Every parent encounter is an opportunity for evangelization! If you are planning a parent session at your parish, you may find the following suggestions helpful.
1. Get the message out using every means possible, bulletin, email, social media, etc. Hopefully word will spread and you will have a great turn out!
2. Scheduling is key. Choose a day and time that works with family schedules. Provide childcare and more than one session time from which to choose.
3. Hospitality is extremely important. Physically preparing the space to be as warm and welcoming as possible will go a long way to effectively evangelizing. Individually greet each person as he or she enters. If their expressions or responses are not as cheerful as you would like, don’t be put off. Keep in mind that parents may be feeling apprehensive and uncomfortable. For many it may have been years since they attended a “church session.” Offering refreshments goes a long way in creating a welcoming atmosphere and showing you care.
5. Pray for the participants while you are planning the meeting. Then begin and end the session with prayer. You will need the Holy Spirit to speak to every heart in the room including your own. So offer all the concerns that the parents may have for their children and themselves to God. Ask God to bless their families.
6. Have parents introduce themselves and share basic information such as their names, how many children they have, how long they have been in the parish, etc. Providing a space for them to articulate just a little about themselves is a first step in fostering a sense of belonging. Be sure to model the activity yourself, by answering the questions first. This will help create a comfortable, safe, accepting space for adults.
Remember to respond positively to the adult sharing.
7. Never put parents on the spot. No one wants to be exposed for what they don’t know or what they are not doing correctly as parents. The goal of the session is to form a partnership with parents, and partnerships require trust and respect.
8. Be clear. Be concise. Today’s families are on tight on time, so keep the length of the session to about an hour. Write an agenda and stick to it.
Hopefully when parents will know that their parish appreciates how much work it is to raise a family, especially in a faith-centered way, and that they are loved!
For further information on facilitating successful parent sessions, I recommend How to Have a Great Parent Meeting from the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership.