Earlier this week one of our children's workers took some time to share about how much he enjoyed our oldest, and what a blessing he was to work around. It was incredibly humbling because sometimes we feel like as parents good things happen by accident. I took some time too to thank him for all his work, and his commitment each week to investing in kids, not just mine, but the entire church's. The way many churches are designed, next generation ministries have separate facilities largely removed from the main traffic flow of the congregation (think "Youth Building" or "Children's Wing"), so the work done in those areas, though eternally important, often goes unseen by the bulk of the body.
The reality is, it's hard to be a parent. It's hard when you're tired, when the demands of the day catch up to you, when it feels like you're playing hot potato with sickness, and when you turn on the evening news. Likewise, it's hard to be a next generation volunteer in a church. You only get a limited amount of time each week, you often wonder if what you're doing is getting through, and you worry about what happens when they go home. I know a lot of children's and youth workers who miss worship services, don't get adequate help, find themselves struggling for resources, and more. Though they're committed to the work and to their ministry, it can weigh down after a while.
This is one of the things I have as a regret from my time as a student pastor, I wasn't as much an encourager for parents as I should have been. I didn't take the time to share as much as I should have. Whatever the reason was, whether I convinced myself they didn't really care, treated it like a glorified babysitting service, or that it didn't matter... I blew it. Saying you're a champion for parents and families is one thing, making the effort to invest is another.
So here's what I want you to do this week. I want you if you're a parent to take some time and encourage the volunteers, directors, and helpers in your church's next generation ministries. Be sure to thank them for what they're doing. And tell them what your child or student is learning and sharing with you. Ask for ways to help them, to come alongside them, to resource them, and to connect them to others in the church.
And if you're a next generation volunteer, director, or leader, take some time to give a note of encouragement to the parents of the kids and students in your ministry. Give them a glimpse into what's going on, and make a commitment to pray for them. Remember, your job isn't to exclusively focus on the children or students. It's a mistake we can far too easily fall into (trust me, I did it) to assume that parents are disengaged or don't care. There will be those who never read your newsletter, pay attention to your ministry, or make it a priority for their kids & students to come. But for the most part, those parents want to be involved and want to play a role in shaping their kids' faith. They need you to help connect it, and encourage them in it.
Connecting church and home begins with the intersection of parents and volunteers. When they're communicating, when they're working together, and when they're sharing the same convictions, it leads to a multiple generation impact.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.