This post was written by Sharon Rundell, a member of the INCM Blog team.
Relationships, connection, and community are some of the biggest needs with our families today.
Creating a solid relationship foundation with the parents in our ministries is key in setting families up for success when it comes to Spiritual Formation.
A parent who feels seen, known, and loved is so much more likely to put the tools that you share into practice.
New Families Need Connection
Currently, in my ministry context, I have tons of new families who are becoming a part of our church community.
We are growing in the normal sense and we are growing because a church down the road just merged with ours, creating one community.
This is wonderful, but also leaves families wondering, Where do I fit in?
As Easter approaches, you may also experience new families in your church or there may be families you don’t know who have been attending your church for a while.
How do you plan on building a relationship with them?
New families need to be integrated into your ministry in order to help them find a home and welcome that they need to participate.
I have been thinking about this a lot and wanted to share some of the things that I have put into practice.
Feel free to experiment with some of what I have learned recently or share with our INCM community some things that have worked for you.
Here are some practices to try.
1. Make yourself available.
The perception that you are available goes a long way in helping people feel that they are a part of what is happening.
I find that closing my communications with parents with a line that says I am available for coffee, lunch, or zoom helps with the overall perception of my availability.
I don’t expect to hear back from all 192 people that receive my weekly email, but I do hear back from one or two.
Meeting with two families a week is totally workable for me in my context.
Maybe it will work for you, too.
2. Visit new babies.
Once every few years families welcome in a new child either through birth, adoption, or foster care.
This is a good opportunity to be welcomed into the family home, to give a small gift, and to show that you are here for them.
I keep these visits to fifteen minutes (by setting a timer on my phone before I go in), encourage the parents not to clean up or prepare for my visit in any way that might stress them, and let them know my visit will be short.
Families will remember that you came for a visit and this helps build trust.
3. Follow your families on social media.
The reality is, social media has become a part of my job.
Here I see birth announcements, learn about celebrations or illnesses in their families, and have a little window into each family’s world.
Follow your families on social media and make it a part of your daily rhythm to like and comment on their posts.
This goes a long way in helping parents feel known by you.
It also gives you something to chat about when you see them in person on a Sunday morning.
Group Size Determines Connection
Inviting parents to big events or even attending some of the events that families are participating in through the community such as soccer games, school plays, etc. are terrific.
But these events are too large to build more personal or intimate relationships.
I’ve learned recently that sociological spaces have four distinct spheres:
Public Space (70+ people) and Social Space (20-50 people).
These large groups don’t provide the deeper relationship-building that parents are looking for from you and your team.
You could start with something more inclusive such as Personal Space (5-12 people), but the real vulnerability comes to the forefront in the Intimate Space (2-4 people).
Try Something New
As you pray about how to build relationships with the parents in your ministry, I’d like to challenge you to try something new.
How might you invite parents into a more intimate space with you even if it’s just once a year?
After all, we are all trying to accomplish the same thing. We want parents to feel seen, known, and loved by you and most of all by Jesus.
I’m cheering for you!
Sharon is the Family Life Pastor at Mill City Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She spends her days ministering to children, leading adult discipleship groups, as well as public speaking at adult and children’s events. She and her husband Andrew have been married for 30+ years, and are the proud parents of three emerging adult sons who still keep them on their toes!