Which Children’s Ministry goal is hardest for a church plant to achieve?
Church plants have an inherent problem fulfilling one of the most common goals in children’s ministry. It’s the goal that states, “Parents are equipped to be the primary spiritual leaders of their children.” This is a great and worthy goal, one that most children’s ministries worth their salt would aspire to, but one that is challenging to accomplish in a church plant, and in many well-established churches too.
Why is it such a challenge to get parents to disciple their children? The challenge children’s ministry leaders come up against is that many parents don’t feel qualified or capable of becoming a spiritual leader. This is especially true of people who have not grown up in the church, or whose spiritual background did not give them much exposure to the Bible. So, when well-intentioned children’s ministries send home conversation starters for the dinner table, or ideas for reinforcing the lesson during the week, parents may very well ignore these suggestions. At the heart of their resistance is the insecurity triggered by that take-home paper: “I don’t feel capable. What if my kid asks me a question I don’t know the answer to?”
What’s the best strategy to employ? So, how does a church filled with people who are new to church or rusty on their Bible knowledge get parents to buy in to the idea of becoming their child’s primary discipler? For Pastor Jeff Gauss, church planter of Epiphany Station in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, the answer lies in creating a long-term aligned-learning experience for every age group in the church. “I’ve always been very big on everybody from the youngest children through the adults in the small groups and in the church services learning the same thing. Families that are just coming into the church and just coming into faith have no foundation for raising their children in the faith, but they want to. Teaching everyone the same thing at the same time is a great method for bringing everybody along in this discipleship process, together, and it gives parents a feeling of confidence.”
How can a church plant pull off aligned learning? A year after Epiphany Station’s launch, Gauss discovered a church program that would facilitate his goal of bringing everybody together, going the same direction, learning the same story. At that stage they didn’t have the resources to develop their own curriculum for every age group in the church, but when he found The Story, Gauss knew he had found the solution he had been looking for, already laid out for them.
The Story is an all-ages aligned-learning Bible literacy experience based on a book called The Story which contains the narrative portions of Scripture arranged in chronological order. The Story experience offers books of Scripture for every reading level in the family, 31 weeks of curriculum for every teaching department in the church, and sermon materials for preaching through the whole story of the Bible for an entire ministry season.
As Jeff Gauss rightly observes, “In our culture, there are so many things vying for people’s attention, even in our churches. But The Story counteracts that. It’s no longer hearing the sermon on one thing, going to small group or Sunday school and talking about another thing, the elementary-aged kids learning a different thing and your teenagers on yet another thing. All of a sudden in your household you’ve got four or five different things in one week that everybody’s learning, which makes it difficult to really grow together as a family. On the other hand, if the family is all together learning the same thing then it’s very conducive to having natural conversations around the dinner table.”
Why is there so much power in aligned learning? Therein lies the power of aligned learning: Parents and children are reading the same Scriptures at the same time in books at their own reading level; then, while children are in Sunday school learning about what they read in their books, their parents are hearing a sermon on the same subject in church and following up with a discussion on the same topic with their small group. So now, when the child brings home a take-home paper with ideas for parents to engage with their children, the parents have gained the confidence they need to truly be the primary spiritual leaders of their children.
To learn more about THE STORY, click here
To learn more about BELIEVE, click here
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Thanks to Shelly Leith, the Director of Church Relations for Zondervan Publishing, for writing this post. We appreciate your support!