To reach the next generation with the gospel, we have to reach parents. And one of the best ways to reach parents is to value the things they value. The apostle Paul said it this way,
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them (I Corinthians 9:19).
To win people to Christ, we must be willing to serve them and to meet their needs. While our acts do not add anything to the gospel, they make gospel proclamation clear. In other words, the message exists but it needs a strong signal to connect with people. If we want to have a strong signal, we must seek to serve others. We must seek to serve young families. In my experience, young families are looking for three things after determining a church’s love for the gospel: cleanliness, security, and relationship. To reach young families we must have clean facilities, promote safety and value relationships.
1. New parents love the smell of Lysol. It proclaims to the world that your church takes germs seriously. New parents also love seeing fresh paint, clean new toys, and fresh books. When I first came on staff at FBCE, my wife and I visited all the nursery rooms. The new born baby room had an external broken pipes in the ceiling and holes in the wall. We both looked at each other. As our eyes met they quietly screamed, “There is no way, we are leaving a baby in here.” Thankfully FBCE understood this principle. The church now has a brand new facility with a great baby room. But the point still remains. If new parents think your facility is dirty or see that every book in your nursery room is ripped in half, they probably will not come back. We will lose opportunities to share the gospel if we have dirty facilities. Value cleanliness.
2. Most every parents comes to our church doubting our ability to care for their child. This lack of trust is not our fault nor indicative of poor parenting. It is human nature. Parents love their kids and rightfully slow to hand over some of that responsibility to the church. We must win the parents’ trust. We must prove to them that we our facilities and programs take their children’s safety seriously. We must show them that we love their kids from beginning to end. Towards that end, we must run background checks and vet our volunteers. We must have check-in and out procedures that keep track of the kids at all times. We must keep proper ratio’s in place at all times. We must make sure 4th graders are not playing dodge ball in the room while babies crawl on the floor. If parents do not think our church is safe, they will not return. Value safety.
3. Young parents value relationships. They want to feel connected. They want to be part of the church. If we want new families to come to our church, we must be ready for them. We need to great them with a smile, help them get acclimated to our church, and walk them to their kids’ rooms. And while we teach and watch their kids, we need to take the time to get to know the kids, asking questions about their hobbies, school, and family. We also need to respect the parents’ wishes if possible. If they want you to get them after little Johnny has cried for 10 seconds, then we go ahead and page them. When the parents come back, we need to tell the parents how much we enjoyed meeting their child mentioning specific details about the child’s day and/or lesson. And it would not hurt for us to ask them to lunch! Value relationships.
All three of these things are ongoing. We are always cleaning, improving safety and building relationships. You never “arrive” in kids’ ministry. But if we spend time, money, and energy cleaning, protecting, and building relationships, we will have more and more chances to share Christ. Are you ready for new families?