One of the challenges we face as children’s ministers is that we want to ensure that what we have shared with the kids on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights aren’t just time fillers but content that truly finds a root in a child’s life. The most interesting lessons, the most fun crafts, the most well-prepared plans can only go so far in touching children’s hearts.
To that end, many of us try to combine our influence with that of the home, recognizing that if we can get the parents to “continue the conversation” with their kids after they’ve left our class or if we can “continue the conversation” that they are already having at home while the kids are with us, we stand a much better chance of leaving a lasting impression on the heart of that child. But the tools for continuing that conversation are often ineffective. Realistically, if we are lucky, we will only have around thirty seconds to connect with the parents when they drop off and/or pick up their child; barely enough time to say “Hi!” let alone find out what they’ve been talking about at home. Conversely, many parents’ lives are crazy full with schedules that keep them hopping from morning until night and they don’t have the time to sit down a go over what is going on at church.
So, what can we do?
In his book Team Up: Partnering with Parents, author and family minister Phil Bell offers some wonderful ideas to help us create space for the continued conversation.
1. Say Multiple Things in Multiple Ways – If you want your parents to connect with what is going on at church, one handout at check-out won’t do it. Find ways to be where parents are whether that is by email. social media, on their phones or even in their adult Sunday School class to present to them what is being covered downstairs. Hearing it a multitude of ways can lead to it “sticking” beyond the initial touch.
2. Manage the Frequency of communication – Be strategic about what information and how often you send it to parents. Remember, they are already overwhelmed, so extras will get ignored. Phil offers ideas on spacing out your communication to things that are regular (letters twice a year, newsletter once a month) and special events (postcards, videos, social media). If parents get into the rhythm of expecting certain communications at regular times, then the “extras” have a place to land and you are reinforcing rather than introducing information.
3. Build Relationships with parents – By far this one has the most lasting impact. Get to know your parents and what is going on in the lives of your families. By doing that, you will find it much easier to “continue the conversation” within your classrooms and in your overall ministry vision. Phil shares that “relational investment builds trust and influence with your parents” and the end result of that is a continued conversation at home.
Jeffery Reed, Lifeway curriculum specialist, offers a phenomenal training on the 30 Second Conversation we can have with parents at pick up. By simply changing the conversation at that moment to say things like, “This week we talked about David and Goliath. When you guys get together this week to read the Bible, you can find the story here” or “We prayed in our small groups today so when your family prays together this week, be sure to pray ask Johnny what we prayed about here.” In this conversation, you are not only telling the parents what happened that day in class, but you are also encouraging the continued conversation at home and giving them the tools to make it happen.
The continued conversation could be our greatest gift in ensuring that what we say on Sunday translates to life on Monday and the rest of the week. What other ideas do you have or tools do you employ to connect with parents and keep the conversation flowing?