Building your team – The Childless

Being a parent is a huge gift, being a grandparent too.
But the church is a melting pot of people and offspring can be a delicate issue
Kids ministry is all about kids, but as you look at those who care for them you find both parents and many many others.
The childless tend to fall into 3 categories, the single, the elderly and the others.
Every stage has possible ramifications to how the leader sees the children. If you haven’t taken time to think about this issue I’d encourage you to take a moment and read the tables below.

The single:

During puberty the youngster sees children as possible siblings, as promises of their future. But sometimes major problems with their rapidly developing reproductive system come to light here. When a sixteen year old is told that children are not part of her future then its bound to change the way she wants to invest her time honing her kids ministry skills. Talk to your youngsters, don’t patronise them by saying they have lots of time, but don’t assume that they will one day become parents. Try and steer them clear of sibling like behaviour, encourage them to be professional and offer to be a reference for any future endeavours they have.
During most of adulthood, singleness is not well handled by the church. The church tends to work best with family units and the pressure to find a partner can create an immense feeling of failure and discomfort, even for those who are quite content with their single status. As they leave their student years further behind the feeling can intensify. Working with children can give the air of a surrogate parent or it can intensify the feeling of failure and loss for the children they may never have. Don’t assume that because people work with children they want to have their own. Try not to ask repetitively if the person has any romantic interests. When you have events try to say that they can bring ‘someone’ or ‘a friend’ rather than use the words ‘couples’ or ‘partners’. Be sensitive to mums who may make constant reference to ‘their kids’, working alongside someone who has never had any.


The elderly:

For those who remain single, reaching a certain age reduces pressure to become a parent yourself, however, the constant reminder is still there as peers become proud grandparents. If they didn’t remain single this stage can be particularly painful, even if they chose not to have children, as they are confronted with the second wave of family traditions they will never get to share. Just because the age’s are similar doesn’t mean the ‘older generations’ will be happy together. Gently inquire when an older member joins the team who they would feel most comfortable working with and ask them to tell you a little about their history if you have not known them for long. Often you will find out quickly why they have no children and this will allow you to ask sensitive questions to asses future situations.


The others :

There are those people who, for whatever reason, chose not to have children. Often this will be a decision questioned by the church. The expectation is great, especially if they have been married some years and are financially stable. Constantly asking them when they will have their ‘own’ children can be seen as a repeated insult to their decision or reminder of their medical issues. Again, don’t assume that because people work with children they want to have their own. If you hear a parent repeatedly asking uncomfortable questions try and interject of if suitable pull to one side and ask them to stop. Keep medical confidentiality if you are aware of any conditions and If you are unsure what to say then ask the volunteer what they would be comfortable with you saying.
Then there are those that are trying. I now fall into this category, and while it’s painful for the other categories I didn’t ever appreciate the heartbreak that these people go through. Kids ministry is a painful and yet delightful process. It gives you a chance to train yourself, but reminds you that there is nothing to train for. It can be hard to see glowing pregnant women and their subsequent bundles of joy, especially as it’s totally unacceptable socially to be anything but thrilled. Advice is hard here as every person reacts differently. Trying to guess if someone has become pregnant, asking them when they plan on trying, and making heavy repeated hints are all a bad idea. If someone has a possible pregnancy but is waiting for the 12th week, respect that. At the other end of the scale if someone has suffered a miscarriage then allow them the space they may need. Move them from the rota if they request and wait for them to return to you. Using closed end questions that leave them able to chose how and when to respond are also advisable. They may be in emotional and physical pain. The hardest thing about this group is often you can’t identify them.

Do feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions on this topic in the comments sections below.



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