partnering with parents in digital ministry

If you’re a kids’ ministry leader today, chances are you are navigating the very real tension that exists between empathizing with overwhelmed parents and keeping them engaged in your programming. Everything has changed, and you’re likely running out of ideas (and patience . . . and budget dollars) on how to best support families. Though parent partnership seems full of obstacles right now, we still believe this pandemic has produced rare opportunities.

If you want to partner with parents in this digital age, here are four things to consider:

Consider a Parent’s Mental Health 

Right now, some parent somewhere is having a fit in carpool because their child forgot their mask again. The emails about positive cases popping up in schools and on sports teams seem never-ending. Trips and milestone events are being canceled and disappointment is commonplace. All of this is taking a toll on the mental health of today’s parent. Now is the time for the Church to partner with parents. It’s time to lean in and remind them that they are not inadequate.

Before you solidify your ministry calendar, consider surveying your parents and asking what kind of support would be most helpful. Don’t assume you know what they need. For instance, many parents are navigating homeschooling for the first time and could use a tutor. Some families have lost income and may need groceries or a device. Others simply miss being in community. To show them they haven’t been forgotten, send them a quick text or a handwritten note.

Decide this season is about making it personal—ensuring your parents’ basic, physiological needs have been met first. To best partner with parents, ask how can you provide encouragement, comfort, and safety for them before you provide programming that will require something from them? 

Consider a Parent Advisory Team

Far too often, kids’ ministry leaders carry the burden of family engagement alone. We can’t always rely on our own feedback. If views are low on the latest video or the open rate on your last email wasn’t what you expected it to be, you start questioning whether you are the problem. It can be hard not to feel like a failure. However, parent partnership was not designed to be a solo effort.

All of us have parents in our ministries who we would consider to be “all in.” They are your early adopters. They likely volunteer in multiple roles, attend every event, and are some of your biggest cheerleaders. Consider asking a handful of these parents to shoulder parent partnership with you. Assign them an age demographic they can check in on or send notes to. Make them admins in your Facebook group and ask them to intentionally engage with your content. Meet with them regularly. Ask for ideas and feedback on how you can best meet the needs of your families together. Chances are they love you, your church, and want to see your parents win as much as you do. 

Consider a Sundays-at-Home Mindset 

“In 2021, if coming to Christ means coming to your church in a set location and a set hour, you need a new strategy.” Carey Nieuwhof

Without question, a hybrid approach to ministry is essential today. All along, Orange has used the phrase, “What happens at home really is more important than what happens at church.” The truth is that it may take longer for some families to feel comfortable with being in the building. Cast a compelling vision for faith development at home that is practical and doable. Consider what you might need to stop doing to have the bandwidth to build your strategy for both in-person and virtual experiences. 

Give parents an easy-to-follow guide on how to create a brief at-home worship experience that includes a video, interactive games, and prayer. Parent Cue has helped make this much easier for you by providing full online worship experiences that update every Sunday morning on their YouTube channel. Promote the Parent Cue app as an easy way to keep parents encouraged and informed about what their child is learning. We even put together a free promo kit to help you do this! Don’t forget to give your parents permission to keep this simple. 

Consider Virtual Small Groups as Parent Partnership

If you’re gathering for in-person services, chances are your parents and children are segregated. While we will always champion age-specific worship experiences whenever possible, one drawback is that parents have likely never witnessed their child’s small group experience. Until now.

Virtual small groups provide fun and connection for kids unable to attend in-person. They also give parents the rare opportunity to be a fly on the wall of their child’s spiritual conversations. How often does a parent get to hear their child pray with another adult or answer questions about faith among their peers? In this new reality, parents have expressed newfound gratitude for the Church. They see the Church prioritizing community and connection for their child. Also, they see the volunteers loving their child more than they knew.  If you have not yet considered a virtual small group strategy, Orange Kids curriculum now includes simple, ready-made, weekly virtual lesson plans. The curriculum also has tips for keeping lessons fun and engaging. Never before has there been a time that gives parents a front-row seat to the work God is doing in their kid’s personal faith community