10 Easy Ways to Partner with Families in Your Ministry

10 Easy Ways to Partner with Families in your Ministry

“Partner with parents” is a phrase used quite a bit in the kidmin, student ministry and family ministry world. There are different ways to define what ‘partnering’ with parents means, but I define it simply as being a parent’s biggest cheerleader. I want to cheer them on as they lead their families.  I want to cheer them on as they help their children know, love and follow Jesus.  I want to cheer them on as they help their family navigate the culture and world we live in.

While a daunting task and key responsibility for ministry leaders, cheerleading for families doesn’t always have to be over-thought. Yes, there should be strategies in place to help move families from here to there, but there are easy ways to make this happen. Here are 10 to help you get started:

  1. Ask their opinion. Looking for ideas that a certain age group of kids might like? Looking for the latest trends in games, apps, television shows, etc.? Want to make tweaks or changes in your ministry? Keep your finger on the pulse of what kids like and what kids are talking about by going to kid experts – their PARENTS! I occasionally email parents in my ministry to get feedback and ideas on a variety of things. Doing this shows (1) I don’t have all the answers (which I don’t) and (2) I value them and their opinion. I have found parents to be very receptive to this!
  2. Provide a playlist of songs being played in your ministry. Give parents a glimpse of good, quality music by sharing your ministry’s playlist. You can share this through music streaming services such as iTunes or Spotify. This allows children to hear the music you play in church at home and on the go!
  3. Keep your website updated. Our families are busy. They don’t want to search for information on what’s going on in your ministry and when. Do them a favor and help them out by keeping your website updated. Include dates, times, pricing, locations and contact information. They will thank you for this.
  4. Ask how you can pray for them. The families we serve are facing so many challenges today and could benefit from our prayer support. One of the greatest ways we can cheerlead for families is to go to God on their behalf.

     Not only that, but…

  5. Follow up about prayer requests shared. This shows that you care for the families and is a great way to build long-term relationships with them.
  6. Celebrate special milestones. Baby dedications, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, mission trips, etc. are just a few special moments in the spiritual lives of our kids.  Join families in celebrating these important milestones!
  7. Be visible. Take the time to greet families as they arrive, mingle in the hallways and see families off as they depart. Wave hello, give a high-five, and don’t forget to smile!
  8. Send a welcome note to guest families. This year, our guest family check-in team members began to write postcards to children visiting us for the first time. These cards are written on Sunday mornings after the family has been checked in and escorted to their classrooms. We also send an email to the parents the next day, welcoming them and inviting them to complete our brief guest family survey. [If you would like to see what’s included on our survey, you can email me.]
  9. Encourage them. Parenting is tough. Some of our families are really struggling and are just looking for a glimmer of hope. They’re looking for someone to give them a pat on the back and say, “I’m proud of you” or “I’m praying with you. Hang in there.” If you see them doing something right, let them know. If you see their child doing something right, let them know. If you have a resource that might be helpful to help, share it. Provide a gift card for coffee and a pastry.  Ease their burden after a hard day and have a pizza delivered to their house.  The small acts of love and kindness will deeply impact the very parents we’re trying to reach.
  10. Invite them to serve. I almost didn’t include this on the list, but many parents want to be involved in what concerns their children.  The key: invite them to serve in AND out of the classroom setting. Maybe parents or grandparents could:
    1. make costumes
    2. provide snacks for volunteers or classrooms
    3. greet families as they arrive
    4. cut out items at home
    5. gather supplies
    6. organize storage areas
    7. design media elements
    8. solicit businesses for donations

Parents today are looking for support but most of all deep, impactful relationships with others who care about their children.  

Look over this list and choose at least one way that you can strengthen your partnership with families you serve.

If you’re looking for more ways to partner with parents:

Check out my Family Ministry Pinterest Board.

Keep the conversation going! How are you cheerleading for families in your ministry?

When There Are No Words

*Note: My first draft of this post was written before news broke that five Dallas police officers were killed in an ambush attack during a protest rally.  My final draft reflects this tragedy.

How Kid's Ministries Can Respond in Times of Racial Crisis

There are no words, friends.  No words.  For me, there’s been more tears than words.  If you have followed national news in the U.S. over the past several days, you are aware of the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and now five Dallas police officers.  While I usually don’t post or discuss political or racial issues on my social media platforms (I don’t think this is the best forum for these issues to be discussed), the recent tragedies have impacted me deeply.  Deeply.

As a girl in Sunday school, I grew up singing a familiar song:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Watching recent events have horrified me and honestly, caused me to become fearful.  Fearful for my children and other children I love.  I’m sad that this is being played out and will become part of their history.

I am mom to a 20-year old son, who inspired this post (an excerpt) to my personal Facebook page just 24 hours ago:

When Daniel [my son] started driving years ago, I talked to him ad nauseam about what to do if he was ever pulled over in a traffic stop. Where to keep his hands. How to speak to the officer. How to tell the officer if he needed to pull his wallet out of his back pocket or the glove box. AD NAUSEAM.

And why? Because no matter how much of “a fine young man” or “respectable young man” or “good boy” he is, to some, he COULD be perceived a threat. Simply because he’s a black male.

His life matters. It matters to me. A LOT. The lives of every black man in my family matters to me. A LOT.

As uncomfortable as I feel posting this, we need to be uncomfortable. We need to talk about what is happening, why this keeps happening….

The purpose of this post is not to garner a debate about whether or not these shootings were ‘justified’.  Rather, I’d like to reflect on how these types of issues impacts our kids and how ministry leaders, parents and volunteers (Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, etc.) can respond.

As my family and I watched the shootings in Dallas unfold last night, I held my 17-year old daughter.  We both watched in disbelief at what we were watching.  (Sadly, we watched unrest unfold in our city of Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray last spring).  It breaks my heart that these images will be forever etched in her heart.  She will never forget what she was watching and how she was feeling.  As her mom, my heart hurts for her.

Likewise, kids in our ministry are hurting, angry, frustrated, confused.  Many of these children will walk through our church doors this weekend after, once again, being affected by the world they live in.  Here’s what I know:

Conversations are happening.  My social media outlets were flooded with images and outrage over what has occurred.  People are angry and rightfully so.  People are venting their frustrations and are again coming to terms with strained race relations in our country.

Our kids are listening and watching.  They are listening to these conversations and watching the news.  They are asking questions like my 8-year old niece asked my mom (her grandmother):

Ranny, why do they hate us so much?

In another instance, Lisa Harper, a well-known Christian speaker and author, is mom to a child of color.  She shared her daughter’s exposure to racism recently.  Here is an excerpt from her post (you can read the post in its entirety here):

…I can’t explain what it felt like recently when two young men wearing expressions contorted with meanness hurled a Coke can in our direction, then yelled the n-word at Missy before peeling away when we were simply walking out of a convenience store holding hands…

Why does a 6-year old and an 8-year old have to grapple with this?  Why are young children asking these questions?

Let’s be real.  Some of the children in our churches are victims of racism on a regular basis.  Some of them live in communities where bloodshed is commonplace.  This is not ok.  Not ok.  No 15-year old boy should have to publicly mourn his father during a news conference.  No 4-year old baby should have to witness a killing in the front seat of a car she’s riding in.  No child of a police officer should have to deal with the loss of a parent who went out to do his or her job.

As I shared in response to a comment left on my personal Facebook page, prejudice, stereotypes and intolerance are unfortunately being modeled and taught in homes, in workplaces, and in communities.  While we cannot control the hatred of others, we can determine that our homes, our churches, our ministries can be a welcoming, safe place for all children.  How?  Here are a few suggestions:

Ministry Leaders

  • Have a ministry that is safe and inclusive for all children.  Let’s help our children live out ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:31) and ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’ (Luke 6:31).  Being inclusive means:
    • Helping children accept other children who look different from them, talk different than they do, and come from a different background, family structure, community, etc. than they do.
    • Creating a safe environment for all.  This goes beyond physical safety to include emotional safety.

       Teach them how their words have impact and how to ‘watch the way they talk’ (Ephesians 4:29).

    • Representing an array of colors in your media presentations.  The world we live in is diverse; this should be reflected in our ministries as well.  Be sure to include children of color in your publications, whether you serve in a multi-cultural context or not.  Again, this will help children accept those who look different than they do.

Parents and Volunteers (Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, etc.)

  • Be a good example and model acceptance and inclusion for all.  Be careful not to stereotype a group of people or their cultural differences.
  • Keep an open dialogue.  Be available to ask age-appropriate questions when the time comes.  Encourage your children to come to you with questions.  Be honest.  If you don’t know the answer, be honest about that, too.
  • Ask God for wisdom.  Pray for your child (or class) and with them.  Ask God to bring healing and comfort to those who are hurting.

This list is my no means exhaustive but it’s a start.  It’s a step toward modeling what it means to be the Church…worshiping together, serving together, loving each other and living together in peace.  A true picture of heaven on earth.

Keep the conversation going.  How will you minister to the children under your care?

Seeing Kingdom Potential in Each Child

Seeing Kingdom potential in each child

As a little girl, I loved to go to church.  I mean loved.  It was the favorite part of my week.  I remember walking through the doors of my church excited to be with friends and adults that I loved.  The atmosphere in that pink (yes, pink!) classroom was warm and welcoming.  The adult leaders taught me songs and scripture verses that I still remember to this day (and sing aloud occasionally).  I was introduced to bible stories that deeply impacted my life.  These precious experiences impacted my life so deeply that I wanted other kids to love going to church just as much as I did.  Little did I know at that moment that God was preparing me for the call He had on my life.

When I began serving in Children’s Ministry as an adult, that desire was my drive…I wanted other kids to love going to church just as much as I did – even more than I did!  I wanted to create experiences that would help kids know how much the God who created them loved them and cherished them.  I wanted children to make friendships that could become lifelong.  I wanted children to treasure God’s Word and be excited to learn it, know it and do what it says.  I wanted children to develop a love of Jesus, one that would sustain them a lifetime.

You see, for me, leading Children’s Ministry is remembering that each child has Kingdom potential.  That means seeing each child who walks through the doors of my church as children who might one day grow up and be a dynamic Christ-follower.  That means seeing them not as the church of tomorrow but as the church of today.  God is working in their lives now, preparing them for the call He has on their lives.

Who but God knows the future He has for them?  Maybe the next great theologian, pastor, ministry leader or church planter is sitting in one of your classrooms right now.  Maybe God is preparing a boy or girl in your ministry to be the next author, politician, artist, business leader, or teacher to turn the world upside down for His honor and glory.

That’s why what we do each week is so much bigger than what we can see with our human eyes.  Each week, we are privileged to welcome children through the doors of our church…children who come to us with all sort of family backgrounds, personalities, gifts, talents and potential.What we are part of is Kingdom investment right now.  What an honor to be part of influencing the life of a child who might change the world and shine bright for Jesus!

If you’re a kidmin leader or volunteer, there’s something I’d like to challenge you to do.  The next time you hold your mid-week or weekend programming, I want you to look around at all of the children in attendance.  Look them in the eye.  Look beyond the challenging behavior, family circumstances or personality issues.  Look at them through a new, fresh lens…as one who could make Jesus known to a world who desperately needs Him.

If you’re a parent, there’s something I’d like to challenge you to do.  Do everything you can to plug your child into a church that helps them know and follow Jesus, one that challenges them to grapple with what they believe and challenges them to put their faith in action.  Attend church regularly so that your child can be connected to leaders and peers who can encourage them along their spiritual journey.  Help them see the church as another voice to speak into their lives.

Keep the conversation going!  How might this change in perspective affect how you minister and parent this week?

International Children’s Bible {Review & Giveaway}

Bibles are one of those staple items for ministry to children.  (If it’s not, it should be!)  Choosing an age-appropriate Bible for children is sometimes a bit of a challenge because there are so many great options out there.  Here’s one I’d like to share with you that children will love.

International Children's Bible

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The International Children’s Bible, the first Bible translation created specifically for children, has been updated and newly typeset in a large readable layout.  The Bible text is set in large type, with bold in-text subject heads that help kids easily find the passages they are looking for.  Also included are boldface words that correspond with a dictionary and concordance entry to explain word definitions.

A great new feature in this updated setting is a key verse index with more than 300 verses that are highlighted throughout the Bible for kids to read and learn.  The beautifully illustrated Bible story insert pages are in a style that children love and will delight their imaginations as they read and “see” popular Bible stories.

International Children's Bible

WHAT I LIKE

The Bible is easy-to-read and easy for younger readers to read on their own.  The size of the Bible is perfect for smaller hands to hold and navigate.  The colors used in the illustrations are brilliant and the drawings are not too young to turn off older elementary-aged children.

WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE

I would have loved to have seen a brief synopsis for each book, such as the author and an overview.  Giving children this background information could help them see the big picture of God’s story.  I also would love to have seen the highlighted verses in a bold color instead of the dull gray; this would help the verses stand out a bit more.  Lastly, I would have loved if the illustrations were in close proximity to the story it related to as well as a scripture reference provided under the illustration’s title.  I could see how this might cause some confusion for children.

All in all, I think the Bible is a great resource for children to develop a love for God’s Word.

To find out more, take a look at this YouTube video or visit their website.

Enter to win a copy of the International Children’s Bible.
I am giving away one copy of the International Children’s Bible to one of my readers.
Simply email me at kidminspiration@gmail.com and tell me your favorite Bible story!
The deadline to enter is 11:59 pm on Friday, May 20th.
The winner will be announced on our Facebook Page on Monday, May 23rd.