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Principles

How to Partner With Parents

Partnering is a two-way street. So, I’m in two minds about the title – either “How to partner with parents” or “How to partner with pastors.” Both titles are equally valid concerning the content of this article, and both invite us to consider how pastors (church/congregation) and parents (legal guardians) can cooperate in children’s faith formation.

Intentional partnering

To give children the best possible foundation of faith and set their sightlines on Christ, pastors and parents must intentionally partner together to have any hope of success.

To give children the best possible foundation of faith and set their sightlines on Christ, pastors and parents must intentionally partner together to have any hope of success. Click To Tweet

Pastor and author Phil Bell says, “The effectiveness of church leaders in reaching and equipping the next generation for Christ will be greatest when they partner with parents and see them as co-labourers for the kingdom.”

Children’s ministry consultant Julie Kurz says, “When the home and the church are working together as partners, the spiritual development of church-grown children will be at its best.”

Reggie Joiner, the founder of Orange, adds, “The best thing we can do for a kid’s faith is to learn how to love their parents well. Because truly, what happens at home is more important than what happens at church, and no one has more potential to influence a kid than a parent.”

Blind and deaf author Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Reimagining collaboration

So how do we make intentional partnering a reality? Here are ten suggestions for reimagining what parent/pastor collaboration can and should be:

Sound the alarm

Some pastors and parents are disengaged or don’t get it. To grab attention, generate some tension. Someone has to trigger the ministry equivalent of an amber alert! If it’s not you, then who? The catalyst for change begins with identifying the urgent need for pastors and parents to team up to mature a child’s faith.

The catalyst for change begins with identifying the urgent need for pastors and parents to team up to mature a child's faith. Click To Tweet

Determine roles and responsibilities

Nurturing a child’s faith formation isn’t a solo affair. But how can pastors and parents collaborate if they haven’t discussed (listened, asked questions, learned, negotiated) and agreed on their roles and responsibilities? The first step in forming a parent/pastor partnership is to talk about the motivations, expectations, and ways to potentially work together to help children know, love and follow Jesus.

Establish trust

Dynamic partnerships are built on trust and truth. American educator Stephen Covey said, “Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” When pastors and parents trust each other, they gain perspective and stir up confidence. And confidence is an essential ingredient if pastors and parents are going to become more collaborative in children’s faith formation.

Build a biblical foundation

Most parents don’t know how to raise their children with a biblical worldview or how to invest in their children’s faith formation. Create ample opportunities for parents to study and engage in conversations about God’s expectations and purpose for the family. Pastors should regularly preach on family matters and cast a biblical vision for partnering with parents.

Cultivate relationships

Strong partnerships are closely aligned with solid relationships. Build a culture of connectedness. Pastors should see themselves not as service providers but as facilitators of caring relationships. Pastors should also know that parents value relational support more highly than programs or events. So, explore how to ramp people’s connections up and scale programs down.

Pastors should see themselves not as service providers but as facilitators of caring relationships. Click To Tweet

Dial into changing needs

The support that parents need to facilitate faith formation in the home changes as their children grow older. Pastors should know something about child development to help direct and adapt ministry to sustain the faith journeys of families. And congregations should carefully observe and respond to the needs of families (especially young families).

Exercise flexibility

Some parents struggle to connect with scheduled church activities. Congregations must be more creative in how they welcome, engage, train, and maintain relationships with parents. While pastors rightly favour Sunday worship services, they shouldn’t assume that family faith formation will revolve around regular Sunday attendance. Instead, they should facilitate family faith formation in various settings with more elastic time frames, i.e., providing in-person, online, and hybrid options.

Be gender aware

Mothers are more integrated than fathers in the faith formation of their children. Dads tend to be more teaching-focused, and mums more experientially focused. Equip mothers and fathers to uniquely fulfil their God-designed functions in the family. Create spaces and opportunities where mothers can connect with mothers and fathers can connect with fathers.

Invite involvement and engagement

Encourage parents to participate in church activities alongside their children. Aim for whole family ministry more so than age-segregated ministry. Intentionally structure opportunities for children and parents to serve together. Incorporate children and parents in the decision-making process of the church. God wants everyone in the faith community to connect the next generation with Christ. So, think and act intergenerationally.

Aim for whole family ministry more so than age-segregated ministry. Click To Tweet

Provide instruction

Training that develops the knowledge and skills of parents should be a high priority in every church. Show parents how to prepare theologically sound, age-appropriate, rightly-interpreted, life-engaging, Jesus-centered, faith-nurturing Bible lessons. And help parents find answers. One way to do this is to connect parents with godly grandparents who can share their parenting experiences, insights, and understanding. Another way is to refer parents to good resources.

Championing partnerships

If you’ve read this far, it’s because you care deeply about the faith and future of children. You also probably agree that the church and families do better when they work together. So, prayerfully and practically act on what you know. Don’t miss out on the wonderful gift of giving yourself for the good of others. Advocate for parent/pastor collaboration. Urge stakeholders to evaluate and adapt. And in so doing, help your congregation understand and embrace intentional partnering in family faith formation.

Related Articles

Awakening Parents to Family Discipleship

Becoming Intergenerational

Do Church Structures Enable Children’s and Family Ministry to Grow?

Two-Minute Training Video

How can we help families grow in faith?

© Scripture Union, 2023

2 Corinthians 4:5

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