Framing without shaming

3 December 2019

How can we help parents help their kids to engage well with the service? How can we lead from the front so that parents and carers feel empowered rather than bossed about?

When you lead a service you try to cater for different ages, learning styles and expectations as you plan it. But we all know when it actually comes to the morning there’s probably a toddler at the back kicking the chair in front because he can’t see a thing, as well as two eight-year olds busily playing on a phone, oblivious to everything else going on. A new family are already looking anxious as their children start to show signs of wanting to join the eight-year olds. Two mums have dumped their pre-schoolers in the creche at the back without even trying to engage them in the service.

So everything in you wants to start issuing instructions: parents! Do this and you and your children will engage well with this amazing service we’ve created! But that feels bossy and confrontational, so we don’t.

As the service leader, you want to help parents and carers feel empowered, so that they can help their children engage with the service. And you want to upskill them so they start to exercise their skills naturally and model them for other families. But you don’t want to make the parents feel like they’ve failed or have been pointed out.

One way of doing this is the Hint Drop.

The hint drop is a way of making suggestions in such as way that parents feel empowered rather than shamed. Rather than the service leader issuing an instruction (or an instruction barely disguised as an instruction, such as ‘Would parents like to bring their children down to the front?’), the hint drop gives parents a clue of what they could do and nudges them to use the skills they already have while also communicating that it’s fine if you don’t.

So what might the hint drop look like in the following scenarios?

It’s time for prayer led from the front and you notice that most of the children are busy doing their own thing and not ready to engage with the prayers.

‘Some people like to cuddle close their children while they are praying, but whatever you do, get comfy as we join in with our intercessions’.

It’s a special service like Remembrance Day, or you’re about to celebrate communion and are aware that for some children this is quite new.

We’re going to be doing something a bit different / that might be new for some of you, so if you are with someone who might need a bit of help following what’s going on, it’s fine to whisper bits in their ear as we go along.’

You realise that some children are struggling to engage with the worship because they are stood where they can only see the backs of people’s heads.

‘For everyone, including families, if you can’t see the words well where you are, or you’d like a bit of space to worship God your own way, we’ve got some space at the front or in the aisles. If you’re not blocking anyone else’s view feel free to lift your little one up or put them on your shoulders so they can see. Feel free to move there if you’d like to.’

There’s a booklet for the service but most parents aren’t helping their kids use it.

‘If it’s helpful to anyone, we have booklets you can use if your family likes reading and following along – and adults, if you’d like one, please take one too. Raise your hand / head to the back where they’re on the side if you’d like one.’

The hint drop is a really useful skill for engaging people without making them feel out of place or embarrassed, and will help you to engage all ages well as you lead your services.

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Photo by Sarah Noltner on Unsplash