Too often, parents don’t know what happens at Sunday school.
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 your church?
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 services.
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 parents informed.
- 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 terms.
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.
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