Sunday Morning Strategies: Thinking About Forms

formsWelcome back to our brand new series called “Sunday Morning Strategies” where we are examining things you can do in your Sunday morning children’s ministry programs to accommodate children of divorce and children from various types of modern families. There are certain things you can incorporate into your ministry to specifically address the issues and concerns of these children in your churches, and we will get to those later in this series. However, we’re going to start with some of the fundamentals underlying your ministry. Today, we are going to talk about forms and how some simple adaptations can help you to learn about the kids in your ministry who aren’t living in what we might call “traditional homes.”

You’ve got to love forms, right? Whether you collect information in a computer database or still use a paper based system, most churches collect some sort of information about the kids that come through their doors and their families. Given that roughly 40% of children do not live with their married biological parents, it is important to consider whether or not your forms reflect the changing shape of American families.

How would a family that was cohabiting fill out your intake forms? What about a divorced family where the child splits time between two houses? What about a single-mother and her kids? How would grandparents who are living with their grandchildren fill out your forms? Do you know which kids in your ministry come from non-traditional family forms? Do you have a systematic way of sharing this information in a confidential way with the children’s teachers and/or small group leaders?

Take some time this week to sit down with the forms you use for your children’s ministry and consider how they might need to be revised to be more accommodating to kids from divorced and single-parent homes. Here are some suggestions on things to consider:

  • Do you have separate sections on your forms where both mom and dad can fill out their addresses and contact information? Consider a form which includes separate sections for mom and dad with a check box they can check in the event that the contact information is the same.
  • Do you ask for information about other churches the children in the family may be attending with non-custodial parents? If you gather this information you may have a chance to reach out to the children’s pastor/director from the other church to collaborate on the children’s spiritual development.
  • Many forms include a section for listing brothers and sisters. Do you have a section on your forms for capturing other children who live in the same house with the child like step-siblings and half-siblings? What about children of a live-in partner of one of the parents?
  • Is there a place on your form where parents can list other adults (other than mom or dad) living in the home? This would allow parents to list significant others, aunts, uncles, grandparents or friends who live with and influence the child.
  • When you look at the design of your form is it clearly intended to be filled out by a traditional married mom and dad family or does it acknowledge different family types?
  • Is there a place for parents to explain the living arrangements of the child? Do you know if the children in your ministry are splitting time between homes?
  • Do your forms inquire as to whether or not the child’s parents are still married?

As you think about redesigning your forms, keep in mind that some explanation as to why you are gathering this information might be helpful to parents who may feel like you are prying into their personal lives. Reassure them that, like them, you are only interested in their child’s well being and that this information will help you to best minister to these kids. For practical reasons, you may want to consider an abbreviated form for allowing children into your ministry on a Sunday morning with a more detailed form to follow that the parent(s) can take home and bring back the following week. This will prevent the proverbial logjam at the check in counter.

Forms are critical to gathering important information, and information is key to effective ministry. Sit down with a copy of your forms this week and consider whether you are gathering sufficient information to really know the kids in your ministry who do not come from traditional homes.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on May 06, 2013.

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Written by Wayne Stocks
Wayne is the founder and executive director of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. He is a happily married father of four kids with a passion for helping young people who are going through rough times. In addition to Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne previously started I Am A Child of Divorce and Divorce Ministry 4 Kids to help kids who are dealing with the disruption of their parents' relationship. These are now part of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. Wayne speaks frequently at conferences and churches on issues related to helping kids learn to deal with difficult emotions and life in modern families.Wayne lives with his wife, three youngest kids, three dogs and an insane collection of his kids' other pets outside of Columbus, Ohio. In addition to his work with Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne is a partner in a local consulting firm, an avid reader, coaches his son's soccer team and is a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club (and yes, for those in know, his affinity for the club does predate the 2016 championship).You can reach Wayne at wayne@hope4hurtingkids.com.