Adapting the course to your context
While the course is designed to be simple and easy to run and can be led by just one person, a team will make life easier. You may want some or all of the following people:
- Prayer support before, during and after the course – a group within your church who will adopt the course and commit to praying for you, the course and the parents each week. It is even better if they are happy to spend time listening to God for those in the group and passing anything on to you.
- Co-host or co-leader – someone to support you leading the sessions.
- Group facilitators – people who are confident speaking about parenting and familiar with Parenting for Faith.
- Welcomers – also refreshments and tissues.
- Pastoral care – someone ready to support parents and carry on conversations outside the course.
Planning the course
Here are a few things to consider:
- Who will you invite and how will you do that? Think about all the people your church already has contact with as well as those in the community that might be interested. How will you raise the profile of the course? Give as much notice as you can of the dates of the course and remind them nearer the time.
- How will you run the course? It can work in many different ways, from small house groups to large venues, from a weekend away to monthly sessions, in the daytime or in the evening. Most people run it as a weekly course, but it really doesn’t matter – the most important thing is that it works for you and your community.
- The book: some courses give participants a copy of Parenting Children for a Life of Faith Omnibus. The cost of this could be covered by making a small weekly charge.
- How could you make it easier for people to come along? It may be worth talking to people before setting times and dates to see what suits them best. People from your church could offer a night’s babysitting, bearing in mind your church’s safeguarding arrangements.
On the night (or day)
Parenting for Faith is very simple to run, so the following are just a few ideas to make sure there are no hitches:
- The course is designed to be easy to use and all the teaching can be done through the video sessions – however, please do adapt it to suit you and your situations! Some people write their own talks, and we encourage you to use real stories from your experience as a parent or children’s or families worker to supplement the teaching.
- The course requires very little equipment. You will need the video for each session downloaded or ready to live stream, as well as the means to do that; if you have a big group you may want to have a microphone for the course leader. Jugs of water and glasses are good to have around, as are spare pens and pieces of paper and boxes of tissues.
- You will need at least one children’s Bible per small group for Session 2 and a flipchart or large whiteboard and suitable coloured pens for Session 3.
- Almost any room will be suitable, as long as there is enough space for everyone. It’s great to have extra space for groups to use for discussion. Make sure everyone can see the screen.
- You may want to allow participants to self-select their discussion groups or you may want to group people according to particular criteria, such as the age of their children.
Creating a community
People can feel vulnerable talking about themselves as parents, so it is important to think about how you can welcome them and help them build connections with others on the course.
- Have someone allocated to welcome people each week; name badges are a good idea if people don’t know each other already.
- Refreshments can be a good way to start the evening and to help people relax. You could open the doors early and invite people to come for pre-session refreshments if time allows.
- Don’t forget to run through any housekeeping – where the fire exits and toilets are, when there’ll be refreshments, the rough order of the evening, the finishing time. Do remind people of confidentiality – what is said in the room stays in the room – so that people can feel confident to share.
- You may want to use icebreakers at the beginning of each session to help people relax and settle in – for example, people bingo, a relevant video, a short quiz, a question related to the theme.
- Some course leaders send texts or email reminders between sessions to encourage participants to have a go at what they learned in the last session – jogging people’s memories like this can help avoid the awkward silence at the beginning of the next session when no-one wants to admit that they forgot!
- If people miss a session, do remind them they can view it for free from the website; do this in time for them to have caught up before the next session.
- In the discussion sections, try not to let one person dominate the conversation. Acknowledging contributions (e.g. ‘That was really helpful’) helps people grow in confidence and speak more.
- Families comes in different shapes and sizes, and who you have may affect how you run the course. One size doesn’t always fit all, so you might want to sit down with your team to think through how to ensure families of all types can be catered for.