By Bev and Phil Haas
I don’t think my daughter is getting what she needs at church. We’ve been at our church for 10 years and really don’t want to leave, but I’m not sure what else we can do. Any suggestions before we start looking?
We suggest that you take on a role that will feel natural to you as a parent and be an advocate for your child. There’s no guarantee you will end up staying at the church you now call home, but we believe it’s worth your effort to work on improving the situation for your daughter before walking.
Changing Something at Church
When most people hear the word advocate, they think of the efforts of individuals and groups who take action to influence programs and policies in our government or schools. We believe advocacy can and should also take place in our churches. In a perfect world, there would be no need for people to push for change. In the real world, however, gaps need to be filled and problems need to be fixed. That’s true of all churches. Even the early church had problems to overcome and people who called for change (Acts 6:1-7). Now that you know your role as an advocate is biblical, we want to give you some guidelines that will produce a positive outcome in your efforts to make your home church a better place not only for your child, but her peers as well.
Being an Effective Advocate
Some churches simply may not have the resources to provide everything you want for your child. I recently met with a dad who realized this and offered to donate the resources needed to help his daughter. Not every parent can do that. Below are some action steps every parent can take.
Build good relations with those who work with your child. Having a positive relationship with the people at church who work in ministry areas that impact your child is vital. Don’t wait for an issue to emerge to introduce yourself to your daughter’s teachers or group leaders. Raising a concern is much easier and less confrontational if a relational connection has already been established. There are many ways to connect with your child’s teachers and leaders. One of the best ways is by being involved. That might be as simple as talking with and encouraging them on a regular basis. Or you might consider volunteering to help out with her group or an event. One of the best ways to win the ear of your daughter’s teachers and ministry leaders and to observe firsthand what is happening is to be actively engaged in the ministry.
If a problem occurs, get the details. It makes sense to act when you observe an issue or your child tells you something’s wrong. But it gets messy when we act before we have the whole story.
Some parents were upset because their daughter was in a class that didn’t teach the Bible. At least, that was the daughter’s story. Once the parents got involved and talked with the teacher and student minister, it became evident their daughter just didn’t want to go to class. She got out of it by telling her parents the teacher was not teaching from the Bible. Get the facts before coming to conclusions about a perceived problem.
Talk with the right people in the right order. In most cases, an informal conversation with the teacher or leader directly involved should be the first step in addressing any issue and often leads to a solution. This biblical principle is laid out in Matthew 18:15-17. However, if you are unable to reach a satisfactory solution, then you can talk to the leader of that ministry. It’s okay to be assertive at times, but know the difference between being assertive and aggressive. Assertive communication is healthy. Aggressiveness will not produce the results you desire.
Avoid the blame game. Mixing an important and possibly emotional issue that concerns your child with busy volunteers and church staff can lead to frustration. Keep your cool and be Christlike in your approach. Even though you may have to be persistent, keep in mind that ultimately everyone involved wants what’s best for your child and all the other children involved.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have one grandson.