How Leaders Can “Truly Partner Well” With Parents

Article by Carla Hutson September 7, 2021

What do kids need to set them up for a lifetime of knowing, loving, serving and following Jesus? They need partners – loving, caring adults to pour faith into them. Dr. Denise Muir Kjesbo, program director at Bethel Seminary in the Master of Arts in Children’s and Family Ministry and a speaker at our upcoming Child Discipleship Forum in September, stresses the role leaders must take in the lives of children and their families, especially now.

“What we do in children’s ministry shapes children currently and shapes the future of their lives, the future of the Church, the future of the kingdom,” said Dr. Kjesbo during her recent appearance on the Resilient Disciples Podcast.

Referring to the great changes taking place in child discipleship over the past year, she says, “If leaders hadn’t already built relationships with the children and families in their churches … the pandemic shined a very bright light on that. We [have] to think about what is at the core here, what is it we want to see happen in the lives of children that will set them up for a lifetime of knowing, loving, serving and following Jesus. And how do we truly partner well with parents.”

Dr. Kjesbo urges leaders to keep “relationships” as the key focus, even while creating videos, curriculum content or Facebook events. Three easy ways to do that are:

  • Reach out to your parents and make sure you hear what’s happening in their lives and how you can best serve them. “It’s a really hard time for children and families.”
  • When working with parents, emphasize the bigger picture, rather than the tasks. “Faith foundation is bigger than that. … It’s important.”
    Resource families with ways to grow their relationships formally and informally with one another
  • Give them things that will empower them and encourage them to have fun together, share conversations together, establish traditions and rituals together, and serve together. “[Give] them resources for how to do family discipleship – simple things that can go into the rhythm of their day, the rhythm of their week.”

Instead of giving them a to-do list, Dr. Kjesbo says it should be a “way to live list.” Help them to grow in “how are [they] going to live rather than what are [they] going to do.”

Your resources can be as simple as playing a game together, prompts for praying with one another, a Bible story to read together, sharing “blessings and bummers” on a daily basis – as long as they integrate into all the family is doing and the way in which they live.

“Prompting these kinds of things will make a huge difference … towards the goal of equipping families. And it takes some of the burden off of families.” Parents, she says, don’t need to feel like they have to have all the answers or hold a seminary degree.

“It’s what Deuteronomy 6 is talking about,” she says. “When you’re up or down, in or out, all day long you share faith with children. And you do it by how you role model. You do it by the conversations that come up casually. You do it throughout the day.”

To hear more of the conversation, her ideas for resources, and what leaders can do when they get discouraged, listen to Mind the Gap: Partner With Parents for the Sake of Discipleship, a Resilient Disciples Podcast.

The podcast with Dr. Kjesbo is part of our series of conversations with Child Discipleship Forum speakers. Find the rest of the series on the Resilient Disciples web page or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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