According to Barna Group research published in March 2019 entitled Who Is Responsible For Children’s Faith Formation, “In this and several other studies with Christian parents, our research has found that they crave guidance on how to educate and form their children, knowing that they are growing up in a world that is far more secular than their own childhood. Parents want to hear from their pastors on this issue,” Hempell continues. “Church leaders have the opportunity to develop a unique community for faith formation by bringing parents, school administrators and faith leaders together in partnerships for faith development. This is the basis for intentionally equipping parents through events such as Moving On Up to Middle School.
Moving on Up to Middle School is a dessert and panel discussion for 5th graders AND their parents offered the last week of April. Promotion language sounded like this:
Initial communication: McEachern Memorial UMC wants to help your family navigate this big move to middle school with confidence, information, and tools for success. 5th grade students AND parents are invited for dessert to a panel discussion and Q&A on Tuesday, April 30 6:30-8pm in the lower level of the Christian Life Center room ***
Free childcare will be provided for siblings by ***. Please RSVP for parents and 5th graders at ****.
Secondary communication: Get a free copy of Viral Parenting, get some questions answered, satisfy your sweet tooth, and enjoy some laughter at tomorrow’s Moving On Up To Middle School dessert and panel discussion event for 5th graders and their parents. Free childcare for siblings by emailing ***. Register at ***
Students and parents were invited to write down questions on index cards and get dessert. At 6:50 we played a game of how to work a combination lock. We found colorful dual combination locks with the same combination so they could help one another…we are better together. Panel discussion began at 7pm. At 7:30-45 (or when the questions were finished, students would sit knee-to-knee with their parents and discuss some items based on the questions/discussion. For example: “What does helping with homework look like to you?”, “How can I let you know that I need to talk?”, and “What if I mess up?” We dismissed at 7:55pm with a benediction and prayer.
The panel included our Youth Ministry Director, a middle school teacher, a dad with a middle school boy and a mom with a middle school girl who are navigating middle school with healthy success. Thank you notes for the panel were attached to a box of Sour Patch Kids. We chose not to take questions from the floor to ensure students nor parents would be put in unflattering, uncomfortable, or judgmental spots. One of the main goals in offering these educational events is to engage in successful and healthy conversations between kids and their parents.
Other parent-equipping opportunities which have taken place in the last 4 months included Wonderfully Made: Loved By God, John Rosemond spoke during a Sunday school shared event, and various Faith Milestone events for the lower grades. The sacred and courageous conversations have begun. This research affirms we are moving in the right direction. We’re already preparing for opportunities to offer this fall: Cell Phone Safety, Sharing Your Faith With Your Family, Will You Be My Friend?: Healthy Relationships, and more.
Testimony: I instructed students I’d give them a Combination Lock for a question written on an index card for the panel to discuss. They began writing furiously. Without instruction they struggled. Thinking they would work together, they did not, but rather continued to struggle. I let them struggle. After 5 minutes, I asked the students to hand the locks over to their parents. Hearing the clicking of opened locks all over the room, the kids were amazed, looking at their parents with pride and admiration. This was a great way to begin as they now saw how their parents knew more than they thought and would help them ‘unlock’ a whole lot more.
Note: Viral Parenting is one of the latest books to be published specifically for parents and caregivers on navigating boundary setting and living with a cell phone in a social media world. I then cautioned them on reading any book passively. Though the authors are part of a faith community, it is not a faith-based book. There is a section toward the end of the book when the author talks about their family attending church and faith-based education. Which is good info. However, they then share that though the reader may not have or believe in the Lord, they can still find hope elsewhere. I shared with my audience of 5th graders and their parents as followers of Jesus, we do NOT believe that. Our hope is ONLY in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sally Clarkson, Author of Book Girl, which advocates for the transforming power of a reading life speaks to reading everything with a discerning filter: Because stories engage my imagination and heart on a deep level, I am aware of the fact that what I encounter on their pages will teach me how to see the world, and this is why I’ve had to learn to practice discernment. (pg 9)
How else are you training and equipping parents to lead their children so they “grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man?” (Luke 2:52)
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1-4