I was sitting at the sign-in table when I first saw her. She was new to the
church, and her huge eyes looked around at the crowd of children gathered in
the gym. I watched her as I asked the regulars, Did you bring your Bible? Your
study book? Did you go to Sunday school last week?
Soon it was her turn to sign in. Hi, this is Allison, the woman beside her
said. Allisons friend from school invited her to come, and Allisons been
begging me to bring her, she sighed.
I put on my best welcome-to-church smile and said, Allison. It is so nice
that you came. You are going to have so much fun here today. I turned to the
woman, Are you her mom? Would you mind filling out a form for me? The form
would later be used to contact Allisons family to encourage them to attend with
Allison will be in a class with me as her teacher, I continued. We have some
great classes for adults and a church service beginning at
Uh, no thanks, mom said backing away a step or two. I was just planning on
dropping her off and coming back for her later thats okay, isnt it?
Briefly, I considered telling her no. The thoughts rushed through my head:
Mom, you should be here worshiping with her. Dont you know what blessings youre
missing? What if Allison has an accident and youre unreachable? What if Allison
isnt as angelic as she appears and needs parental discipline? Mom, you should
be setting an example for Allison.
Sure, I said, believing that she was leaving regardless of my answer. The
only undecided issue was whether she would be leaving alone or with Allison.
How can I convince her to stay without being too pushy?
Mom, dont go. I dont see my friend here, and I dont know anybody, Allison
said with a tremor in her voice. God bless children. She had said what I
Now, this was an opportunity not to be missed. A parent who doesnt like
formal church services will often attend a childrens event. You are welcome to
sit in on Allisons class if youd like, I said casually. Its not unusual for
parents to sit in.
She looked at her frightened child and softened, Well, maybe Ill stay with
you a little while
Allisons mom is typical of the parents who dont accompany their children to
church each week. The adults
dont attend church themselves, but its acceptable for their children to
choose to attend. According to many non-attending parents, churches are great
for teaching discipline and values to childrenbut are of little use to adults.
Its also nice to have a free baby sitter once a week.
How can churches encourage these parents to participate with their children?
Here are some things that weve learned that can help.
Get to know the parents and extended families of the children who attend
your church. Visit homes of nonbelievers. Dont just drop the children off when
taking them home. Knock on the door and chat for a few minutes. God can use a
simple conversation to open doors to faith. Call the parents and ask if theyd
like to visit their childs class. Mail postcard reminders when the children are
singing in a church service.
When the parent comes to pick up the child, make a point to explain what
happened in the class. This gives you an opening to talk about the lessona
chance for you to teach something to the adult as well as the child.
Send them off with a request to help their children with memory verses or
next weeks lesson. Send home Bibles, study books, tracts, program information
or Christian magazines for the child, and suggest that the adult and child read
them together. Ask a parent to provide snacks for a party, transportation for a
field trip or help with a craft project. This reinforces the idea that help is
needed, and participation is not just for members.
Invite parents to award ceremonies, parties and competitions. Upward
Basketball features half-time testimonies at games and a salvation sermon at
its awards ceremony. Royal Ambassadors or Girls in Action can introduce
children to the exciting world of career missionaries. The mission education
programs are great for bringing children to church and for building bridges
with parents. Make sure the people who drop off their children understand these
events are for them too, not just church members.
Be patient and prepared
Many adults have been hurt by churches or Christians and are difficult to
reach. They may choose to expose their children to Christian beliefs even if
they avoid church themselves. If so, this is a foundation on which to build
credibility with them. Be patient and maintain contact. Their resolve to avoid
church will often weaken when they realize that you are a normal person who can
chat about things like having trouble keeping up with the laundry.
Casual questions about opportunities for participation often come in relaxed
moments. Go ahead and prepare for those momentsthey will come. Be vulnerable
enough to let them know about your own life, so they see you as a person with
human foibles as well as faith. They will be more likely to open up and enter a
discussion about the tougher subjects that trouble them and keep them from
attending church after dropping off their children.
I realized about a year ago that salvation discussions had the same effect
on me, carrying the same message as a starters pistol at a track eventrun! I
gained confidence by reading the Bible and finding answers to those gray areas
I didnt quite understand.
Pray for opportunities to present the gospel and the boldness to take those
opportunities. Pray for God to remove obstacles that prevent parents from
attending church. Pray that God will help you overcome any resentment you may
feel about parents who seem to use you as a baby sitter.
Jackie Browder is a writer living in Warner Robins, Georgia.
For information about Upward Basketball, call 800-585-4721 or visit
upward.com; for information
about GAs or Acteens, call 800-968-7301 or visit wmu.com; for information about Royal Ambassadors or
Challengers, call 770-410-6494 or visit kidzplace.org or studentz.com.
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