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Parent education in the church

By Kay Marchand

Few things compare with the joy and privilege of being new parents. With the privilege, however, comes overwhelming responsibility. Unfortunately, new babies do not come with instructions, and parenting skills are not natural instincts. Like all other areas of expertise, becoming a parent requires learning and practice.

By providing reliable information on parenting, the church could minister more effectively to its families, but church leaders have hesitated to interfere with family interaction. Also, the need for the church’s help was not as apparent in the past as it is today.

For many of us, our initial hands-on experience utilizing parenting skills comes with the birth of our first child. To complicate matters, our increased mobility may mean that our parents live hundreds of miles away. Only so much advice and counsel can be given over the phone or through the mail. As a result, many of today’s young families feel isolated.

Another factor to consider is the number of today’s young adults who were raised in homes where few adequate parenting skills were modeled. It is difficult to learn techniques one has never seen. Even when people realize there is room for improvement, they need help to get started in the right direction. Who can provide this assistance better than the church?

Some churches have recognized this and have developed parent-training approaches. One couple developed a parenting curriculum in their church. The program focuses on the child’s first 5 years of life and consists of material covering the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual development. They have been using this approach successfully for 12 years.

One church has a 2-hour parenting seminar as a prerequisite for parents who want their child dedicated. Through the seminar, new parents are offered practical parenting advice and guidance in the spiritual training of their child.

Realizing a 2-hour seminar can only begin the training, the church leaders have set up support teams for new parents. The support teams are ready to lend encouragement whenever they are needed.

A church has various avenues available for presenting parenting information. Depending on the size and make up of your church, you may wish to offer classes on a quarterly or semiannual basis or as an ongoing option. You may incorporate classes into your Sunday school, perhaps designating a particular Sunday as Parent Training Day. Another possibility is a workshop scheduled from Friday evening to Saturday noon. Whatever format you choose, having regularly planned presentations is essential.

The parenting presentations or classes do not tell parents how to rear their children. Instead they present sound concepts that give parents a firm knowledge base from which to make parenting decisions. Information should cover basic child development so parents will know what to expect from their child at various stages and ages. It should also include training in basic parenting skills–guidance, nurturing, and physical care.

Who should present the information? You can invite guest speakers for a special emphasis or to kick off your parenting program. However, using persons from within your congregation will add longevity to the ministry. Look for individuals or couples who want to help new parents. They should be experienced parents who have a background knowledge of child development.

As you consider leaders for your parenting activities ask, "Are their basic beliefs regarding parenting founded on the Bible?" In their homes have the potential teachers used the concepts they will teach? Are their children well-adjusted, happy individuals? (No children are perfect, and some children are downright challenging, but most children respond positively to appropriate parenting techniques. You can learn much from observing the children in a family.)

Parenting classes will benefit the families in your church and those in your community as well. A program designed to enhance parenting can be a highly effective evangelism tool.

The needs of our families are too important to overlook. There is everything to lose by neglecting this ministry and everything to gain by incorporating it into your church. The positive results would be healthier homes, happier children, stronger churches, and souls saved. Isn’t that what it is all about?