The longer I do student ministry, the more I realize that the school year really kicks off student ministry.
In our church, over half of our students are gone during the summer on vacation or at camps, but when school begins they all come back. As parents are scrambling to get everything together for a new year of school, our student ministry has realized that there are some principles that we can take from how teachers kick off the school year and apply them to our ministry in the church.
Here are a few ways that you can set yourself up with success, thanks to the teachers at your local school.
Host an Open House
Every year we have a parents’ meeting, which is great because we can inform our parents on what’s going on. However, as students get older we realize that their parents attend less and less of our meetings—they’ve heard it all! We know that there is new information each year, so in order to make parents’ meetings worth their time, we host an Open House.
Our Open House begins with all students and parents together to meet our staff and key volunteers. After we talk about the calendar, fundraising opportunities, and philosophy, we break out into our age groups so that students and their parents can meet their Small Group Leaders.
In the past we have heard parents say that they didn’t meet their students’ Small Group Leaders until the year was already over. So, an Open House gets them in the know from the beginning—and it’s language that parents are used to hearing.
Make a Parents’ Packet
We work really hard to make sure that each parent has a calendar in their hand at the beginning of the year—especially dates for overnight trips and the following summer. Our students’ calendars fill up quickly, so we know that we have a small window to get our dates on there, too!
In addition to a calendar, consider putting in a few extra items: a staff bio for each person on staff with contact information (and a picture if your church is really big), an overview of what the students will be learning in the next year, the yearly medical release form, and a sheet of ways to volunteer. Planning all this information ahead and then handing this to a parent in one packet makes it really easy for them to make sure that they have all the information that they need.
Ask Parents to Serve
Student ministries are always in need of more volunteers—but struggle with how to ask parents to plug in. If your church is anything like mine, it feels like the same parents are volunteering for everything! This is why we create a volunteer form that we give to parents at the beginning of the year. We make a list of every event or way that a parent can help and ask parents to check two boxes and turn it in. On our form we give options for each event—help plan, shop for supplies, check students in, or attend the event as a chaperone. This form helps parents see all the different thing we need in our ministry, and because it’s normal for them to fill out a similar form at their children’s school, it is innate to do it at church as well.
These quick tips are inspired by schools, and are so helpful for parents in your ministry! The more we try to speak their language, the better we do at reaching them where they are at and meeting the needs of their families. We’d love to hear other ways of how schools are influencing the way your ministry kicks off! What ideas do you have?