How does your church help parents follow Jesus?
I've been thinking about this a lot the past few weeks because several of my clients are trying to figure this out. "Should we send our leaders to this conference?" "What do you think about this particular resource on parenting?" "We're just getting started, and people want us to provide the same programs as the megachurch on the other side of town."
So what's your plan for your church? Parenting is a tough gig. What are you doing to disciple the parents that God has given you to serve? The most common responses I get from clients in church plants and smaller churches is to either create a sermon series or use a resource that someone else has created.
I have a better idea.
I think you can build your own parenting content. And I can guarantee you that what you create will be exactly what your parents want. How do I know that?
Because they're going to build it with you.
1. Decide Who Is Responsible
Select someone other than the lead pastor or church planter who will be responsible for the completion of this project. The lead pastor should be involved, but you need someone else who wakes up and goes to bed thinking about how to help parents.
2. Build A List Of Every Parent In Your Church
Do you have an email address for every mom and dad in your church? What about other guardians (aunt, grandmother, etc.). We have two families that bring children from an inner-city school we support - they're on our list at the church.
You need their email address because you're going to send out a survey to each parent and guardian in your church. Once you have the list and your distribution channel, you're ready to send out your survey. Oh, and keep your list updated by scheduling 15-30 minutes per month to make additions or remove people from the list.
3. Ask Parents This Question
The most effective way to help parents follow Jesus is to ASK how you can help them. I know that they're busy and that it's easier just to make assumptions based on what you already know. But asking is more valuable and accurate than assuming you have the answers.
But parents are busy, so you want to create a survey that can be completed in less than five minutes. And to make this easy for you, I created a survey that you can copy or use as a basis to form your own questions. Include a link to the survey in an email you send to your list asking for their feedback on how you can help them grow as parents.
4. Evaluate and Batch Your Responses
Once you get back enough responses (if you receive surveys from more than 1/3 of the people who received it, you're doing great!), read through the responses and start batching your information.
Look for 2-4 common themes in the challenges that parents face. And you want to find the two places that parents in your church use to learn about parenting. Those will largely determine the platforms you use to deliver your content because it is critical for you to show up where parents are paying attention, not where you think they should be.
5. Choose Your Delivery System
We all know what it feels like to create something for other people, only to have no one show up. And here you are taking the time to build something for parents who may or may not show up, because who has time for one more thing?
But, listen to me, parents will make time for the things that matter most to them. And I have yet to meet a parent who doesn't want to be a great parent and isn't willing to give time and energy to their own development.
So why will they stay away from what you're creating for them? First, because you're not addressing their challenges. Second, because you're hosting these conversations somewhere other than where they're paying attention.
Which makes what you did with your survey a stroke of genius. Because now you know what their challenges are. And you know where they're looking for solutions to said challenges.
You don't have to figure out all the details yet, but you've come a long way in specifying where you're going to address the challenges that parents face.
6. Who Answers The Questions?
Regardless of the distribution channel, I would suggest using a panel of parents and experts to deliver the content. Include the lead pastor, the person responsible for the project, and a parent who can provide helpful responses and add diversity (gender/age) to the panel.
7. A Simple Plan For Delivering Content
OK, so at this point you have 2-4 challenges to address, and you have selected two platforms that you will use to deliver the content. Now, let's talk about how to sequence your content. And for the sake of familiarity, let's imagine an event with five sessions (NOTE: you can also do this as a five-part video series or blog series).
First, be careful about issuing prescriptions about best practices. Teach what the Scriptures say about parenting. As a matter of fact, have either the lead pastor or project coordinator teach this in the first session.
Next, tackle the challenges that came up in the survey in individual sessions. So if you had three big challenges come up, make those sessions 2-4. In each session, have the lead pastor serve as the facilitator of a conversation among the panel. Work together in advance to land on as clear of an answer, as possible. Take 20 minutes for that conversation and leave 10 minutes for questions from the audience.
Finally, use the last session for additional Q&A with the panel and leave 5 minutes at the end for the family ministries director (or lead pastor) to cast vision for how the church helps people follow Jesus.
After the event, you can then use that content in blogs, audio, and video format. And, of course, the decision about which platform to use is based on where your parents are already learning to parent well, and what kind of resources your church has available to deliver native content in those platforms (i.e., you don't have to shoot a brilliant video, but it needs to look and sound good enough for someone in your church to have no qualms about sharing it with their friends).
8. Celebrate and Repeat
Once you have delivered your content through both of your platforms, make sure to celebrate. Thank everyone who participated in the survey and helped out with the project. And make sure to reward yourself for a job well done.
Within 2-3 weeks evaluate the project and begin making plans to do it again. I would suggest delivering fresh content to parents at least annually and no more than quarterly. Run your survey 4-6 weeks before the next event and use that data to determine the challenges your panel will address. And, of course, this is up to you but I would add different voices to the panel while using the same two delivery platforms for at least an entire year.
Once you establish a rhythm for delivering the content that your parents need, you have the makings a content library that you can broadcast through different media platforms. You can also come back and add additional resources to questions that you have previously answered.
And think about the opportunities you have to serve families who are new to your church by connecting them to all of your parenting content for free. And social media platforms such as Facebook allow you to target ads to every parent on Facebook in your area. For a few dollars, you can help parents beyond your church. No need to hard sell your church; pass along great content and add your logo and website at the end.