This post was written by Angie Hooie, a member of the INCM Blog team.
I’ve been in kid’s ministry vocationally for 7 years. When I first started in ministry, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into–but I did know that it wasn’t just “childcare!” I would have told you at the time that children’s ministry was primarily about teaching kids how to have a personal relationship with Jesus. But, I’ve come to wonder–is children’s ministry really about us (the staff/volunteers), or the parents, teaching kids how to have a personal relationship with Jesus?
I’ve come to believe that it is the parents’ primary responsibility, with the Church coming alongside the parents in a support role. Pre-COVID, our ministry had, on average, maybe 40-50 hours a year max with a child (if they were a regular-attender at church). Their parents, on the other hand, have over 3,000 hours a year with their child. It is eye-opening when you look at the difference.
Many are familiar with the verses in Deuteronomy 6:7-9, “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 doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Another familiar verse is Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
While we may know and agree with these premises, how do we actually do ministry this way (discipling parents to disciple their kids) in our contexts, especially in the COVID-Era?
In my ministry context, we are doing all the things–posting our lessons online, creating lesson packets for families to pick up, making Worship Bags for the kids to use in “big church.” We even transitioned our in-person VBS to an online VBS. We recently started to do an in-person Family Worship Experience, in lieu of fully re-opening our kid’s ministry.
If I sit with my thoughts, my mind begins to ask all kinds of questions, yours may be as well. Any of these questions sound familiar?
- All of these things are not “real ministry”…is any of what we’re doing really making a difference?
- We aren’t really seeing or investing in the kids. What’s even going on in their faith life?
- Are parents even doing all these things we’re offering with their kids at home?
What we are doing now is still making a difference! Parents are doing the work! We have to continue to give them the tools, then teach them how to use them. My church saw 3 kids put their faith in Jesus from our online VBS, and we had 6 kids get baptized over the summer!
When we started the Family Worship Experience a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure how it would be received. Families had to register in advance for a table (which meant they had to be intentional about coming to church). In the Family Worship Experience, we do the preschool lesson, the elementary lesson, a few worship songs, a game, and then give the parents the discussion questions to do at the table with their kids. When we started, I thought once I prayed and released the families for their table discussion, they would surely be out the door. I was pleasantly surprised that they stayed at their tables for a good 10-15 minutes, going through the questions with their kids. I truly believe parents want to lead their kids spiritually, but don’t feel equipped, and/or are afraid they don’t know enough themselves.
If we continue to come alongside these parents, encouraging, equipping, and resourcing them, and gently reminding them of their responsibility, they will become spiritual leaders for their kids. At a recent Family Prayer Night, a mom came up to me and asked if I could lead Communion for her daughters. My response was, “No, but you can.” She gave me a shocked look, to which I smiled, and encouraged her that she can pray with her girls and lead them in Communion. It was beautiful to watch her step into what God had called her to do–to spiritually lead her children.
Angie has been married for over 21 years, and has 3 kids. She has been volunteering in children’s ministry for over 20 years, and was called into vocational ministry 7 years ago. She oversees 3 campuses and has been deeply involved in growing and expanding her church’s special needs ministry.