A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference where I got to hear Phil Vischer the creator of Veggie Tales speak. He said many things that worked their way into my soul. One of them was this concept:

“We underestimate what kids can learn and we overestimate what adults are interested in.”

He used the example of a small child asking, “Why is the sky blue?” An adult rarely asks that question. Yet, it isn’t because the masses have learned the reasoning behind our blue sky, in contrast most adults have ceased to wonder about it. This concept got me really thinking about my approach to ministry with parents and their children. How many times do I get angry at parents because they don’t care about the things I think they should? So we ask the question often, “How do we engage parents?” Let’s go back to Phil Vischer’s statement, “We overestimate what adults are interested in.” Think about it:

They Don’t Always Care About What We Do:

Apple really wants me to buy their new watch, McDonald’s wants me to eat their food, and every car company in the universe tells me theirs is the best to own. Just because they send me an email, or show me a commercial doesn’t mean I’ll actually care. We may think their child needs to go to camp or they need to hear our vision for the ministry. It does not mean they want their child to go to camp or want to hear what we have to say. It also doesn’t make them a bad person. We have a tendency to talk at parents instead of with them.

This Does Not Mean They DON’T Care About Their Children:

As my friend Phil Bell says, “We say parents are disengaged. However, I think they are very engaged in what they want to be. What we really mean in ministry is that they are disengaged from the things we want them to be engaged in.” When is the last time we asked a parent what they needed help with? So often we offer a program we think a parent needs, and then get frustrated when they don’t show up. Many parents are very involved with their kids lives, it may just not be in a way that benefits our ministry.

This Also Does Not Mean They Don’t Care About the Spiritual Welfare of Their Child:

Parents are overwhelmed and feel inadequate especially when it comes to the deeper things of God. No longer do our children want to know why the sky is blue. Now they want to know why a loving God would allow people to go to hell. Parents can avoid these questions because they may be grappling with them on their own. This is often why a parent will defer to our “professional” knowledge of the Lord. After all we are the expert.

What Will We Do About It?

In the course of a day parents may get notifications from school, work, doctors, and extracurricular activities. Church is often the place where there is grace to put the permission slip to the bottom of the pile or miss the email. We are the one place they can wait to pay for something they can’t necessarily afford. The question becomes will we shift our attitude from what parents are NOT doing to the ways we can walk with them? If we want a parent at that meeting what extent will we go to get them there? Can we see if we want their child at camp we may have to be a little more like the company that creates a relationship with us. We buy brands when we have an emotional connection to them. Maybe today could be the day we stop asking parents to come to us and we do a little more to go to them.