Ask parents in your ministry what they really want, and you likely hear a lot of "right" answers-something along the lines of teaching their children about God or leading their kids into a relationship with Jesus. These are akin to kids' "right" answers in Sunday school: No matter the question, the answer must be "Jesus!"...Right?
But we know that parents--who also often bear the roles of breadwinner, spouse, friend, mentor, volunteer, and so many more--aren't always expressing what they really need from your ministry. They typically aren't saying things like, "I need help teaching my child to be happy for others when they have so much more than we do," or "Our family is devastated; we discovered our teenage daughter is doing drugs and sleeping with older men. How do we handle this with our younger children in the home?"
The truth is, even though ministry is by nature personal and meaningful, so often parents resist truly opening up--for many reasons. They don't want to be judged, they're embarrassed, they feel overwhelmed, they don't want generic responses such as, "I'll pray for you" or "What would Jesus do?" Parents often struggle with a wide range of issues that lurk under their calm and collected surface--unspoken, unaddressed, unresolved, and unknown to others.
With this reality in mind, we asked scores of parents to anonymously open up to us about the very real issues they're dealing with right now. What we heard was surprising, honest, and, yes, sad at times. Venture with us through this secret window into a regular parent's thoughts and feelings. Listen in on the lingering whispers that tug at parents' hearts, the worries that consume them. You'll discover expert insights and maybe even a few new directions for your ministry.
Many parents say they feel confused and at a loss when it comes to issues of character development in their children. They worry about the everyday things...and not-so-everyday things.
• How do I handle the sex talk? I need to get past his embarrassment so it has value.
• How do I teach my child to accept that sometimes things don't work out right--even when you do everything right and try really hard?
• What do I do to train my child's heart to have great character qualities like tenderheartedness, kindness, compassion, and truthfulness?
• What do I say to my son whose friend has two moms?
• We give our kids so much. How do I keep them focused on the true necessities in life like faith and health rather than material things?
Every parent wonders how his or her child will "turn out." Will she be kind and honest? Will he follow the morals and values I do? That's why parents work (often diligently) to instill specific character traits in their children.
"One of parents' biggest fears is that they're going to 'mess up' their child one way or another," says Shelley Noonan, author of the Beautiful Girlhood Mentoring Program (pumpkinseedpress.net). To allay this fear and to help parents who are struggling with these issues, Noonan says children's ministers "can best support parents by actively listening to their concerns and purposefully responding in a way that builds up the family unit as a whole." Provide plenty of resources--and reassurance--for parents. Focus on strengthening and affirming families. Provide positive, interactive experiences that help parents effectively convey their thoughts and beliefs to their children.
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