Kids will form their opinion of the church on how they treat their parents. I recently heard this quote, based on the Orange Philosophy. Can this be true? How does the church treat parents? Does it really have any bearing?
I have many memories of the church as a child, though my memories are tilted towards being a preacher’s kid.
I remember the church loving us! People always brought Christmas gifts and other surprises. I remember our family of six eating at Cracker Barrel and our whole bill being paid by a church member who left just before us. I remember people being around and talking and visiting. I remember my dad hanging around with other pastors, talking, laughing and telling stories. I was in a kids choir my mom led and people seemed to like it and her. I also remember many times when people would tell me how much they appreciated my parents. People still do that today.
Some of the biggest impact in my faith came from watching older high school students and young adults when I was young. They lived out their faith, they were at church faithfully, they served in ministry, the lived out faith in school and in life. They participated in ministry, hung out at church late in the evening, and were a part of ministry and community. People liked them and responded to them well. They also interacted well together.
As an adult serving in full time ministry, I know that there are also horror stories of families who become disengaged because of something someone said or some action that was taken. I’ve seen my fair share of falling outs and I have watched relational issues take a toll on families and churches.
The church is God’s tool, it’s inspired, but it’s not perfect. God works through us anyway.
As pastors and leaders there is something we can do: help kids experience the love of Jesus by how we treat and engage their parents and families in church. Are they connected in community? Supported in ministry? Encouraged in life?
Here are some things leaders can do:
Let Kids Know You Appreciate Their Parents
This can be as simple as just stating out loud how much you appreciate the child’s parents bringing them to church and being a part of the life of the church. “Tell you mom and dad, hi for me!”
Thank Families of Key Volunteers After Busy Seasons
I don’t do this all the time, but I have at times sent a note or gift card to the spouses and kids of a particular volunteer who has invested heavily during a big season at church! I just thank them for their commitment to the church and for their patience with lots of long hours during this special season.
Set Boundaries and Expectations for People in Ministry Leadership
Help leaders balance life and ministry by setting clear expectations and building a culture of boundaries. Leaders need natural breaks, they need to limit their service so they are able to not only serve in a ministry role, but also be faithful to attend worship and care for their own spiritual lives on a consistent basis.
Model Community with Your Leaders
Love the people in your church. Whatever your style – high fives, words of affirmation, hugs – model friendship and community with leaders in your church. Let their kids and families see their parent or family member being valued. Stay away from sarcasm. Kids don’t pick up on it like adults do – and it often gets taken wrong.
Pray for Your Families
Pray for the leaders and families in your church on a regular basis.
Provide Opportunities for Community, Connections and Friendships
Continue to build in times for connections, community and friendships for your leaders and parents in your church. This can be as simple as it needs to be, but put something together.
Even When They are Adults…
It doesn’t just have to be young parents. When adult children come “home” to worship, be sure to use those times to affirm your thankfulness for their parent’s connection, ministry and leadership. It might also work in reverse: when parents come to visit grown children in your church, treat their parents well. Affirm their kids. Let them know how much you love their families.
Take the High Road
There are times, even in the best ministry situations, people get their feathers ruffled. You and I can both tell some sad stories. No matter what, take the high road. Don’t badmouth people. Do your best to patch things up. Make the most of every opportunity to live at peace with people.