"Parents have the most influence in their child's faith."
"Yes, you've told us that."
"Can you help us?"
"Uh, sorry, I need to plan next week's dodgeball event."
OK, that's pretty harsh, but if you're honest, you've had a similar discussion with a parent at some time. I have. Perhaps in your ministry you've hit this wall, as I did. You're called to develop and grow and deepen the faith of the children and teens in your church, and to accomplish that you've got a jam-packed calendar of biblically and theologically sound lessons, mission trips, retreats, and amazing games and events nights. You are busy planning, leading, driving, coffeeing...doing everything you can to accomplish your goal to grow your students' faith. And as you read through an article or book that suggests that your work is minimal compared to the influence that parents have, one of two things happen. Either you freak out at your parents for not doing their job and you work harder and become increasingly discouraged or burnt out, or you become relieved that it's not your fault all the seniors that were active in your youth group last year are no longer attending church because the parents didn't do their job. Either way, the question needs to be asked: are we really accomplishing our goal to deepen the faith of our teens through our programs and events?
It's time we work less on trying to get parents on board with what we're doing in youth ministry and get on board with what parents are doing at home.
Don't misunderstand—the programs and events are good and important. But a perfectly executed lesson as a result of hours of preparation simply does not have the impact that a 10 minute faith conversation between parent and child has. Is it possible that our time might be better spent encouraging and resourcing parents?
That sounds great, but where to begin?
John Roberto, president of Lifelong Faith, describes the five core family faith practices in which churches can assist households. which is a great place to being thinking about how we can grow a "family resourcing" ministry.
- Faith Conversations – Listening and responding to the daily concerns of family members make it easier to have meaningful conversations regarding the love of God, and are ways to express God’s love to others.
- Devotions and Prayer – Family devotions and learning provide a way to learn more about the Bible and Christian traditions as a family, and apply the teachings to daily life as a follower of Jesus Christ.
- Service – When parent and child/teen together perform service activities, the child/teen sees the parent’s capability, faith, and values in action. The cross-generational bond takes place not only in the service event, but also in the retelling of the event through the years.
- Rituals and Traditions – Family rituals and traditions speak volumes about what the family values, believes and promotes, and how much the family values its faith.
- Meal Time – So many of the family’s faith practices happen around the family meal: having conversations, praying, reading the Bible, celebrating rituals and traditions, to name a few. The family meal is one of the few rituals that allow families to act out their concern for each other, and their need and desire to be together. The family meal is the time when family comes first, establishing, enjoying, and maintaining ties.
I encourage you to consider reallocating your time and energy that you put into programming, and consider resourcing your families as a vital part of your ministry.
In what ways do you encourage and resource your families to promote these five faith practices?
How might your ministry look if this became a component of your ministry strategy?