In a recent webinar, I opened by sharing the scripture where Jesus tells the disciples to let the children come to him (Mark 10:13-15). As followers of Christ, this scripture greatly informs our mission. Like the disciples, we need to let the children come to Jesus. We need to create an environment where parents and caregivers feel inspired to bring their children to Christ.
Creating this environment is not about developing the most elaborate spaces or purchasing the most expensive toys. It is not about free coffee mugs or flashy welcome gifts. Creating an environment where parents feel inspired to bring their children to Christ is about being rooted in relationships.
We cannot engage families until we are in relationship with families. I’ve talked with young families that felt attacked when they visited a new church. They commented that it seemed like the church was desperate for them.
As church leaders, we need to realize that no one visits or returns motivated by an interest to save the church or help pay its bills. We need to invert the conversation. They visit and return with a need for what Christ has to offer. We serve them by helping them come to Jesus.
So how do we develop relationships with families? First, we must identify families connected to the church, however loosely. This could be past or recent congregants, children and grandchildren of worshippers, families of preschoolers that meet at church, members of moms' groups, or families in the neighborhood.
Listen to families
Once families have been identified, take time to chat either individually or in a small group. Ask questions and then really listen. I’ve learned a lot by asking two questions:
- What can we do to help your children learn about God?
- How can the church better support your family?
Discern ministries to meet needs of families
Next is discerning what ministry will meet family needs. Ask yourself, are there common needs that can be addressed? Are there potential ministries to meet these needs? Do you need to consider Christ-centered marriage retreats, parents' nights out, divorce groups, parenting classes, or new classes?
At my church, several moms told me they wanted their preschoolers to learn Bible stories. I had heard about Frolic, where parents and children play their way through the Bible. It seemed that Frolic might be the answer to meet shared needs.
Listen to families – again
Now the important step: after you have prayerfully discerned a ministry, have another conversation sharing your ministry idea and listening to reactions from the same families. If they seem interested, find out the best time to launch the new ministry. For us, we started using Frolic on Thursday nights based on feedback from our families.
Act by inviting families
Now it’s time to act. Invite families to participate in your new ministry! Often, we create a ministry program and then go about trying to sell it to people that didn’t even know they were looking for it. The approach outlined in this blog turns us away from selling an idea to meeting an identified need. At this point, we circle back again to the families we have been engaging in conversation, invite them, and ask them to bring their friends.
This cycle of listening, discerning, and then acting can be continuously repeated as we build relationships with families. This approach should support our quest to create an environment where families feel inspired to bring their children to Christ. Because, as disciples, when we let children come to Jesus, Jesus will do the rest.
Learn Linda’s other tips for kicking off your early childhood ministry in our FREE webinar!