Helping Parents Connect and Participate

March 27th, 2014

Teachers of children in church teach for a variety of reasons, but ultimately we all have a strong desire to see God at work in the lives of children and in the lives of their families. Unfortunately, one of the greatest struggles for many teachers is how to get parents more involved in their child's Sunday school studies and experiences. While it isn't easy, there are steps that teachers can take to help connect with parents and encourage their participation. Here are a few ideas:

Utilize “Take Homes”

Create and send a weekly take-home newsletter to let parents know what their children are learning in class. Include the monthly memory verse and a recap of each week's Bible lesson. Keep it brief but informative. Grow, Proclaim, Serve! posts a free newsletter online every week that corresponds to the upcoming lesson. It can be downloaded and printed to send home with the children, or teachers can email the link where parents can access it online. Encourage parents to ask their children about what they learned in class.

Use Technology

Most parents today are tech savvy. With smart phones, laptops and tablets, most people have internet access almost everywhere they go. Take advantage of it. Grow, Proclaim, Serve! offers a free app that parents can download onto their Apple or Android devices. The app provides a recap of the previous week's lesson, in addition to a video that corresponds to the lesson, games for the children, and other valuable resources. Much of the same information is also available on the Grow, Proclaim, Serve! site.

You can also send parents email messages reminding them of special events or mission collection deadlines. Send them a tweet when their child says something cute in class. Take advantage of social media. If your church has a Facebook page, encourage parents to join, and regularly post classroom updates. Encourage them to share photos of their children, and ask if you can share pictures from your class.

Ask for Participation

Many times parents want to be involved in their child's spiritual education, but they don't know how or think that they don't have time. Be specific and intentional in trying to include them. Take turns inviting parents to visit your classroom. Honor them in a special way, or ask them to share a special talent with the class. Invite a parent to read the Bible story one week, or ask a musical parent to lead the children in a song. In addition, offer or recommend spiritual tools such as Bibles for children or family devotions.

Make It An Event

It's hard to get to know parents and other family members during the short time when a child is being dropped off or picked up from a class. Consider scheduling a special event, such “Sunday Afternoon Sundaes” or a Saturday afternoon play date where the children from your class come with their families to enjoy a time of socializing. Mingle with the families to get to know them better.

Take Notes

Keep a small file for each child. This can be as simple as an index card note or something you record on your smart phone. Note the child's name, age, birth date, and family information. Then add to the file as you learn more about the child. Try to learn activities and hobbies that the child enjoys (soccer, art, Legos, etc). Note any special circumstances that are taking place in the child's life (birth of a new sibling, divorce, grandparent's death, etc). The more you know about the children in your class, the better you will be able to minister to them and their families.

Get Personal

Technology is wonderful, but there is still something special about getting something personal in the mail. Consider sending postcards, birthday cards, and notes to both parents and children occasionally. When writing to parents or caregivers, make sure to include a personal comment or two about their child. “Jennifer is such as sweet little girl. I saw her sharing her crayons with another child on Sunday.” “Thomas is a very brave little boy. I know that he is afraid of heights, but he climbed the ladder to the slide on the playground all by himself last week.” If you know that a child in your class is struggling or experiencing a significant life change, you may also want to reach out with a personal call, visit, or gift.

Consider Parent/Teacher Conferences

A long-standing tradition at many schools is to have a special night where parents privately meet with teachers for a few minutes to discuss a child's progress. While there is no “pass/fail” in Sunday school, teachers may want to consider hosting a special “parent/teacher” night where parents and caregivers can come to meet you and talk about the child's participation and spiritual growth. While this type of meeting should generally be encouraging and positive, it can also give caregivers and teachers an opportunity to discuss any particular concerns (lack of participation, discipline issues, spiritual questions the child is asking, etc.)

Don't Forget

When we leave the classroom, we often take off our “teaching hat.” But we need to remember that the children we see in the worship service, at the baseball game, at the local grocery store or standing in line at the water fountain don't forget who we are. We shouldn't forget about them either. When you see a child or a parent outside the classroom, wave, shake hands, and give hugs. Introduce yourself to the adult or caregiver who is nearby. Ask about the child if the child is not present. Be friendly.

Reaching out to parents and families of the children in your class does take effort. It requires you to be intentional about your actions and involves time outside the classroom. But it is well worth it to accomplish what we all desire—teachers and caregivers working together to grow children in the knowledge of and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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