Re: Evangelizing Parents
- Good question!
We have not found all the answers, but have found some baby steps that seem to work.
This is a 100+ year old parish with many young families who have had grandparents (and even great-great grandparents) attend the same church and school. Our program has been shrinking until just recently when it has started to inch up, and there are currently 250 students.
Many of the parents have a "do the minimum" attitude toward church and faith, combined with inadequate childhood formation and underdeveloped relationships with God. The majority don't respond to invitations to sit and chat, refuse to talk to me if I hang out in the pariking lot, and refuse to even come into the building to pick children up after Faith Formation. Of course, the majority also do not attend Mass.
We instituted Sunday Children's Masses and that got some parents into church! This only happens 4 times a year, with two grade levels taking responsbility for a regular Sunday Mass. Little children provide art and sing a few simple hymns before Mass. Older children serve as ushers, lectors, servers and set-up/clean-up. We send letters inviting parents and explaining their child's job. We also send reminder e-mails. We get about 70% participation. And then the other parishioners are so welcoming and kind and father knocks himself out with the homily - so they start trickling back to Mass! (very slow trickle, but noticeable)
Also we instituted several family events during Faith Formation class time, such as our Lent Event Reconciliation Service with Penny Procession for the Poor annd children's activities in the Hall while parents get to pray or go to Confession. Another such event is the February celebration of Life Mass with a speaker from a charity that serves a pro-life cause and an ice cream social. Also there is a free pizza dinner with a canned goods collection and a catechetical theme, and there is an Advent Fair for children and parents in lower grades. These have huge participation! Some parents complain or skip the events, but again, because the children love the event so much, they are often dragged in and then have fun in spite of themselves!
Also I view sacramental parent meetings as prime time for evangelization and knock myself out preparing praise videos, testimonials, and persuasive presentations. We also require second grade parents to do sacramental workbooks at home with their kids and attend a Jesus Day First Eucharist Retreat. Very high participation.
And of course, every phone call, new student registration, or parking lot conversation is an opportunity for evangelization - just by being cheerful, caring, gentle, positive... and NOT officious or judgmental. We do require a personal appointment to register for the first time so that I can get to know the parents and kids and give them an idea of ways to get involved with the parish. On the other hand I knock myself out to be flexible, doing tons of make-up meetings at all hours, extending deadlines, being sympathetic to family situations, and finding creative alternatives to help parents who are pressed for time.
We also have a newly revamped approach to infant Baptism. Parents must come in for an appointment to set their date, discuss details, etc. After that they must also participate in a 1.5 hour preparation class. We have Baptism Coordinator Couples who attend the prep class and then also the Baptisms to provide a known and friendly face. We follow up with mailngs every 6 months until preschool and a party once a year for alll families that had infant Baptisms on the feast of the Baptism of Christ.
We also offer our free weekly Little Angels Playgroup for children ages 0 - 4 and a parent or caregiver, with a trained leader who provides circle time and a well stocked playroom full of donated toys. This is a way for young moms and grannies/nannies to get to know each other and beat cabin fever in the colder months. Fabulous!
All these little changes have provided more opportunities for evangelization and it shows!
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