What can I do as a children’s director or teacher to help parents disciple their children?
I have been asked this question or a variation of it many times. A children’s director or children’s teacher loves working with kids. However, he or she knows the biggest influence happens in the home. So even as he or she is working with the children, there is a longing to help parents. Often he or she is worried about the influences in the home but doesn’t know what to do.
There are a number of obstacles that children’s ministers have. Sometimes it is the busyness and lack of interest by the parents. At other times the leadership of the church does not want you to make waves. Finally, the age or inexperience of the director can be an obstacle.
I offer the following suggestions if you are leading some ministry to children but want to do more. Don’t feel you have to do everything at once but just begin making progress.
1. Read The Disciple-Making Parent and gain a biblical vision. Make sure your ministry and the ministry of your family are deeply rooted in the Scriptures. That’s the real source of all influence and authority. As you develop your own biblical understanding and work it out in your family, you will be able to help others. Parenting with Confidence might be especially helpful here to understand biblical principles of parenting.
2. Cast a biblical vision using biblical language. It is important not only to have biblical convictions but also to be able to articulate them. It is good to have these things on the tip of our tongues. “You haven’t been just given a baby but an eternal soul to influence.” “Make the Great Commission the North Star of your parenting.” Live out the values you want to see in others, then call them to join you.
3. Compile a list of recommended resources. Ask the church leaders and parents in the church who have parented well what resources they would recommend. As you make your list, put an asterisk by the first book to read. When I see a list of five recommended books on a topic, I freeze. But if a friend tells me, “This is the best book on the subject,” I am sold.
4. Cast a biblical vision to the leadership of the church. Remind them that the first place the gospel is lived out is in the home. You are not just doing Christian childcare; you are helping disciple the next generation. And with dropout rates that could be as high as 50%, this ministry ought to be on their minds. You are an extension of their ministry. God has commanded them to oversee all the souls in the church, including the young ones.
5. Recruit parents to teach. Too often, parents will treat the ministry as Christian childcare, their one chance a week to have relief. Instead, this is a chance for parents who know they should disciple, to keep teaching the lesson during the week. It gives your core families a track to run on. The best way for us to learn the material is to have to study and teach it. Committing to teaching the children is an excellent way of discipling the adults. One pastor said to me, “We tell parents, ‘If you want to grow in having gospel conversations with kids, this is a great place to learn and practice those skills.’”
6. Seek to catalyze equipping events in the church. Realize that because you are young, you will not have as much authority as when you are older and have some parenting experience. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have influence now. You can be the catalyst that brings equipping events about. And you can be the “reporter” asking questions of godly parents in your church. You don’t have to be the “expert.” You can get good people on the stage and then ask them good questions for the sake of everyone else.
7. Seek to equip a team of godly homes. Even as you keep the children’s ministry teaching going, pursue a slower ministry of equipping a group of your friends with a common biblical parenting philosophy. You will slowly influence the whole church through these homes. They, in turn, will influence others. You can listen to how one youth leader did this. He kept the ministry going while equipping parents at the same time. Listen to the podcast here. Having a small group study with a few parents might be one of the most effective uses of your time.
8. Interact with selected individuals during the week. You will naturally develop relationships with certain parents. Followup individually. Ask if they are using the materials you send home. Ask about the barriers they are feeling. Remember, they are not helping you. You are helping them do their job (Deut 6, Eph 6).
9. Pray! Pray that God would raise up a group of parents who are passionate about discipling their kids for Christ. Find others who will join you in praying that prayer. Gather a small group of like-minded parents who are eager to pursue this together and influence others in the church.
Children’s pastors, directors, and Sunday school teachers, I would love to hear from you! This ministry emphasizes the role of the family, but I do not want to denigrate the important work you do. I would love to hear from you. Let me know what you think about this as well as other obstacles you face.