By Aaron Earls
The COVID-19 pandemic and all the related social upheaval brought untold stress on numerous families. Parents and kids are learning new tools for work and school, while working through new routines and patterns. That has taken a toll.
The 2020 American Family Survey found 25% of those with children feel as if they are failing as a parent, including 9% who strongly agree. At the same time, just 24% of parents felt as if local churches were helpful to them during the pandemic. Another 15% say churches were helpful for some people but not their family.The 2020 American Family Survey found 25% of those with children feel as if they are failing as a parent, including 9% who strongly agree. Click To Tweet
So, while some parents felt like failures, few felt like churches in their area were doing anything to help them. How can churches change that as we move out of the pandemic and into the post-COVID reality? Here are five steps church leaders can take, from suggesting family changes to providing practical helps, that can offer discouraged parents some much needed encouragement.
1. Encourage parents to learn from the pandemic
In a matter of days, many packed family calendars were suddenly wiped clean at the start of the pandemic. Sports and extra-curricular activities were cancelled. Parents and kids suddenly found themselves spending lots of time together.
Before calendars get loaded again, help parents to evaluate what they want to prioritize and what can stay off the schedule. Use the time to think through how you can learn from some of the pandemic downtime to not overcrowd your post-pandemic family life.
2. Offer parenting seminars
Most parents always want to know how they can be better parents. Hosting a parenting seminar or class at your church may be a way to equip and encourage those who feel lost right now.
As a bonus, it may be a way to connect with families in your neighborhood. Unchurched individuals say they are more likely to come to similar types of events at a church than worship services, according to a 2016 Lifeway Research study.
3. Provide childcare
Those who felt as if their relationship with their spouse was “in trouble” were more likely to say they also felt like they were failing as a parent. Having a “Parents Night Out” where volunteers provide fun activities for children to enable parents to have a date night can be one way your church can support families.
Even if you can’t do this churchwide, speak with small group leaders about having couples in their groups rotate keeping the kids so others can have a night out.
4. Redefine success
In a 2009 Lifeway Research study, American parents shared their hopes and dreams for their children. Relatively few, even among evangelical Christians, said their children having faith in God was part of their definition of successful parenting. Only 9% of all parents point to raising godly children as their measure of success. Weekly church attenders are more likely to use that as a standard, but the percentage only increases to 24%.In a 2009 Lifeway Research study, only 9% of all parents point to raising godly children as their measure of success. Click To Tweet
Parents may have watched their children struggle with the transition to at-home schooling or deal with increased anxiety over the pandemic. Those problems may cause parents to doubt their capabilities, but church leaders can help remind parents that the more important measure of success, and the one that stretches into eternity, is whether or not their children love and follow Jesus. Despite what our fears may tell us, our parenting failures are not beyond the redeeming reach of the cross.
5. Help parents rest in Jesus
Even parents who have the right aims can feel overwhelmed, as if all the weight of the spiritual growth of their children falls on them. They can take personally every perceived failure of their child."God doesn't judge parents on the actions of their kids. He judges parents on their actions toward their kids.” — @AaronBWilson26 Click To Tweet
Yet, God only calls parents to be faithful. As Aaron Wilson writes, “God doesn’t judge parents on the actions of their kids. He judges parents on their actions toward their kids.” Help parents understand that if they are seeking to honor God with their life and love their kids in God’s strength, then He is pleased with them. They can rest in that truth no matter how hectic life becomes.
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.
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