We are really good at talking about the importance of partnering with parents without actually doing it. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but every church leader that I’ve ever met who works with kids or teenagers is “partnering with parents.”
But they’re not really.
Partnering with parents is the spoken value of a lot of churches, but not what they practice. It’s what Patrick Lencioni refers to as an “aspirational value.” It’s a value that a church knows is necessary if they want to reach kids and teenagers, but it’s currently lacking.
For us as a church, we did the same thing. We spoke about it really well and pretty often, yet in reality it was nothing more than handouts that ended up in the trash and emails that no one ever opened. We’d talk about the importance of parents at meetings, yet it wouldn’t really guide a strategy. As a NextGen staff, we recently had an opportunity to dig into this problem and particularly how we are going to elevate what we do for parents over the course of the next year. Prior to digging into this problem, one of our incredible volunteers (an expert in early childhood), suggested an exercise that helped expose some of the problem.
I’d recommend you do the same thing with your own team.
Get a pile of sticky notes and start listing out everything that your team is doing to partner with parents. Parent cues, put it on a note. Emails, write it down. A night out for moms, add it to the list. Resources to help engage parents at home, grab another sticky note.
That part will probably be easy. If you’re like us, there’s no shortage of things for parents. And if you include things that the adult ministries are doing as well that target the same group of people, you’ll quickly have a wall full of sticky notes.
But here’s the part that’s important, take these notes and divide them into three categories: to, from, and with.
What are the things that you are giving to parents or providing to parents?
What are the things you are asking or expecting from parents?
And what are the things that you are doing with parents?
For us, the moment we put all the sticky notes into the categories, we were faced with the reality that we were really good at giving things to parents, but not nearly as good at partnering with parents. We’d have no problem asking something from a parent, but actually walking alongside a parent, that’s a different story.
There’s a difference between giving something to a parent and partnering with a parent. Intentionality in the home certainly requires the right tools being given to them, but it takes more than tools. It takes a church, a community, who wants to do it with them.
If you want parents to win, don’t just give stuff to parents, partner with parents. We can do more together than we can do on our own.
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