by Jonathan Cliff
Every time I attend CPC there are some guarantees that I know will happen. First, I will probably run into someone I know at the airport, but can’t remember his or her name. Second, I will eat more food in that one-week conference than I have in the month prior. Lastly, and almost assured to happen is that I will commiserate on some level with people that share my burden for children and their families. It’s not all bad, it’s just refreshing to be in a room with people that dread the Saturday night phone calls as much as I do!
Over their years, I’ve collected my long list of things that I wish parents would do to make my job easier. When I share my list with other Children’s Ministry Leaders, I find a common pain in all of us. We wish parents would take their kids to church EVERY week. We wish that parents would stop ARRIVING so LATE for the environments we’ve worked all week to prepare. We wish that parents would STOP GROUNDING their kids from church when they get in trouble at school, especially in those pre-teen areas. We wish that parents would take the time to TALK AT HOME about what their kids are learning at church. You agree, right? I’d dare to say that I’ve never met a Children’s worker that wouldn’t want to stand up and wave his Bible at that wish list.
However, at some point we have to begin to look at how easy we make it for parents to fulfill these wishes. Remember the old saying, “While you’re pointing one finger at them, you’ve got 4 more pointing back at you!” (I never understood that as a kid, I mean can you really point with your thumb?) It’s oh so true, isn’t it? For me I have to start evaluating my own ministries and my own leadership to see if I’m truly making it as easy as possible for parents to connect with what I’m doing for their kids. It’s on me. It’s on us.
We all want parents to bring their kids to church, but have you done your very best to make your areas easy to find? Would a kid really want to come to your Children’s ministries? Is it easy for parents to get involved with your children’s ministries? Physical location matters in your areas, as well as how easy it is to get into the area. Is your visitor check-in quick, or is it a slow crawl? We want parents to bring their kids to church, and we can communicate this value by creating spaces and environments that are both attractive to the family, but also adds upon each subsequent experience. We need to make it better. It’s on me. It’s on you.
We all want parents to be on time. It’s hard on leaders everywhere to stop mid-way through a teaching segment to stand up and let the kid into your class for the last 20 minutes of your time together. It’s hard in the middle of a fantastic storytelling moment in large group, and somebody has to get up and help the latecomer find his place. Maybe your church has time cut-off limits, and good for you; but most of us don’t have the luxury. To overcome this, you must begin to ask yourselves if you have done your very best to give them something to arrive on time for? Does it matter if parents arrive on time? Have you tweaked and adjusted your classroom settings to encourage early arrival? Many times all it takes is to build the relationship aspects of our ministries into the very first few minutes; and that alone will get those kids cheerleading to their parents to be on time. We can communicate the value of timeliness by building value into the earliest parts of the morning, and training teachers to lead through this arrival time. It’s on me. It’s on you.
We all want parents to stop grounding their kids from our church. I’ve seen it for years, parents treating kids church attendance like the privilege of riding a bicycle or playing baseball. It’s more important than that, but have we really sold parents on the value of all that you do? Seriously ask yourself, are your areas really punishment? Are you taking the time to confront this misperception in the minds of parents? We can communicate the value of what we do by helping parents find creative solutions to discipline, and learning to step out with courage and respect to confront the problem head on. It’s on me. It’s on you.
We all want parents to teach their kids at home, what we’ve worked so hard to teach them on the weekends. This has begun to pick up steam across a lot of our children’s ministries, and for good reason. If parents can get connected to what their kids are learning, we increase our effectiveness exponentially. But, as leaders are we giving parents places to connect with what their kids learn? Have you set the bar so impossibly high that parents never even try? Is involvement with their kids rewarded in any way? There are a plethora of ideas out there to get information into the hands of parents, but are we using it right? We can communicate this important value by encouraging, exhorting, and praying with parents to see and fulfill their own role as a parent at home. It’s on me. It’s on you.
These are just a few of the things we could all commiserate over as leaders of children, and I know that we’ve just scraped the surface of what there is to be upset with parents about. But, if we can humble ourselves in a way that increases our capacity to lead…then watch out! We can start overcoming the age-old problems of Children’s Ministry everywhere, and we can start with what we do first! It’s all on us!
Psalms 25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.