Parents make great volunteers. Most scouting groups and kids’ sports teams are run entirely by parents. Parents are willing to invest time and energy to give their children enriching experiences. So encourage parents to volunteer in your children’s ministries, although there can be challenges (more on that later). But don’t stop there.
When parents tell me they want to volunteer for ministries their children are involved in, I applaud their choice, but I also encourage them to find at least one small additional way to get involved at church, perhaps by greeting at the church doors once a month, so that their church still feels like their church when their kids are grown. More than once, someone later mentioned they remembered that advice.
You can help parents remember there’s life beyond parenting by asking about their hobbies and interests, their jobs and career; ask what they’d enjoy doing when their kids are grown. Whether or not they accept your particular invitation to serve, you’ll have planted a seed that may result in them serving in ways they’d otherwise not consider. Opportunities to serve that can be done at home, on their own hours, are especially appealing to parents.
Also appealing are opportunities for parents and children to serve together. It’s wonderful to see an entire family greeting people on Sunday morning, or setting up the coffee and snacks; to see a parent and child ushering together, or visiting a shut-in. Serving together allows parents to instill values important to them while they’re enjoying quality family time.
When parents do volunteer in children’s ministries, it can be challenging. Some parents are less interested in helping the leader than in making sure Miranda doesn’t hurt herself, or that Edgar’s nose gets wiped promptly, or that the teacher truly appreciates Tracy’s many talents! How do we deal with parents whose motivation and behavior don’t match our expectations?
- Acknowledge reality. Some of these parents will still be hovering when their child is in college. You aren’t going to “fix” them. Bring people to Jesus and let him deal with their sins and shortcomings, just as he deals with mine and your
- Have clear expectations. Mom’s got an idea in her head about what she’ll be doing when she volunteers. She isn’t going to have a picture of what you expect unless you give it to her. In a real, sit-down conversation, share a written job description, with expectations clearly laid out. Stress your goals, so she sees that this goes beyond babysitting or entertaining her child.
- Stress purpose while they serve. Affirm volunteers in ways that reinforce your purpose, goals and vision. “When you comforted Leticia, you really demonstrated Jesus’ love.” “You made that Bible story come alive for the kids.”
- Pair a “helicopter” parent with a more experienced volunteer who has the tact and maturity to be a good model and friend to the parent.
Children’s ministry can be an education for the parents as well as the kids.