The loop – connecting church and home
I used to think I had it nailed. Each week the children would leave ‘kid’s church’ with a grin on their face and something they had learnt about God. Job done.
I was in my twenties and I helped lead what seemed on the surface to be a thriving children’s ministry. Lots of kids were dropped off by their parents each week to learn more about Jesus. Some parents dropped their kids and headed to the main church service, others dropped their kids and had an hour’s recuperation.
But as I reflect back, I think what we were doing could have been so much more effective if we’d been more intentional in connecting with parents and encouraging them in their role in nurturing their children’s faith.
Over the last five years working on the Kitchen Table Project, I have recognised the theological importance of involving families (Debt 6:4-9 is a personal favourite!). I have also recognised, as a parent of two primary school aged children, that I spend so much more time with my kids; it’s very difficult to pass on the Christian faith in just one hour a week on a Sunday morning. As a dad, I have a key role to play.
Recently I had the privilege of sharing with children workers about a loop I find helpful in planning children’s work.
The loop consists of four parts. The first is simply about listening well. It involves talking with the parents about their children’s needs and the things they are exploring in the rest of their lives. It allows us as children workers to adjust what we are planning so that we can come alongside what the children are doing at home. By listening, we can also help affirm parents in their role.
The second part is the planning. Having listened well, we can prayerfully plan what we are going to do when we gather. The parental perspective can be really helpful in understanding the questions their children are exploring. For example, one 11 year old girl found the children’s work was too baby-ish. She would never have told the church kids, team but because there was conversation, the parent was given permission to relay that the Sunday morning content could go up a gear!
The third part is delivery. Having listened and planned, we deliver our programmes to the children in our churches. Again, even as we deliver, there is an opportunity to involve parents. Simply sharing what we are going to be covering in each Sunday’s session gives them an opportunity to feel they are involved.
Finally, there is the springboard. The springboard is giving families content to take home after church. The idea being that what we explore with their children acts a springboard into the week. I find it helpful to give families four or five different ways to take what has been learnt forward, so that families can choose what best suits them. It could be something to talk about, something to read together, a YouTube video to watch as a family, an activity to do or a prayer to pray.
As you look to do this in your church, I realise it can be hard to get parents to participate. Parents always have piles of laundry to do, meals to cook and a missing piece of school uniform to hunt down! They are busy people.
But the secret to the loop is communication, and my encouragement would be to persevere even when parents aren’t brilliant at getting back to you! It’s partly about finding the right way to communicate. For some it’s a WhatsApp group. For others it may be a one-on-one coffee. For others it might be a termly Zoom call. Trial and error until you discover what works best.
The big thing to remember is that we know our children’s faith needs to be nurtured for more than one hour each week. We need to look to empower and resource parents in the every day. The aim is to see children leave our programmes with a grin on their face, something they have discovered about God and a family that can help take it forward.
Written by Andy Frost, Director of Share Jesus International.
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