If you were asked, “Do you partner with parents?” it’s been my experience that you are most likely to answer, “I try.” And if I were to ask you, “How do you partner with parents?” you are likely to list types of events you’ve done, resources you’ve sent home, or things that you’ve tried once, but didn’t seem to quite you pull off. My guess is that when it comes to the concept of partnering with parents, you feel defeated, or in a quandary as to how to do it. You are not alone! What if you could say with confidence, “YES! We partner with families in my church.” I believe you can.
I think it is safe to assume that you are very concerned about the spiritual welfare of the children in your church. If you are a parent, you have your own children in mind as you think about the challenges that they are currently facing and the battles that lie ahead. Perhaps the title “Partnering with Parents” resonates with you as something that is desperately needed in your church. However, it may be a phrase that conjures up feelings of doubt, discouragement or frustration because as much as you know it is needed, you’re not sure how to do it. Perhaps you’ve tried, but nothing seems to be working, at least not as well as you’d like.
First off, I need to confirm that you are right, it’s NOT easy. But I also want you to know that I have discovered a completely different approach to partnering with parents. It is an approach that you may find radical, or you may simply find it a relief.
But it is an approach that enables you to say with confidence, “Yes, we genuinely partner with parents in our ministry.”
Why are children’s ministry leaders clamoring for books on family ministry and packing out workshops on “partnering with parents?” Because they are coming to the realization that the church is failing to produce children who are fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. Even a casual look at our youth groups, often filled with kids who grew up in the church, our hearts break to hear about the language, drinking, drug use, immorality and general abandonment of core Christian values and beliefs.
In his latest book, Raising a Modern-Day Joseph, Larry Fowler presents three sobering realities facing the church, and the parents who drop them off.
Christian young people are leaving the church and the faith of their parents as they leave home for college and work. Christian researcher, George Barna, reports that “the most potent data regarding disengagement (of youth from their faith) is that a majority of twentysomethings – 61% of today’s young adults – had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually unengaged.”
Christian young people are not transferring the biblical knowledge they have into a biblical worldview. Christian apologist and researcher Josh McDowell claims that between 69 and 94 percent of teenagers leave the church after high school. He also reports that only 15% of Christian young people have a biblical world view. George Barna says it is only 10%.
Declining Bible Knowledge
Christian young people don’t know nearly as much about the Bible as they used to.
Christian Smith, principal investigator of the National Study of Youth and Religion states that
“Most U.S. teens have a difficult time explaining what they believe, what it means, and what the implications of their beliefs are for their lives.”
How can this be? (!) Not so many decades ago “children’s ministry” hardly existed. “Children’s Pastors” are relatively new on the church staff scene. As Linda Massey Weddle points out in her book, Driveway to the Highway, most churches now provide fully staffed nurseries, Sunday School, children’s church, mid-week and after school programs, and much more! Children’s Ministry curriculum is more entertaining, colorful and professional looking than ever before. Publishing houses have flooded the market with “Christian” books, toys, resources and more. Radio stations play Christian music and messages twenty-four hours a day. Why is it, we wonder, do kids walk away from the faith of their parents and church when we have all these “advantages” in the church in America?
Church leaders look at statistics and are concerned. (They ought to be alarmed!) Parents, on the other hand, often don’t need stats. They are concerned, and often alarmed, simply by what they see in their own home or in the homes of their kids’ friends and classmates. There is little doubt the church is doing its best – sincerity and effort are not in question – but the results are coming in, and it’s not looking good. Parents are also doing the best they know how, and are feeling the sense of failure more personally, for it is their own children, whom they deeply love, that who they are watching fall away – or are afraid might.
George Barna, in his book Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, confirmed through scientific research what children’s leaders have long undertood – Christian education during childhood is the most critical of a person’s entire life, as it will most likely determine what they believe their entire life! Children’s ministry leaders and parents who are awake see the dangers and the spiritual casualties and are desperate for change. It is more critical than ever that the church and parents start partnering to do a better job of preparing children for a life of faith in a world that is ever increasingly seeking to mislead and destroy them.
We have a choice. Keep doing what we are doing or step back and take a serious look at how we can do a better job.
That is why I took a completely new and radical approach to “partnering with parents” – but you know what? it worked.
You can learn about it in my Leadership Lab, “Partnering with Parents.” Be prepared for a totally different way of thinking about partnering with parents. But be prepared for results too.