This post includes tips for parish catechetical leaders for communicating with families in simple but effective ways all year long: now, in the time of unprecedented social distancing, and in the coming weeks when we will once again be face to face. Some of these ideas will have to wait until that time, but some you can put into practice right away. You can also download a Family Communication Questionnaire to distribute to families to customize your communication approach and make your efforts count.
Offer families a Family Communication Questionnaire and invite them to complete and return to you so that you can tailor your communication efforts to your unique parish.
Some of these communication ideas will have to wait until the end of social distancing, but some you can put into practice right away!
Connection 1: Email
This goes without saying, but electronic communication is the best way to get important information to the members of your program quickly and clearly. Email is best for sending vital information like dates and upcoming events or requests. It’s not the best way to evangelize. Save that for meetings, programs, and social media!
Connection 2: Parent Meetings
One of the most effective ways to connect with parents of students in your care is to host annual parent meetings. If you’re not hosting yearly kick off meetings, it’s something to consider as a way to build relationship. All of Jesus’ ministry was relational. Consider using the meeting to host a speaker who will enrich the parents’ faith lives, rather than just reading through the year’s schedule or reviewing policies. Distribute an info sheet with important housekeeping details at the end of a meeting instead of dedicating an entire meeting to logistics. If needed, consider a virtual meeting with video and audio capabilities, so feel like you’re together in the same room even if you can’t be.
Connection 3: Intergenerational Classes and Programs
Deepen the faith lives of students by first inviting their parents to a deeper faith. When the time is right and it’s safe to do so, consider including an intergenerational option in faith formation if it’s possible or include intergenerational events and classes. You might host a couple of retreats a year or promote a family service day each year, in which the entire family comes to the parish to participate together in a service project.
Connection 4: A Helpful Catechetical Program
The job of compiling information and sending individual communication and mail merges is a big one that takes time away from the other important tasks that Directors of Religious Education are responsible for. A good communication system, ideally included as a tool in your catechetical program, streamlines communication and saves you time and energy and also lets you share program information in a timely and personalized way.
Connection 5: Social Media
A social media presence brings parish programming into the 21st century, and into connection with the regular lives of those it serves. If your religious education program doesn’t already have an active account on a social media site, this is your invitation to create one. Social platforms are a great place to link videos about the faith, post important announcements, (safely) share photos from programs, or invite people to participate in events.
Connection 6: Family Mass
We know that as Catholics, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith lives. One of the best ways to connect with the families in our care is to meet them around the table of the Lord. When the time is right and it’s safe to do so, consider hosting a family Mass. Have the music be chosen specifically to appeal to students and involve them in the planning if you can. Be sure to end with a reception.
By knowing families’ needs and particular preferences for communication, you can further strengthen your relationship with them as Director of Religious Education.
The Family Communication Questionnaire will inform you about the best times to reach your families, the types of events that they are interested in attending, and the social media platforms on which they are active and regularly find information.
Make sure that families know the way to get in touch with you in a way that is most convenient and effective for you, too!
Download the Family Communication Questionnaire and share it to learn more about the families in your program today.
Each communication is an opportunity for Directors of Religious Education and parish catechetical leaders to connect with families of children enrolled in religious education. Make each effort count towards informing AND engaging children and families.
Sarah Shutrop currently serves as the Director of Formation for Immaculate Heart Academy in the Archdiocese of Newark. She oversees the spiritual life of the school and formation of its students. She holds an MA in Theology from the University of Notre Dame, and was recently featured as a presenter for Notre Dame & the USCCB’s pre-synodal conference, “Culture of Formation.” She resides in Northern New Jersey with her husband Kevin, her infant son Luke, and their dog Jacqueline.