family ministry

Building Stronger Bonds Between Parents and Parish

The phrase was new to me, but its meaning immediately resonated. In a recent meeting with a group of religious educators, we shared our collective frustrations regarding parents who simply "stop, drop" their kids off at formation, and then "roll" away without checking in or engaging with the ministry.

Over the course of my career, I've witnessed countless instances of parents pulling up in their cars, allowing their kids to jump out and dash into the Church. As a parent myself, I must admit that I do the same. In fact, there's a sense of excitement in knowing that my children have reached an age where they can independently head to clubs, practices, or rehearsals. It's a sign of their growing independence and ability to care for themselves.

However, within the ministry, dealing with parents who hold the expectation that dropping off their child at the Church fulfills all their faith-related needs is a common challenge. We all understand that this is not the primary purpose of our ministries, so the question becomes: what can we do about it?

If we aim to foster stronger connections with parents, we must go beyond the routine of sending weekly emails, hosting information meetings, and arranging family events. To establish a genuine partnership, we must:

Extend a Clear Invitation to Connect

Are parents aware that we desire to engage with them before and after each session? Do our catechists and small group leaders actively reach out to parents to schedule discussions? Without a direct invitation, it's unwise to assume that parents are aware of our intention to connect. Our requests should be explicit.

Train your leaders to initiate one-on-one conversations with parents. Arrange suitable times and places for these conversations to take place. Clearly outline the objectives for these discussions. Do we want to acquaint ourselves with the parent, discuss goals for the year, offer faith-related guidance, or address a combination of these aspects?

Incorporating a dedicated time for parents to connect in our strategy creates an open avenue. While some parents might decline the invitation, others will certainly embrace the opportunity.

Provide Appropriate Resources

Understanding the daily lives of parents is crucial. Are they perpetually occupied, juggling commitments between work and various activities? Does our parish comprise predominantly large families and young parents, or is it a diverse mix of demographics? Before introducing resources, it's imperative to comprehend our mission field. We need insight into what holds significance for parents within our community. Familiarize yourself with their interpretation of "quality" family time.

When we grasp the challenges, aspirations, and expectations of parents within our parish boundaries, curating relevant resources becomes considerably easier. It's possible to realize that physical workshops might not be effective, whereas a downloadable podcast might better suit their on-the-go routines. If parents are struggling to find time with their children, our role involves equipping them with tools to carve out that precious time.

In cases where required resources are lacking, don't hesitate to generate them (particularly if resources are available). A notable example is Ablaze Family Ministries, which provides an app connecting parents with relevant content. Explore their site HERE.

Offer Encouragement and Celebrate Efforts

The journey of parenthood is crazy. Parents frequently contend with shame, guilt, and societal pressures. While it's essential to hold parents accountable and present them with challenges, it's equally vital that they recognize that the Church has their back

In instances where a child within our ministry faces difficulties, reaching out to their parents to inquire about their needs is paramount. Don't hesitate to lend a listening ear to hear their concerns. Commend them when they make difficult choices, and celebrate their triumphs when their child achieves remarkable milestones. They need to know that their efforts are acknowledged. From time to time, parents require affirmation, and it's our responsibility as a parish to provide that support.

Facilitate Community Connection

Even parents have a hard time making friends. Although interactions occur through schools and extracurricular activities, taking the leap from casual conversations to meaningful connections can prove challenging. During events, play the role of a liaison (enlist your team's involvement) and introduce parents to one another. Aid them in forming bonds and relationships with other parents.

This doesn't necessitate making meetings overly social or structuring social gatherings rigidly. Fostering community connections simply requires exerting effort to ensure that no one feels excluded. When parents sense that they belong, their engagement with the ministry will naturally intensify.

Rather than growing frustrated with parents who swiftly drop off their children and depart without a greeting, our focus should shift towards creating explicit invitations, offering pertinent resources, providing encouragement, and facilitating connections within the community. This approach will not only strengthen the bond between parents and us but also underscore the Church's essential role in family life for their children.

What strategies do you use to better bond with parents?






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