If you’re in a ministry that’s directed at the Next Generation, you know there are a ton of methods, strategies and ways of doing ministry to reach kids and teens. Your denomination, demographic, church style, and ministry worldview all affect what you do and why you do it. However, regardless of our differences, there are certain issues that every ministry leader seems to encounter that are the same.
The particular issue I’m talking about today is why parents seem to have a lack of interest in their kid’s spiritual well-being?
the rethink group
One of the forerunners trying to solve this problem and help engage parents is the family ministry company, The reThink Group, whose ideology is entitled “Orange”. Orange represents the light of the Church (yellow) and the love of the family (red) and pushes for the combination of the two (orange).
Let me preface this by saying, I am a huge fan of The reThink Group. As a ministry leader, I very much “Think Orange”. If you are in ministry, and you don’t know what it means to “Think Orange” you need to find out because they have some of the best practices available to date, even if you don’t use their curriculums.
Reggie Joiner, CEO of the reThink Group, has created an illustration to highlight the amount of influence a parent has on the life of their child compared to the church. His team has ascertained that families who attend church regularly, attend about 40 times a year on the weekend. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, their data shows after you take away holidays, sporting events, sick kids, and vacations; a regularly attending family is attending church about 40 times a year on a weekend.
In the reThink Group’s model, they take the 40 hours that the church would have to influence a kid and compare that with the amount of time that a parent would have to interact with their child. Even when you subtract school and the times kids are away, the parent hours still typically total 3,000 hours or more.
the rethink group suggests that you don’t fight what is true
If it’s true that a parent has ten times the amount of influence, then the parent should be the primary influencer for spirituality. They suggest a strategy that is attempting to leverage the power & man hours the parent already has in their child’s life so that the parent’s extend their influence by combining it with some of the things being taught in church.
Orange understands that if the Church has a desire for kids to be growing spiritually, then the church has to encourage parents to go beyond just the normal expectations of traditional parenting. The church has to help parents to get involved in their kid’s spiritual journey and has to quickly put tools in the parent’s hands that connect what’s being taught at church, so the influence is multiplied.
Orange uses the scripture that God gives to parents in Deuteronomy to show that this is God’s intention for families. It’s the parent’s job to teach their kids that everything we do is spiritual. We don’t just teach kids about God at church, but we teach our children along the way.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6
This idea that parents would take ownership for their kid’s faith journey is obviously Biblical. Regionally, I would even defend it might have more success in certain areas. However, personally in ministry application, I’ve seen parents repeatedly disengage as we’ve asked them to take more responsibility. As ministry leaders, you spend hours printing out parent connection cards, putting together family events, crafting things on social media for parents to engage with, and yet so often they don’t.
Why? Parents want the best for their kids, right? Parents want their children to become Christ followers, right? So, why don’t they seem to be using the resources you are giving them to try and make it easier.
it’s not like parents aren’t interested in their kids
Parents are hovering more than ever, acquiring titles like ‘helicopter parent’ and the coming of age title ‘drone parent’. Parents make sure their kids are at soccer practice and dance practice. They even bring them to church. They are signing their children up for three versions of the SAT prep courses and practically writing their college entrance essays. Many “involved parents” are doing all these things, and they want the best for their kids. So, why does it so often seem like they are doing everything, except investing in their kid’s spirituality?
why don’t parents care about their kid’s spiritual growth?
#1 they are too busy
I hate to admit this, but it’s true. We live in a society with a million distractions. Everything is vying for our time. Currently, I am vying for your time if you are reading this post. I have been in some form of ministry to the Next Generation for over 15 years. I understand the value of the parental relationship.
However, I will honestly admit I never, NOT ONE TIME used a “go home” card that one of my kids brought home from church. I might have even printed the material, but I didn’t use it. Now, I of course knew at some level what was being taught because I was on staff, but I traditionally did not put the things up on my fridge. Personally, I’m a minimalist to the max, and all papers go immediately into the trash. I know I’m not alone in this. If parents are too busy to do what you’re asking them to do, then all you can do as a ministry leader is change what you’re doing again. You can either refine it, change it all together, or stop it outright.
- One option is to further unify what the adults and kids are doing at your church. You could consistently create personalized content that connects what kids, teens, and adults are doing on the weekend. Then everyone is speaking the same language. This, of course, has a lot of front end work, but could potentially have awesome results.
- For one minute every weekend, talk about what your kids and students are learning from the main stage in an adult worship service. If you only have 40 weekends with kids and students, that means you have 40 weekends with their parents too. If you want parents to engage more, sharing updates in the main worship service might work because they are already attending that environment. You didn’t have to add something for them to get connected.
- In addition to that, every ministry should continue moving most of their content online. Parents of young kids are more digital than ever before (and often more minimalistic like myself) papers are considered clutter and aren’t going to have the same effect that materials online will have.
- I know it requires A LOT of time to make a difference in the social media world, but if you are consistent and don’t give up, you will see results. Consider having a text message based relationship, even with parents of teens. Everyone reads their text messages, even when people are busy. This is a direct route of contact.
#2 they are intimidated
In my personal interactions with parents, most of them want to do a good job. Simultaneously, a lot of them are concerned that they are going to lead their kids astray. As society as a whole becomes more self-aware and people realize the deep and profound impact their parents had on them (in both good and bad ways), I see more parents under the age of 35 that are taking a less active approach to parenting in certain roles.
They are truly handing off the areas they feel less qualified in, to an “expert”. They hand off education to the expert, aka the teacher. They hand off God to the expert, aka the pastor or small group leader. They hand off all things health to the doctor and so on for additional areas of life. In a way, this absolves parents from a lot of blame if things go awry, and truly it’s better for our egos, but it’s not better for our kids.
This means if we want parents to actually take responsibility for something like the spiritual journey of their children, they will need A LOT of encouragement. They need to be empowered. They need their own pastors and friends and ministry leaders and peers repeatedly and regularly reminding them that it’s their job to begin with, and they are the best ones suited to this work for their own children.
They need systems they can easily plug into and tools readily available. This means your church should have a section for parents and families in your bookstore or your NextGen area where parents have access to curated resources that they can buy or have. There should be devotional books for preschoolers, elementary kids, and high-schoolers that your church believes work. There should be sermons that your pastor has taught on the topic that are available.
If you utilize a system of communication on social media, there should ALWAYS be information available about how to engage with it. Offer solutions that replace existing things parents are already doing. Orange has actually has tapped into a formula of utilizing “car time”, “meal time”, and “bed time”. I love this, but these types of strategies have to be mentioned OVER and OVER and OVER again by ministry leaders with practical applications for parents to actually lean into them.
#3 they are uninterested
This might be a hard pill to swallow, but a lot of parents might truly just be uninterested. I think this should bring about two reactions in ministry leaders. One, let’s work harder to make it interesting and engaging. What a curriculum offers to engage parents might not work for your church or demographic, but you might know how to hook your own people. You are the expert on your own church and culture in a way an outsider can never be. It is a lot more work to come up with strategies on your own, but if you believe the work is worth it, then you’ll keep working.
Two, be grateful for every volunteer that stands in the gap for those kids. There are kids all over the world that are lovers of God, and it has nothing to do with their parents and families. In fact, it’s sometimes in spite of them. By default the family unit has influence that a church would have to work very hard to acquire, but the voice of a mentor, a pastor, a small group leader, and a friend can pierce through in powerful ways. The outside influence on the life of a student and child can be a very powerful thing.
This problem is far from solved. I’m just one more voice weighing in, but this is how we solve problems. We talk about them. We think about them. We pray about them. We wrestle with them. So, join me as we all continue to search for new strategies to engage parents, families, and kids in a changing world. If you’d like to take your family ministry to the next level and you’re looking for an expert to help you create your own systems, we’d love to help. Give us a call at 252-679-2030 to help today.
Chief Creative Officer
Stacia has over a decade of ministry experience, with the majority of that time leading next generation change. She has experience leading almost one hundred volunteers, and developing curriculum for kids and students. Stacia has a B.S. in Church Ministries and Biblical Studies, as well as experience educating in an elementary public school environment. She is also immensely creative and accomplished in teaching children about the wonder of God.