists: Design bulletin boards, create publicity posters, or paint faces!
- Musicians: Be part of a traveling troupe or lead worship.
- Photographers: Chronicle events with pictures of kids.
- Baby cuddlers: Help out in the nursery.
- Clerical helpers: File or compile your newsletter.
- Prayers: Pray any time, anywhere.
- Snack providers: Bake fun, theme-related snacks.
- Greeters: Make kids feel special.
- Shoppers: Shop for anything you need.
- Facilities helpers: Help with setup and cleanup.
- Party hosts: Host parties at their home.
- Resource people: Keep the resource room stocked and help teachers find resources.
- Junk collectors: Collect everything you’ll ever need for crafts.
Janice Long is a former editorial assistant for Children’s Ministry Magazine.
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