The new school year is upon us and with it brings new routines, new classes at church and new opportunities to connect with families. One question often asked this time of year is, “How can I, as a teacher, build relationships with the families of those who are in my new class?” That is a fantastic question! The goal of those who teach in the preschool and children’s ministry at church should not only be about what happens in the classroom, but about the impact the time in class has when the child is not at church. How is their time at church impacting how they view the world and the choices they make? As leaders one of the best ways we can do this is to connect with parents or those who bring the child to church.
1) Begin by providing a foundation for a relationship.
a. Provide a “get to know me” page for the families so they have a feel for who you are and why you teach. We often ask for information on the children and by offering information about ourselves we provide more opportunity for connections. Here is a sample you could use to put outside your door or to mail to your class.
b. Have an open house where families can be introduced to the classroom and what will happen.
c. Call or visit all of the children in your class during the first month as a way to get to know them and to introduce yourself outside a church setting.
2) Communicate regularly
a. Use the take home resources provided by your curriculum publisher. Many times when we mention the words “take home sheets,” eyes roll. These pages are designed to help families have faith conversations and Bible times at home, but many people do not understand how to use them. Take a minute and look at the resources you have and think about how a family could use them to continue spiritual growth at home. Then communicate with families (email, note, phone call) why you are sending them home and how they can be used. If you use LifeWay resources they recently posted an article on 10 ways to use take home cards and postcards.
b. Follow up with prayer requests mentioned. Let a child know you are praying for them outside of class. Choose a family a week you pray for and ask them if they have specific requests.
c. Contact those who miss class. Whether it is because of illness, busyness or any other reason, contact a child who misses class. Even if they miss for several weeks in a row, reach out. A simple phone call, post card, or text lets a family know they are valued and missed when they are not able to attend.
3) Use special events to celebrate together
a. Acknowledge birthdays. Send a card. Have a monthly party in class to celebrate any birthdays that month and invite family members to attend.
b. Plan fellowship times around holidays. Having breakfast at the beginning of Sunday school on a time change Sunday takes stress off of parents and gives you a chance to fellowship. A “Happy Birthday Jesus Party” can give families a chance to celebrate Christmas. If your community has a seasonal parade, plan to watch it together and then have refreshments. Think about what fits your class and your community.
c. Help connect families to church-wide events. If a group from your church is going on a mission trip, can the families in your class collect supplies or treats to send with them? October is pastor appreciation month. Have the families in your class plan to do something to recognize those on staff at church. If your church has a special musical event during the year or special services, designate space for your class to sit together.
Ministry is about relationships. Relationships take time and communication. A lot of ideas sound wonderful but can get lost in schedules. Take it one step at a time. Pray about how God can work through you. Ask Him to guide you as you build relationships. Get out a calendar and write in one thing each month you want to do to purposefully connect with those God has brought to your class. As a side note, as you get to know the families you may discover some of them are uniquely gifted in helping build relationships. Is there someone who could send a class newsletter? Do you have a parent who loves party planning? Is there a parent who is part of a big community event? See who God has placed around you and how you can partner.
For more information on preschool/children’s ministry or building relationships through ministry, contact the Evangelism & Church Health Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention at 501-376-4791 ext. 5193.