Some time ago, one of the children who attends our church (but his parents do not) told me, "I didn’t come last week because my dad doesn't think it’s important.”
I recognized what he was doing. I asked him, “Did your dad actually say that he doesn't think church is important?”
The boy said, “Well, no, but since he didn’t bring me, he must have something against me coming.”
I quickly responded, “Wait a minute. We can’t draw that conclusion. Give your dad a break. I’m sure he was just busy and couldn’t make his schedule work out. After all, you’re here today.” I’m very careful to avoid relational triangles where two people gang up on another. In this case, I was not (and AM not) willing to join the child in accusing his dad of wrong motives. It may seem like a small commitment, but I assure you, it’s huge.
I have made a commitment to ALWAYS honor the parents of every child who comes through our doors. I tell the kids that our ministry is here to support their parents, and I tell the parents we’re here to serve them in every possible way. I don’t want there to be any suspicion that we’re trying to take the parents’ role away from them. The parents who have been part of our church for a long time sometimes take this for granted, but those who are coming for the first time—and especially those who haven’t been part of a church—need to be reassured that we’re committed to serve them. In a dozen different ways, I tell the kids and the parents, “We’re on the same team and are committed to the same purpose: to support your role as parents and encourage your child’s spiritual growth.”
Just the other day, I got an email from a fellow Kids Minister. She asked, "How should we specifically minister to those children who come to our church, but whose parents are unbelievers or who do not welcome the teachings promoted through Christian Education?"
If a child’s parents don’t attend our church, come only occasionally, or aren’t believers, we want to accomplish these objectives:
1) Honor the parents - I always speak worth and honor regarding the parents to the kids. I will NEVER let them talk their parents down simply because they do not share the faith of the child. Every time I encounter the parents, I honor them and remind them that we are on the same team.
2) Remind the child of their duty to be a soul-winner in their home - Our message to the child is clear, intentional, and direct. I tell the kids, “God has put you in your family for a purpose. If you want your parents, brothers, and sisters to come to Christ, you have to show them the love of God in your actions as well as your words. You can’t expect to win them to Jesus if you act like a selfish punk.” They seem to understand this concept. Even first graders get the picture that they can be lights in their families. They can let their light shine so their parents and siblings see Jesus in them. We never want the kids to use church as leverage to blame and control their parents. Instead, we want to turn that upside down so they become loving, obedient, joyful lights that show their family members the grace of Christ.
3) Communicate with the parents - send them emails, letters, Facebook messages, etc. No, I don't mean STALK them. I mean let them know what is going on in your church and ministry. When their child does something incredible, let them know. When their child does something that demonstrates the character of Christ, let them know. When there is a special training for parents at your church, let them know. As you communicate to them, pray that God will use every communication to help them get closer to crossing that line of faith.
How about you? How do YOU deal with parents of kids in your ministry but they don't attend your church? What approaches have you found to be extremely effective? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the Kidmin Community.