Too often, parents don't know what happens at Sunday
Almost every Sunday, Mrs. Anderson drops her daughter, Katie,
off at your class. Katie's an eager learner, but that's about all
you know about her. You wonder about Katie's home life. Does she
apply the lessons she learns in church at home? Does she realize
that knowing Jesus needs to be an everyday thing?
What about Katie's family? Does her mom talk about faith issues
with Katie during the week? Does the family pray together daily? Is
there some way you can help Katie and her family connect more with
These five proven strategies can help you connect kids' homes
and your church.
1. Provide family programs. Our church in
Springfield, Oregon, holds a four-day Vacation Bible school geared
toward the whole family-instead of just children. Billed as
"Dexter's Funtastic Family Festival," each evening program features
a family-related theme. A family leads the group-singing, followed
by Dexter's welcome and an entertaining puppet skit. After a short
break, the children go to classrooms for Bible stories, activities,
and a craft. The parents and other adults attend seminars on topics
such as parenting and stress, being a single parent, and raising
G-rated kids in an R-rated world. Response to these seminars was so
great, we had to move the parents to a larger room! The festival
ends on Saturday with a special family church service. Children of
all ages help with ushering, the welcome, prayer, Scripture,
special music, and sermonettes. After the service, families enjoy a
spaghetti dinner hosted by the church. Because of the positive
response, we've already started quarterly family worship
2. Plan fun activities for families. Carmen
Kamrath's church in Phoenix, Arizona, plans monthly family
activities where all a family has to do is show up.
During the summer, the church hosts a family camp for three to
four days. The families who attend have the option of staying in
dorms or in tents. Scholarships are available if needed. The
program is centered around families, focusing on how everyone is
part of a family and part of the church family.
"This event really builds community," says Kamrath. "We have
some families that have been attending our camps for more than five
years." The camps attract single-parent families, blended families,
and two-parent families.
3. Open up parent-teacher dialogue. Too often,
parents don't know what happens at Sunday school. Veteran
children's ministry professional William Young from Franklin,
Tennessee, says you can bridge the gap with these ideas.
- Open house -- Host an open house for parents before Sunday
school, on a Friday evening, or around a Sunday luncheon.
- Newsletter -- Produce a monthly or quarterly newsletter that
kids help write. Include pages with general information, and then
have kids in each classroom create their own section that keeps
- Notes -- Send notes home with children that let parents know
what great things their children have done that day. Use a
curriculum such as Group's Hands-On Bible Curriculum? that has
send-home parent sheets incorporated into each lesson.
- Personal visits -- "There's no substitute for the teacher
getting into a child's home at least once a year," Young stresses.
"Here you have an opportunity to see the child's environment and
get an inside scoop on what the child's needs are." Also attend
your student's games or recitals so children can see you in a role
other than teacher.
- Hosting families -- Invite parents to eat breakfast with the
kids during a class, followed by your lesson. Or have a family
Sunday school twice a year where parents and children learn the
Bible lesson together.
- Parent helpers -- Ask parents to help once a month in the
classroom, prepare things for a program, or participate in a
child/parent activity. Or ask families to clean a classroom once a
month, which can also teach children the joy of serving.
4. Set up a family-enrichment committee. A
church in Nashville, Tennessee, organized a family-enrichment
committee whose main function is to plan programs and activities
that'll promote the mental and spiritual development of families.
The committee meets once a month, and members serve three-year
The committee has sponsored a series of conferences each year on
topics for families, such as positive peer pressure, spiritual
development, and sex education. The committee also oversees the
production of an annual daily devotional for church members that's
written by the church members and illustrated by the children.
5. Establish a discipleship program. Joe
Young's church in an Atlanta suburb has a discipleship program
that's a part of the regular Sunday school program. For the entire
school year, each adult is assigned eight children to meet with
during the latter part of the class. "The main purpose is to help
kids understand the lesson and see what it has to do with their
lives today," says Young. The adult is not required to contact the
children during the week, but many do so by phone calls or notes,
helping to make a stronger connection.
These five ideas can help your church make this critical
connection with kid's homes. Ministering to children and families
is more than just a once-a-week responsibility. A strong connection
between church and home can help ensure a family's lifelong
connection with Jesus-and your church.
Suzanne Perdew is a freelance writer and editor who works
with children in Oregon.
A Family-resource Library
A church lending library is a great tool to extend Christian
education into homes. Here's how to begin your library in a small
accessible room in your church.
- Gather materials. Ask church members to
contribute new or used materials. Or purchase materials from
Christian bookstores that often give a discount to church
libraries. You can also order books from Christian Book
Distributors, (508) 977-5050, or God's World Books, 800-951-2665.
Stock Christian materials that aren't available at school or public
libraries, such as children's Bibles, Bible reference books,
children's prayers and devotions, Bible storybooks, picture books
and middle-grade novels with Christian themes, Christian videos,
and music cassettes or CD's.
- Organize and process materials. Small lending
libraries need not have elaborate cataloging systems, but an
organizational scheme is helpful. Each book will need a unique call
number and a lending card. For guidance in establishing your
library, contact the Church and Synagogue Library Association,
- Publicize and lend materials. Have children
and parents write brief reviews of resources in your church
bulletin and newsletter to publicize library materials.
-- Elizabeth Raum
Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.